Lukhanyo MdingiFashion Designer

London, UK. April 27th, 2021

Interviewed by Alexei Key

The East London-born South African designer, Lukhanyo Mdingi, weaves tales through rich textiles and an aesthetic that looks forward while respecting the past.

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Lukhanyo Mdingi: The premise of our label has always been rooted by considered and sincere design. Through collaboration, the aim is to create a hybrid between artisanal craft and modern design. We focus on textile development, as this is the provenance on select pieces, and there is certain kind of honesty that comes with something that has been created with human hands. Having this kind of sincerity woven within the fabric of our pieces allows us to have something that is honest, steady and strong.

We evolve the label by looking for something that has purpose and is intentional. The power of a collective is far greater than that of a singular; what has unfolded over these years is testament to that. We have had the privilege of being in the presence of key individuals who have used their time, talent and trust as a means of service to our label. They have made it what it is today.

Through key collaborations, I have realized that we as human beings are more alike than different: We all want to be seen and heard. A sincere and a compassionate way of engaging has allowed us to build steady and healthy working relationships. Human connections are so imperative in allowing us to organically reach our fullest potential. Ultimately, it’s no secret that there are complexities within human beings; it’s essentially this that makes us who we are.

The rise for creatives of color is sublime. Representation is so important: If people of color are seen and heard in positions and roles that have been difficult to be a part of in the past, it leads to younger generations being able to aspire and reach for more. They can now see themselves through individuals such as Grace Wales Bonner, Laduma Ngxokolo of MaXhosa Africa, Thebe Magugu, Virgil Abloh, Matthew Henson, Nomzamo Mbatha, and Edward Enninful… These are strong and solid human beings who have cultivated a trajectory of representation that is far greater than their own selves.

Lukhanyo Mdingi Portrait

It’s difficult to say how the pandemic has altered my view of society, only because what I see through my eyes might not always be a true reflection of that society. However, my thoughts are that there are two divides. The first being a strong sense of an outward kind of aspiration that is being projected; There are those who are wanting more, craving “stuff,” and wanting things that are equated with a material value to validate their self-worth. Then there are those who are leading a life based on purpose, intention and service, striving to use their gifts as a means to make a positive contribution to the human experience.

I’m enticed by individuals who are driven by purpose and who are able to help and collaborate with others. I think this will forever be a form of inspiration to me.

South African performance artists Athi-Patra Ruga, Anelisa Mangcu and  Lesoko Seabe have teamed up with key individuals to create an initiative called “Victory of the Word.” The premise focuses on a development program that aims to uplift and support Lovedale Press, which is a 200-year-old publisher in the Eastern Cape, South Africa: Primarily focusing on the archives of Xhosa literature and newsprint, Lovedale Press in dire need of funding for it to continue. I believe that preservation is extremely important for anyone to understand their roots. Athi, Anelisa and Lesoko have used their backgrounds within their respective fields as a vehicle to push this, and in turn it has inspired me to reach for more within my own trajectory.

 My hope for myself—as a designer, a teacher, a student, a human—is to simply use my gifts and talents as a means of service to others. I possess a deep passion for human communication. Through the medium of design and collaboration, it has become the vehicle to create work that is based on purpose.

If these actions can be seen and used as an example of inspiration, then I’d be pretty stoked.



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