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Q&A: Designer Ntando XV Ngwenya wonders why we still import clothes

by | Sep 11, 2020

Ntando XV Ngwenya founded an eponymous artisanal clothing brand in 2015 which seeks to break with the norms of how and why clothes are made. After wowing SA Fashion Week AW20 with his XV Project 0,8, his collection caught the eye of wardrobe curator and founder of Black Owned Everything, Zerina Akers and now holds a spot on Beyonce’s directory of Black- and African-owned businesses, The Black Parade Route. Currently, environmental and ethical sustainability in design is one of Ntando’s biggest research projects. Twyg caught up with the young creative to find out more.

How did ‘Ntando XV’ come into being?

XV stands for 15 in Roman numerals which is my birth date. I resonate with the number so I made it my staple code. XV became an artisanal clothing brand in 2015 to break norms about how clothes should be made and why they are made. From an early age I’ve dreamed of building a brand that can be self-sustaining.

What inspires the clothing you design?

I’m inspired by many things: history, science-fiction, architecture, music, social events, political views, furniture, nature, motion, human anatomy, creatures, philosophy, travel, culture and traditions. So I guess you could say I’m inspired by society and Earth!

Why is ethical and environmental sustainability important in fashion?

It helps the consumer to slow their consumption and redirects the attention back to how a product is made and what impact that product has, or can have on the planet. I feel that it’s important to inform the consumer that these items may have contributed to climate change anomalies. Our XV Project 0,8 collection is intended to be recycled and shared across generations.

What sustainable practices do you implement in your design?

The question of ethical and environmental sustainability is one of my biggest research projects right now. I’m researching how to monetise and scale new revenue streams and circular business models such as rental, resale, digital wardrob-ing, peer-to-peer exchange, styling services, reuse and recycling in a bid to reinvent retail and engage customers in the ‘store of the future’. Right now, I produce and design everything in-house so that the rand can circulate locally. We work with local, previously disadvantaged seamstresses to keep the spirit of ‘high quality made local alive’. We also limit synthetic fabrics and make garments that can endure everyday living. We offer private client recycling and upcycling treatments for some of our products to increase their lifespan too.

What materials will shape contemporary culture?

I like exploring different textile technologies and innovations. However, it’s a very difficult industry when you are in Africa where there are limited resources to produce textiles. I believe that people will always use cotton, prints and other traditionally identifiable materials, but I’m more interested in new technology that is surfacing right now like re-usable and recyclable nylon. It will be interesting to see what creatives do with such innovation. Having less to waste every time you create something will open another door for creative freedom moving forward.

What challenges do you face as a designer?

Bringing a meaningful product to the front. Imported products challenge us to compete with cheap international brands with the limited knowledge and equipment and support that we have in certain countries which have revolutionised the fashion industry. We have a lack of strong and powerful workmanship culture because most of the unemployed individuals who are seeking jobs are in it for the money and not the experience and growth. Poverty threatens the business in refining workmanship in our country. I find it pointless to produce internationally when we have people with good skills right on our doorstep who are drained and stressed by making a living and providing for their families. If I could, I would hire an entire generation to groom for this business. Why are we still importing??

Top 3 eco-brands that you are following right now?

How does it feel to be featured in Beyonce’s Black Parade?

I give big ups to Beyoncé’s creative team and the narrative behind Black Parade. It is a necessary face lift. It gives me pride and motivates me to keep believing in my craft to be a part of those creatives listed on her website. By exposing the beauty that is Africa she has managed to bring the concept or idea of Black consciousness to mainstream media. A task only a few manage to articulate profoundly using visuals and sound as a medium of expression. I think the message is powerful and clear, especially now that the world is exposed to so much of the same thing. I feel her use of local talent brings the world closer to the brands that actually exist within the African spectrum. She is opening doors to every African creative who is out there.

What’s next?

Project 0.9 2021.

 

  • Visit Ntando XV’s website here

Credits

  • Image 1: Ntando XV Ngwenya – Supplied
  • Image 2: Image by Jurie Potgieter
  • Image 3 and 4: Images by Andrea Baioni @risunobushi and Styled by Thomas Sutcliffe van Dyk @thomsutcliffevandyk
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