Jamal Nxedlana


Creating a culture of  innovation will help define South Africa’s unique look in the fashion world.

Being exposed to fashion as a kid by your mother is sometimes a good thing. Having an active online relationship with designers around the world isn’t a bad thing either. A firm grounding in fashion by his mother and hours of trawling the internet on a daily basis has turned Nxedlana into something just short of a chief software engineer. Far from waiting for the muse to come and visit him for inspiration on his Missshape label he actively reaches out to others, exploring creative possibilities. In addition to managing his Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest accounts he also belongs to a group that broadcasts popular South African culture online. These are all good tools for crafting his philosophy on how we carve out a unique, innovative niche for local fashion.

“What we need in South Africa is collaboration. Our fashion system is made up of separate links, rather than linked together as a strong chain,” says Nxedlana.

“I tried to source some fabric recently and it was a real struggle. As far as I’m concerned the textile industry in this country is in crisis. What we need is a collaboration between designers, trend forecasters and fabric producers that will help us focus on innovation. “

The frustration is real for Nxedlana and many other South African designers. While they travel the world sourcing new ideas and keeping up with trends, they return home to a lack of innovation within local textile mills that ultimately hampers what they can create, or restricts their creativity.

“I’d love to work together with a textile designer and researcher to create a new textile with which  I could make a garment. The fabrics are either from Italy, and very expensive, or from China and not up to standard. The fabric is such an important part of clothing that a lot more attention should be paid to it. Missshape relies heavily on the tactile feel of fabric to get my ideas across.”

On a business level Nxedlana also acknowledges the risk most designers take in creating a collection and placing them in boutiques on a consignment basis. “In other parts of the world boutiques will take the risk and buy your stock outright if they think it will sell. Here, we take all the risk.

However, spending the first two months of the year in Italy, has inspired him to take the positive lessons he learnt there and implement them in his work.  “Some of the feelings and emotions from this trip will definitely feature in my upcoming collection,” says Nxedlana, “But my biggest interest was in the tailoring detail that I discovered and how I could apply this in an unconventional way.”

The two months in Italy gave Nxedlana the chance to step back and think about his direction and reflect on his style. Attending the Moschino show was a highlight and visiting the Gucci museum and Balestra design studio and factory gave him a range of insights, from production to catwalk. “My focus in Italy was on good communications. Learning how to communicate effectively with your customers and followers is crucial, especially with imagery, video and good text.” Getting South Africa known for a certain fashion image is something Nxedlana wants to promote. We all know what Paris, New York and Rome represent in the fashion world, but what of South Africa?

“By not imitating the rest of the world and embarking on a path of  innovation will see us become a nation known for a unique quality. Ironically, periods of tough consumer sales can become a catalyst in pushing designers into new ways of thinking,” explains Nxedlana. “Inspiration is a funny thing, I can look at something on the street and be inspired, but I’m continually surprised at where it comes from. In Italy I was inspired by a very commercial look – skinny jeans and puffer jackets with fur trim on the hood. As a visual artist, with a love for photography, I’m not afraid of keeping myself open to new ideas.”

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