“I’m living my dream.” Those words embody the passion, grit and gumption of South African fashion designer Lukhanyo Mdingi, taking Africa to the global stage.

Under his namesake fashion label Lukhanyo Mdingi, the visionary creative has crafted a formidable brand in just eight years.

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

In 2019, he made his debut at New York Fashion Week. Last year, he was the joint winner of the 2021 LVMH Karl Lagerfeld Prize and was one of the judges at the 2021 Dezeen Awards.

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

Listen to the conversation below.

Gushwell Brooks speaks to fashion designer Lukhanyo Mdingi, founder of Cape Town based fashion namesake label Lukhanyo Mdingi.

Lukhanyo Mdingi
Lukhanyo Mdingi Autumn/Winter 21/22. Photo Credit: hautefashionafrica.com

I grew up in a family of five kids and I was the more artistic one. I used to sketch and I did art in school. All the subjects I focused on was quite nuanced to fashion. It was a passion that I’ve had for so long so it wasn’t a surprise for my family when I went into the industry.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, Fashion designer.

In treading the path to the cut-throat world of fashion, Mdingi said he felt this was where he could express his creativity best.

There’s something about clothing that we all feel attracted to. We all wear clothes. It’s something we can use as a form of expression. Fashion is part of our everyday lives, whether you’re cognizant of it or not.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, Fashion designer.

No rise to the top of your game comes easy. Mdingi has faced his fair share of hurdles in the fashion industry, but remains rooted in his faith.

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While completing his degree at CPUT, Mdingi immersed himself in the trade by doing internships at various fashion designers, fashion retailers, stylists and photographers to understand the complex industry.

Fashion is not limited to just one thing. There’s an array of different roles that people can delve into. By the end of it, fashion design just felt like a natural fit.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, Fashion designer.

After graduating, we were invited to part in the first fashion week in 2015. This was the beginning of my career within the industry. For the last eight years, it’s been about trying to make a mark between business and design, within the local and global sphere.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, Fashion designer.

Apart from the creative landscape, navigating the fashion industry has also been a journey of self development.

Ingenuity, partnership and human network is important for any industry. I think people don’t realize that we’re reliant on one another to reach our potential. I’ve always been quite aware of that in fashion. You need people to help you to get to the next stage. For me, its about nurturing these relationships to get to the next level. We’re more alike than different.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, Fashion designer.

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

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He sources woven textiles and fabrics from local artisan communities in the Eastern Cape and central Africa, with a distinct focus on heritage and craftsmanship.

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

Lukhanyo Mdingi, Fashion designer.

By investing in this, we’re also investing in the marginalized group that we work with in the different spaces in Africa. It’s a huge part of our business and our brand.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, Fashion designer.