LOOK: Laduma Ngxokolo of Maxhosa talks about working on ’Coming 2 America’
IT’S not everyday that you get contacted by the iconic Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E Carter, asking you to provide costumes for her next project.
Carter has worked on Black Panther, Amistad, B*A*P*S, Malcolm X and Lee Daniels’ The Butler and was in 2019 awarded the Career Achievement Award at the Costume Designers Guild Awards.
Finding out it’s for the Coming To America sequel, is an even bigger deal. We are certain that MaXhosa Africa designer, Laduma Ngxokolo still can’t believe that it happened.
Now for the uninitiated, let us explain why this is important.
Coming To America is a cult classic film that not only is rip-roaringly funny, but boasts some of the boldest wardrobe choices in film history. It was edgy, luxurious and showcased an image of African royalty, albeit imagined, that was different to what the world had been exposed to.
About 33 years later, the fashion on the Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall classic is still inspiring many, from ordinary people to Beyoncé and Jay Z. Beyoncé even used some of the costumes from the film for her 2016 visual album, Lemonade.
The highly anticipated sequel, which will be released on Friday on Amazon Prime, will see South African stars sharing their talent with the rest of the world.
Of course, the biggest noise-maker is Nomzamo Mbatha, who moved to Hollywood in 2019 to broaden her career. She’s bagged a key role as Mirende, the royal barber who ends up falling in love with a prince. Meanwhile, Nasty C, Prince Kaybee, Tellaman and MiCasa feature on the soundtrack too.
But this article is all about the design success of Ngxokolo, who, thanks to his modern take on African clothing, has courted the attention of one of Hollywood’s finest costume designers.
It was in 2019 when Ngxokolo received the life-changing call from Carter. She asked him to work with her in producing costumes for the film and the rest is history.
The royal household of Zamunda is dressed in MaXhosa. The uniforms are all designs by the South African brand. The palace uniforms included dresses, headgear, cardigans and shirts.
“For us, it means that our brand has been stamped,” he said on his brand being showcased in the sequel.
“We are global and trending, and this will last beyond us. The last movie, Coming to America, was about 32 years ago and, 32 years from now, people will still remember MaXhosa. I’ll be in my late 60s at that time. For me, that’s future projection.”
“I wanted to bring in a little bit more of the real Africa,” Carter said on working with Ngxokolo and other African designers.
On her vision for the film’s costumes and possible comparisons to Black Panther’s Wakanda, Carter said: “If Black Panther’s Wakanda is Africa’s warring leader in technology, Zamunda is the fashion capitol, lighter and more artistic.“
However, even with all the success MaXhosa is garnering worldwide, it’s a different story in South Africa. There are still people who see it as an expensive brand that is not easily accessible and, therefore, faces a lot of backlash for their prices.
To bridge that gap, Ngxokolo said South Africa still needs to be educated about product value. “They need to be well-informed about quality and the type of material that the product is made from as well as how it is made.”
He admits that MaXhosa’s pricing is not accessible to general South Africans, but as they get educated about the material, labour and so forth, things will get better.
The Gqeberha-born designer is currently working on his winter collection, which is expected to drop later this month. It will have some inspiration from Zamunda, he reveals.
“The upcoming collection does have a little bit of inspiration from Coming 2 America. MaXhosa is known as a cultural brand and what we tried to infuse it in the upcoming collection.”
Like any business, the brand was also negatively impacted by the coronavirus.
“Covid affected our business growth. We anticipated to grow tremendously, but we had to settle for lesser growth. We opened a new store in Cape Town, but it would’ve been better if we had tourists coming to the country,” said Ngxokolo.
* Coming 2 America will be released in South African cinemas as well as streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Friday.
Based in Johannesburg, Brian Derenberger is a Senior Editor at Healthy Organic Lifestyle.