laduma ngxokolo: xhosa influenced knitwear xhosa-inspired knitwear for amakrwala by laduma ngxokolo photo by astrid arndt with stylist maran coates





each year, the design indaba conference in capetown invites an international selection of recent design graduates to present their work in the form of pecha kucha. among this year’s delegates, was homegrown south african laduma ngxokolo who shared his fashion collection which interprets xhosa beadwork aesthetics into a range of men’s knitwear for amakrwala.

laduma ngxokolo: xhosa influenced knitwear traditional xhosa beadwork




within south africa’s eastern cape xhosa communities, hundreds of boys aged between eighteen and twenty-three attend xhosa circumcision schools for a manhood initiation ritual. after these xhosa initiates return home from the school, they are guided through a six-month protocol. during this period, xhosa initiates are traditionally called amakrwala. as part of this process, amakrwalas’s old clothes are given away as a sign of the end of their boyhood, at which time  their parents are obliged to buy them a range of new clothing, which is meant to include high quality men’s knitwear. at current, the amakrwala obtain high quality men’s knitwear from brands like pringle and lyle & scott.

laduma ngxokolo: xhosa influenced knitwear beadwork details which strongly influenced ngxokolo’s knitwear designs




having experienced the xhosa initian ritual himself, ngxokolo felt that there were no knitwear brands that bore any aesthetic resemblance to xhosa traditions, and so he decided to develop a range of knit garments specifically for amakrwala, sourcing locally for mohair and merino wool.

laduma ngxokolo: xhosa influenced knitwear graphic layout of the designs and patterns




south africa produces more than 75 percent of the world’s mohair, but due to a lack of sufficient textile industries in which to convert mohair into end products, a majority of the fibres are exported. ngxokolo wanted to utilize mohair in his knitwear as a means of indirectly contributing to the market share of local, particularly that of the small black community farmers.

laduma ngxokolo: xhosa influenced knitwear ngxokolo’s line of knitwear photo by astrid arndt with stylist maran coates




xhosa beadwork is one of the most popular decoration practices in the culture, and this became the basis of ngxokolo’s designs. the geometrically structured beadwork designs suit knitting motifs quite well. popular xhosa beadwork motifs such as the arrow, axe, diamond and zig-zag are interpreted into his knitwear collection. color also plays a key role in xhosa culture, and ngxokolo carefully considered a palette that is truly representative of traditional colors. to do so, he chose light, medium and dark colors recognizable as authentic xhosa hues achieving them through the use of pantone color chips so that he could interpret the colors of the beadwork  to get yarns dyed locally according to palette specifications. the result is a line of sweaters in which the motifs and colors depicted, resemble the traditional style of xhosa people wearing their beadwork.

laduma ngxokolo: xhosa influenced knitwear image © of design indaba