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Fashion brands Lukhanyo Mdingi and REIGN step into the global market

by | Sep 17, 2020

Two South African brands, REIGN and Lukhanyo Mdingi, recently completed an accelerator programme with the Ethical Fashion Initiative. As part of a cohort of six hand-picked African fashion brands from across the continent, they spent four-months tailoring their businesses to become investment-ready.

Head of the EFI, Simone Cipriani says: “Africa is home to a wealth of creativity, of talent, of artisans, know-how and skill which is currently totally under-represented in the global fashion industry.” The designers were mentored through every aspect of the business of fashion from scaling production to managing finance to securing investment to creating brand value, and to writing a good business plan. The selection was based on the design potential, the maturity and focus of vision and finally, EFI’s wish to enhance the diversity of the selected designers’ collections.

In an email, the EFI team said Lukhanyo Mdingi and REIGN stood out for several reasons: “The two designers expressed a very contemporary, yet timeless way of connecting to the savvy, refined and educated international clientele while honouring their very own history and heritage. Interestingly, both define their work as genderless – this non-binary understanding and embracing of a new paradigm is so beautifully and elegantly expressed in their respective collections. Their sustainable practices, the building of a timeless wardrobe, next to a discerning and refined eye so attentive to detail, were defining moments in our final choice.”

We caught up with REIGN and Lukhanyo Mdingi to ask them about the programme.


Durban-based duo Sipho Mbuto and Ben Nozo met during their first year at the Durban University of Technology whilst studying fashion in 2015. They shared ideas and concepts and began collaborating on university projects. Upon graduating they combined eponymous brands (Sipho Mbuto & Ben Nozo) to form a new fashion label, REIGN which, they say, “produces innovative, androgynous clothing focused on detail and comfort, and inspires people to embrace the unconventional while narrating African culture reimagined with traces of Eastern and Western influences.”

Sipho and Ben reflect on the Accelerator programme:

What did the Accelerator Programme change for you as a designer?

The program challenged our strengths in a successful and reflective way that pushed us into going beyond and taking a calculated risk on our business. It changed our understanding of the global fashion industry, ready-to-wear garment construction and finishing specifications. We now understand the importance and flow of a concise, directive, and well-organised collection plan and creative design administration.

What are some of your key takeaways?

Learning how to create a collection plan and its importance as a production guideline, and how integral it is to the communication of head designer to the creative administrator and that of production assistants. Learning more deeply about sustainability and about creating commercial products that conceptually promote environmental, social and ethical consciousness.

Describe the collection you made for the accelerator programme?

The collection is deeply inspired by African women, her power and strength. We are telling stories about the daily lives of remarkable women living or working across African countries, who are still forging ahead and still fighting no matter how desperately poor they are or that they have experienced terrible injustice. The collection consists of hues of red cotton fabrics which symbolise power; layered textures; deconstructed black and whites cotton printed fabrics; and upcycled denim to create the balance of their past and future.

What is next for you?

Travel errands, final fittings, collection editing, retail production plans and yes, the collection will be showcasing next year at PITTI UOMO.

Lukhanyo Mdingi

Cape Town-based classic apparel designer Lukhanyo Mdingi graduated from Cape Peninsula University in 2015. It was his participation in the PITTI UOMO Immagine A/W17 Generation Africa in Florence that set the momentum for his label’s trajectory. Each of Lukhanyo’s designs has an immortal spirit stitched into the fabric of his garments which renders them steadfast. Lukhanyo is constantly looking at the essentials and refining each style, creating a desirable, elegant and timeless wardrobe.

“Season after season we’re  looking at the essentials and refining each style. Creating a certain kind of desirability and elegance has become part of the practice of creating a timeless wardrobe,” says Lukhanyo.

Lukhanyo reflects on the Accelerator programme:

What did the Accelerator Programme change for you as a designer?

I would have to say that it definitely enhanced the importance of what mindful design means. The spirit of consideration and care is of extreme importance. The accelerator programme was incredibly enriching in this respect.

What are some of your key takeaways so far?

With each new feat and experience that we embark on, the label is fuelled with new and positive knowledge that is beneficial for our steady and organic growth.

Describe the collection you made for the accelerator programme?

It’s a true celebration and extension of pure endless love.

About the EFI Accelerator Programme

The EFI Accelerator is an intensive programme designed to target African fashion brands that require additional support to catapult  into the global marketplace. The collections developed during the accelerator will be presented at Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy next year in 2021. “The EFI accelerator is a tool to mobilise the incredible wealth of design capacity and production skills available across the African continent and to make these businesses available internationally and at the same time for investors,” says Simone.

The EFI’s ambition is to create thriving African businesses that positively impact their communities and in turn, advance the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The EFI launched a call for entries for emerging brands producing in Africa earlier this year. Leading names in the industry including global ambassador of Japanese fashion Hirofumi Kurino, Fashion Market Director of EFI Susi Billingsley, and Nigerian actress and TV personality Dakore Egbuson-Akande comprised the judging panel. Together they selected six emerging brands from the African continent from 260 applicants to form part of the EFI Accelerator programme 2020.


  • To read more about the Ethical Fashion Initiative visit their website.
  • Images supplied. Main feature image is of Sipho Mbuto and Ben Nozo of REIGN.
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