The year is 1999 and South Africa is finding its feet as a newly democratic country. People of colour were, up until a couple of years prior, marginalised and taught to be silently subservient. Now, they are freshly learning to wear their darker skin without fear, to own their identity and to be proud of where they come from, but this new mentality is in its infancy — there is much to be unlearnt.

Wandi Mzibande CrewA 19-year-old Wandi Nzimande, steeped in his love for hip hop, specifically for OG’s like N.W.A, Jay-Z, and Notorious B.I.G, identifies in his idols a deep sense of pride for who they are and where they come from, something he doesn’t see nearly as overtly displayed in his people, who are sorely lacking a sense of identity which, in his eyes, is its own kind of disability.

Seeing the problem as an opportunity to provide a sense of belonging, Nzimande, alongside co-founder Sechaba Mogale and mentor Brian Abrahams (who at first voiced vehement doubts), study the successes behind some of the biggest lifestyle brands, to figure out how to similarly tap into and subsequently influence pop culture and how to progress from a dream to creating a demand.

The trio inevitably launch Loxion Kulca — the culture of the locations (read: townships) — to celebrate and reflect the lifestyle of urban Africa through fashion as a proudly chosen uniform for the people.

Loxion Kulca sees a gap and kicks the whole door down, dressing hip hop artists (Skwatta Kamp, the late HHP and ProKid to name a few), comedian David Kau and host of The Phat Joe Show, Phat Joe. The brand alignment rooted firmly in black identity catches and spreads like wildfire, appealing to youth culture craving proud representation. And eventually, Loxion Kulca took a seat at the table with longstanding international brands like Converse.

Fast-forward to the evening of 13 January 2021, when Gauteng-based radio station Kaya FM — where Nzimande was a resident DJ — officially announces his death, due to COVID complications, sending a ripple wave of shock and pain through the country, from townships to Twitter to television, blogs to news bulletins, just as his 22-year legacy had done.

Wandi Mzibande“His passion for telling South African stories was evident in one of his recent projects —SABC 1’s Evolution of Mzansi Street Culture. He spent a decade behind the decks as Kaya FM’s resident DJ, where many were blessed to experience his friendship and endlessly imaginative musical talent,” says Ncebekazi Manzi, Kaya FM’s acting programming manager.

Celebrating 20 years of street fashion, Loxion Kulca last took to the catwalk at SAFW19, where they’d showcased for more than 10 years. This year, SAFW21’s Spring/Summer collection will pay tribute to Nzimande’s globe-sweeping creative influence, honouring his love for music, fashion and storytelling in a collection designed by founder of luxury fashion brand, House of Ole, Ole Ledimo.

Ledimo, who worked very closely with Nzimande for over 15 years, comments, “When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.” The collection features designs that pay homage to Loxion Kulca’s iconic black and lime colours, celebrating hip hop and street culture by featuring loose, free-fitting garments wrapped up in finesse.

As we anticipate SAFW21, Lucilla Booyzen’s (founder and director of SAFW) words ring especially loudly and powerfully: “Artistic, authentic, creative, caring… and always there for everyone, are the words that come to mind when I think of Wandi, the young man I met when he was 19 and just out of school, and who over the following 23 years grew into a leader who changed the shape of fashion in our country. We will deeply miss the energy, loyalty, attention and the opportunities that he so freely gave to everyone around him.”

Book tickets for the Loxion Kulca show at SAFW SS21 on 1st May 9PM here.

Follow ASA’s ongoing coverage of SAFW21.

Find Loxion Kulca on Instagram @loxionkulca

Words   |    Alden Clapper    @got.the.clap