Lukhanyo Mdingi, breaking fashion boundaries

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Gushwell Brooks talks to fashion designer Lukhanyo Mdingi, founder of the eponymous Cape Town-based fashion brand Lukhanyo Mdingi.

Lukhanyo Mdingi with a model wearing one of his designs. Photo: @AngelMilk/Twitter

“I’m living my dream.”

These words embody the passion, grit and courage of South African fashion designer Lukhanyo Mdingi, bringing Africa to the world stage.

Under his eponymous fashion label Lukhanyo Mdingi, the visionary designer has created a formidable brand in just eight years.

After graduating from Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2015, Mdingi got his first taste of the global fashion arena when he showcased a collection at Pitti Immagine Uomo, an international fashion show for men in Florence.

In 2019, he debuted at New York Fashion Week. Last year, he was co-winner of the 2021 LVMH Karl Lagerfeld Prize and served as one of the judges for the 2021 Dezeen Awards.

Speaking to Gushwell Brooks, Mdingi said the fashion bug bit him at the age of 5, when he immersed himself in 90s pop culture.

I grew up in a family of five children and was the most artistic. I used to draw and did art in school. All of the topics I focused on were pretty nuanced in fashion. It was a passion I had for so long so it was no surprise to my family when I entered the industry.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, fashion designer

Taking the path of the cutthroat world of fashion, Mdingi said he believes this is where he can best express his creativity.

There is something about clothes that attracts us all. We all wear clothes. It is something that we can use as a form of expression. Fashion is part of our daily lives, whether you realize it or not.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, fashion designer

No climb to the top of your game is easy. Mdingi has faced her fair share of obstacles in the fashion industry, but remains grounded in her faith.

While graduating from CPUT, Mdingi immersed himself in the craft by interning with various fashion designers, fashion retailers, stylists and photographers to understand the complex industry.

Fashion is not limited to one thing. There is an array of different roles people can immerse themselves in. In the end, fashion design seemed like a natural fit.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, fashion designer

After graduating, we were invited to participate in the first fashion week in 2015. That was the start of my career in the industry. For eight years, it has been a matter of trying to mark time between business and design, in the local and global sphere.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, fashion designer

Besides the creative landscape, navigating the fashion industry has also been a personal development journey.

Ingenuity, partnership and the human network are important for any industry. I think people don’t realize that we depend on each other to reach our potential. I’ve always been very aware of that in fashion. You need people to help you take the next step. For me, it’s about nurturing those relationships to take it to the next level. We are more alike than different.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, fashion designer

For Mdingi, artisanal and human ingenuity is the foundation of his brand and sets him apart from others.

It sources its textiles and woven fabrics from local artisan communities in the Eastern Cape and Central Africa, with an emphasis on heritage and craftsmanship.

We try to use design as a way to create social impact. The clothes we create become a hybrid of something that has a sense of modernity and is handcrafted. This marriage allows us to create something truly unique, and that’s what people feel and see.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, fashion designer

By investing in that, we are also investing in the marginalized group that we work with in the different spaces in Africa. It is an important part of our business and our brand.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, fashion designer

Scroll up to listen to the conversation.


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