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LUKHANYO MDINGI: FINDING A BUSINESS MODEL THAT FITS

Being an independent designer in South Africa is no child’s play. There is no stressing that enough.

As we look ahead to SA Menswear Week (SAMW), which begins on July 2, Malibongwe paid emerging designer Lukhanyo Mdingi a visit to chat about his upcoming show, but what came out of that conversation, beyond what one is to expect from his next undoubtedly highly anticipated collection, is perhaps very important to highlight.

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Ever since entering ELLE Rising Star two years ago, Lukhanyo has been one of the most closely watched young local designers. Which is fair, because he truly is one of the best talents of his generation in the country, but what is striking is a conversation he told Malibongwe he had with David West, also a designer who was one of the key talents of his generation. “Everything he said to me, it didn’t actually register at the time because I wasn’t even thinking I’m actually going to go into production anytime soon, but everything he said is happening right now,” Lukhanyo says.

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What are some of these challenges David West spoke to the young designer about? It goes beyond the same old, same old story about the lack of funding. “Finding skilled labour and finding people that can deliver on time. It’s the trial and error, and the amount of money that can be wasted through that; having to limit yourself to textiles that are less than what you want, not because of money or anything, but because there is no access to better textiles here in South Africa. There always seems to be some sort of speed bump along the way.”

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Having graduated from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in April, Lukhanyo will be showcasing his spring-summer 15 collection at SAMW, having showcased the first at SAMW AW ‘15. Part of that collection is available at Boaston Society on Long Street, Cape Town, as we’ve previously reported. “I’m trying to position myself in a place where there will be outlets that can sell my stuff, and there’s actually not that many outlets out here, for menswear that is, and actually even for womenswear,” Lukhanyo says. “I think it depends what kind of brand you have, what your brand is all about and who you want to target. There’s so much that you need to think about.”

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“When I chose Boaston Society I had to be super strategic. I’d think: ‘Oh man, that’s like a high street store. I can’t because they have a lot of basics and b-boy kind of skater stuff there’, so the stuff that I had to stock was my basic tees and my basic shirt jackets. I had to be really strategic about things I felt would suit that particular clientele, because at the end of the day they need to sell. I also really wanted to get an idea of public response, not in terms of media, but in terms of the consumer.”

Reporting: @Mr Tyilo

Writing: @Sandiso_N

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