The designer weaving a thread through the fabric of our identity


Growing up in the Eastern Cape, Lukhanyo Mdingi had no excuse for not playing outside. Except that he didn’t want to. While most of his school peers revelled in games of rough-and-tumble in the sun, dreaming of becoming world-class sportsmen – or at least schoolboy heroes – Mdingi cloistered himself indoors. There he was absorbed by the world of fashion, obsessing over its manifestation in television soap operas and envisioning his life as a designer.

Mdingi was certain of his calling to the artistic world, but felt isolated by the difference in ideology between himself and the boys at school. High school broadened this gap, as bullying bruised his days. Realising that he needed to be surrounded by more like-minded people, he moved to the Belgravia Art School when he was 16. There he learnt that he wasn’t the only young boy who would rather weave a thread through fabric than a soccer ball between defenders. Mdingi went on to further his studies in fashion at CPUT. Since graduating in 2013, the same year in which he was a finalist in the Elle Rising Star Design Awards, he has fast imprinted his name on the industry.

He was featured as an Emerging Creative at the 2015 Design Indaba and his work will appear on film at this year’s Mercedes-Benz Bokeh South African International Fashion Film Festival. Minimalistic in style, Mdingi has most recently taken inspiration from Japanese design techniques to create gender-fluid clothing. At 23 he is only just getting started on what he knows will be a lifelong journey. And though he can’t say for sure where it will lead him, he couldn’t have made it even this far without his initial vision for himself and the confidence to follow his passion.

Photographs by Travys Owen and Kent Andreasen were used in the creation of this film.