This article appeared in the Mail & Guardian of 21 April 2017.
Laduma Ngxokolo completed his BTech degree in 2010 with majors in textile design and technology at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). For his final year project he developed a high quality, Xhosa-inspired knitwear range for amakrwala (Xhosa initiates). His work interpreted traditional Xhosa beadwork into knitwear designs using authentic Xhosa colours. Laduma’s knitwear won the 2010 Society of Dyers and Colourists Design Award, an annual international design competition that takes place in London. In February 2011, Laduma was one of six hand-picked international post-graduates invited to present at the 2011 Design Indaba.
Even with these awards and accolades, Laduma struggled to get his business started as he lacked space and funding, as well as access to business expertise. He approached NMMU’s Innovation Office for support. NMMU and Laduma agreed to work together to develop his business and protect the IP that he had developed during his studies. The support provided included filing of design registrations on Laduma’s initial five designs, funding for materials, funding for knitting machines, access to a network of suppliers, mentorship, and space for manufacturing.
After two years, Laduma needed to expand and, with NMMU’s help, found a manufacturer in Cape Town. He set up an online store and also has shelf space in high-end shops in Cape Town and Johannesburg under the brand name “Maxhosa by Laduma”. NMMU continued to provide support to Laduma’s business, assisting with IP maintenance as well as financial administration. In 2015, NMMU assigned the designs to Laduma’s business and exited its interests, as the business was mature enough to continue without their support. Most recently, one of Laduma’s designs won an award for “The most beautiful object in South Africa” at the 2016 Design Indaba.
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