When Laduma Ngxokolo’s name came up during our #AoSYoungCouplesSeries content briefing session, I was astounded. Firstly, because I was not aware that he was in a relationship, and secondly, when I found out that he and his partner Nwabisa have been together for 4 years; I low-key doubted the chances of scoring an interview with both. To my joyous surprise, they agreed to do the interview to share bits and pieces of their lives with us. They have managed to keep their relationship away from the public eye for obvious reasons which they shared during our conversation.
Laduma Ngxokolo’s name is synonymous with excellence. He is the Founder and Creative Director of the luxurious knitwear brand Maxhosa Africa, formerly known as Maxhosa by Laduma. From being featured on Beyoncé’s blog to designing costumes for the box-office hit film Coming 2 America (of course among many other achievements), Maxhosa Africa has taken up space unapologetically. Nwabisa Bunde is a seasoned corporate executive. She has worked for multiple corporations such as BMW and is currently the Vehicle, and Asset Finance Business Development Officer at Standard Bank.
Amid their busy schedules, they made time to share their love story, and this is how it all went down…
Q. What led to the decision of keeping your relationship private?
Nwabisa: I don’t want the public to be involved in my relationship. People tend to feel entitled to have opinions on public figures’ relationships. I would rather fight our battles in private and celebrate our wins in private so that we’ll be able to protect each other.
Laduma: I don’t want interference from the public. That’s the pure reason.
Q. How did you guys meet? Who ‘shot’ the first ‘shot’?
Laduma: Initially we met at an event, at the launch of a store. Then two years later, we met again when Nwabisa was helping me to get keys from a friend, and we exchanged numbers. We then went clubbing, and that’s how it formally began.
Nwabisa: Yes. We have been together for four years, and not everything is all rosey, there are ups and downs like all relationships. Our challenges have made our relationship stronger.
Q. You have been together for 4 years. Nwabisa, how do you welcome the attention that comes with being Laduma’s partner?
Nwabisa: There isn’t a lot of attention on me because we keep our relationship private. Laduma on the other hand does get a lot of attention. I don’t mind at all, usually when we go out, people would want to approach him and talk to him, and I’m used to it. I know that whenever we go out, he will definitely talk to people who support him. My time is behind closed doors (giggles).
Q. Coming from an African home myself, I know the pressure of having to answer the question, ‘When are you getting married?’’ Have you guys experienced this?
Laduma: On my side of the family, and close friends, a few people have asked that question; however, I don’t feel any pressure. I must say though that the pressure of being 34-years-old and not having a family with kids does come with its own pressures, but I believe that we shouldn’t rush anything because everything has its destined time.
Q. Nwabisa, you travel a lot between Gauteng & Eastern Cape. Has this had an effect on your relationship?
Nwabisa: Yes, it does take a toll on us sometimes, simultaneously it gives us a much-needed break that we need from each other because we live together. The break is needed so that we can become our own individuals, to attend to our own businesses, and I also get to spend time with my family. It is also helpful for Laduma because he is a workaholic – he can work for a full 24 hours! So, when I am away, he gets to focus on his business.
Q. As someone working in corporate, Nwabisa do you sometimes offer consultations or do some work for Maxhosa Africa?
Nwabisa: Not necessarily because Laduma’s team is capable. He has employed a strong team that are well versed in all the departments. Sometimes, I share my opinions with Laduma privately on certain things, and he also shares his thoughts about my opinions, and this helps me learn more about the fashion industry. I am in the field of business registrations, trademarks etc. So, I do help him with such things.
Q. Laduma, you said it feels surreal that you worked on the costumes for Coming 2 America. Has it settled yet?
Laduma: Yes, it has settled in. I mean it’s been three years now since it happened, and we have seen great results that came out of it. It is yet to be bigger than what it is as the world opens up and more people become aware of the film.
Q. You have achieved so many great things. Do you still get shocked when other phenomenal people endorse Maxhosa Africa or when they want to collaborate?
Laduma: I don’t get shocked anymore, I used to get shocked monthly. At some stage there were people like Eriykah Badu who sent me a dm saying she loves my clothes, and if we want to do something we should ‘’Holler” at her. With what we have achieved now, we keep it cool, calm, and collected.
Q. You made a conscious decision to work with your siblings at Maxhosa Africa. Can you stress the importance of building family businesses?
Laduma: It is important in order to build a sustainable and impactful business, not just in your community, but in your family. When you’re working together as a family, you pull together the effort of changing the family cycle. It is also an advantage when employees don’t take the business as their priority in their lives, family members put the business first.
Q. You work together on your Non-profit organization, the Eastern Cape Fashion Design Council. How is that going?
Laduma: Due to the pandemic, things have been going quite slowly but we are still soldiering on and making sure that we contribute value to the council members, value that is beyond money.
Nwabisa: Yes, there are challenges with the council right now because of COVID 19 but we didn’t just shut down during the lockdown, we held Zoom meetings with the council members, and giving them advice on their brands and how to look at other ways of doing business since it is lockdown.
The Eastern Cape Fashion Design Council is a non-profit organization that aims to further the interests of the Eastern Cape Fashion, design and craft industry by harnessing and sharing collective knowledge, experience and resources of the sector.
Q. Nwabisa, do you have plans of joining Laduma anytime soon at Maxhosa Africa?
Nwabisa: Mmmh, not really. If it doesn’t happen, it will be by nature or involuntarily but right now I don’t have plans to join Maxhosa because I also have my own goals to achieve. And Maxhosa doesn’t need my expertise right now (chuckles).
Q. Lastly, Laduma, can you offer at least five Tips for young South African designers who want to take their brands to the international stage?
- Know Your Destiny
There is a population of 7 billion people in the world. Everyone has got their own destiny and their own DNA, so I encourage everyone to know what they are destined for.
- Speak From The Heart
What comes from the heart forms part of your DNA.
- Hard Work
Hard work works hard when talent doesn’t.
Get educated to the highest level of academics that you can achieve.
- Be Street-smart
Some deals will not go through formal application. You must create those opportunities, you have to know people in the industry and be honest to people that you’ll need resources from. Be as optimistic as possible!
The tips that Laduma gave are applicable to every career field one chooses. I took away so much zeal from our conversation. Speaking to Laduma and Nwabisa had undertones of conversations I would ordinarily have occasionally with my older relatives who are doing well in life. That’s how down to earth they are. I never, for a moment, felt like I had to shut parts of myself because I was speaking to international high achieving stars. The future is promising for this couple, and I am anticipating more success for both!