IKEA and Africa: A First in Sustainable Design

Laduma Ngxokolos rug for IKEAs Överallt collection
Laduma Ngxokolo's rug for IKEA's Överallt collection | © MaXhosa by Laduma

Inspired by the continent’s innovative approach to sustainability, IKEA’s new Överallt furniture collection has been exclusively designed by some of the biggest names in Africa’s creative space. Here, Culture Trip speaks to South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo on his experience designing for the Swedish retailer.

Laduma Ngxokolo is known for his Xhosa-inspired knitwear brand MAXHOSA BY LADUMA, established in 2011. As a descendant of the Mpondo clan, his own experiences led to the creation of his collection. The concept behind his garments is to explore knitwear design solutions that would be suitable for the traditional dress of the amakrwala (Xhosa ritual initiates).

Clothing is an essential part of the circumcision ritual and, although it is a controversial topic in Western civilisations, to Xhosa initiatives it’s much more than just a traditional ritual, it’s a test of courage and an entry into manhood. The amakrwala have to dress up in formal clothing for six months after the initiation, and Laduma translated the beauty of the traditional dress in a modern way that appeals to the Xhosa youth.

Having undergone the age-old ritual himself, Laduma wanted to develop a premium knitwear range that celebrates traditional Xhosa beadwork aesthetics, using South African mohair and wool. He then took the design one step further and incorporated this important Xhosa tradition into his rug design for IKEA’s collection.

Laduma Ngxokolo presenting his designs

Sustainability in design

The experience of working on the Överallt IKEA collection wasn’t as challenging as Laduma expected. “The space and living situation was perhaps a bit challenging. Africa is a very colourful continent, but I had to limit the amount of colours used to some extent. I also simplified my design aesthetic quite a lot, but without compromising the signature and quality,” he tells Culture Trip.

The theme of IKEA’s Överallt collection is sustainability, something that strongly resonates with Laduma. For him, sustainability is a form of innovation. He draws inspiration from the Xhosa culture and how its people had to innovate the styles and motifs of beadwork, while at the same time creating functional works of art. Sustainability, to him, is all about observing and designing with a conscience, and he’s applied these ‘rules’ to how he creates, saying, “I create for the future, for long-term use and quality assurance.”

Home is where the rug is.
The #MAXHOSA Rug game now available.
Enquiries at: sales@maxhosa.co.za #MAXHOSAEVOLUTION pic.twitter.com/aYBtYTES39
— MaXhosa by Laduma™ (@MaXhosaByL) April 6, 2018

Africa as inspiration

Laduma’s inspiration lies mainly in the sustainable approach taken by Xhosa artisans and beadworkers. “I looked at how the colourways, patterns and motifs are interpreted. These artworks have lived for centuries. The African continent is very aware of its aesthetic and the people look towards themselves for inspiration, which, I think, is one of the most innovative things about the continent.”

“Astonishing traditional Xhosa beadwork patterns, symbolism and colours, have been the best source of inspiration for the knitwear, which are reinterpreted into modern knitwear.”#MAXHOSAEVOLUTION pic.twitter.com/gmDBWXUPJ3
— MaXhosa by Laduma™ (@MaXhosaByL) April 2, 2018
It’s clear that the designer finds inspiration on home ground. When asked about South Africa specifically, he refers to the country as “a beautiful mood board to look at for inspiration”.

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