Researching the South African fashion scene, only a handful of designers really resonated with me. Lukhanyo Mdingi is one of them. He may be young but his vision feels mature with a clean, fresh approach to tailoring that contrasts against the Cape Town skyline perfectly. We caught up in the multi-coloured neighbourhood of Bo Kaap and he caught me up to speed with creativity on the coast.
Lukhanyo Mdingi, Fashion Designer
When you were a wee boy what did you want to be when you grew up? Fashion has always been number one. I come from a small town in the Eastern region of South Africa and fashion isn’t a hugely celebrated culture there. I spent a lot of my time stimulating my creative side by watching the long running American soap opera, The Bold and The Beautiful. For me, besides the risqué story lines, it took me to an imaginary world of where fashion was beyond clothes; it was a celebration of life, love and the creation. The attraction was instant. I’m at a time now where I can say I’m living my dream.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in East London, South Africa. I now live in Cape Town.
What do you love about Cape Town? The abundance of its natural beauty. Day to day I’m forever in awe of its incredible landscape. Coming from a small town and moving to Cape Town, I’m able to appreciate the people, the energy and scenery.
What's challenging about basing your business there? The lack of textiles and access to production machinery has hindered me in one way or the other. Even with this challenge, I’m able to investigate and do thorough research to not become a victim of it. Challenges are pretty fun for me. Yes these challenges are here now but it’s only a matter of time until South Africa has a stronger textile and production industry.
How many collections have you created so far? Around 7 collections including one special collaboration with ELLE. There have been two own-brand Lukhanyo Mdingi Collections which are Macrame’ Collection for AW16 and The Taintless Collection for SS16.
How would you describe your aesthetic? I used to think of myself as a pure minimalist but through my progression I feel as though I’m becoming a traditionalist more than anything else. Collection after collection, particularly with my most previous two, the concepts of both stem from traditional cultures, using these themes together with my vision as a means to create pieces that are contemporary and ready–to–wear. I don’t have a customer in mind. When I design, I don’t necessary think of a man or a woman; I think of how I can take co-existing staple pieces and how they can fit with my story to make it tangible.
Tell me about the South African fashion scene? It’s one that’s beaming with a fresh outlook of distinct design and craftsmen skills. As a young emerging brand and designer I feel as though there is this wave of local talent that has a sense of resilience and determination. These qualities are incredibly important and essential; it’s beyond talent. These new kids on the block are hungry to enrich and empower South Africa’s creative landscape, using their talent as a means of doing so.
Describe yourself in 5 words. Five words are not enough.
What are you biggest influences? My grandmother and God – they’re definitely the biggest influencers; the two have made an immense contribution in moulding me to the person that I am today. Together with my friends, TED Talks and Oprah. In terms of style I like the band Hurts, they’re pretty rad.
What's on your horizon at the moment? Being consistent with building my brand.
Leave us with some words of wisdom. Only you have the power to make you happy. Putting it in the most simplest form.