Average read time: 8 minutes.
There’s undoubtedly a flood of emerging talented local designers. This rise of interest in local design has led to a surge of brand exports from Rich Mnisi to Thebe Magugu, who are raising the South African flag high and commanding a phenomenal fashion presence.
Mmuso Potsane and Maxwell Boko, the designers of their eponymous label, Mmuso Maxwell are one of these success stories. From being interns for the iconic David Tlale, they’ve solidified their place in the fashion arena, even dressing the superstar Beyoncé in 2018 when she was in the country.
When did your love of fashion begin?
Maxwell: When I first saw the music video for Cassie’s Official girl in primary school, in the opening scene she wore a khaki cropped jacket and ripped blue jean shorts. That was my first sketch. It was only late in high school though that I actually thought of fashion as something I’d like to pursue.
Mmuso: My initial introduction to fashion was through the TV show soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. I vaguely remember being intrigued by the concept of Forrester Creations even though I did not fully grasp at the time what it was [a fashion house].
You both appeared on David Tlale’s show The Intern. How did you decide to become a duo and create a brand?
Mmuso and Maxwell: During the internship program we noticed that we had similar aesthetics and views in relation to design. We later figured that we would make a far more compelling brand as a duo instead of two similar brands, so we started Mmuso Maxwell.
You seem to have an architectural approach to clothes that offer impeccable tailoring. Please take us through your design process?
Mmuso and Maxwell: Thank you. Tailoring is a primary element of our brand’s DNA. When creating a collection, we obsess over the patterns, fabrication, and the actual making of the garment even more so than the style.
The process generally starts with pictures of what we are inspired by and drawn to at that moment. This can range from artworks, visual artists, and traditional attire to African architecture. We then start sketching. Mmuso prefers drawing to get new ideas. From there we sample nonstop until we get the perfect fit, well an almost perfect fit, we are never really satisfied.
Congratulations on your critically acclaimed collection. What was the driving force and narrative behind it?
Mmuso and Maxwell: Our Spring/Summer 2021 collection is titled Imbokodo (The Rock) and basically we wanted to challenge the narrative of a woman’s place in society, especially in African cultures. So we dove into the world of these culturally influenced women who live in a modern space. Women who encompass these contemporary features, despite our patriarchal notions, hold prominent positions in society, politics and the economy.
Who is the Mmuso Maxwell consumer?
Mmuso and Maxwell: Our customer is an intelligent working woman between the ages of 25 and 60. Someone who is seeking interesting, thought-out, and well-made clothes for her daily wardrobe.
You had the privilege of having Beyoncé wear one of your pieces. What was the experience like?
Mmuso and Maxwell: Our initial intention of contacting her stylist was in the hope that we could get tickets for the Global Citizen Festival, which we did. We didn’t realise the impact of dressing her until the pictures were out. It was phenomenal, not to mention emotional.
Where do you guys feel inspired?
What challenges do you face as designers and businessmen?
Mmuso and Maxwell: Certainly manufacturing and production. We make our samples ourselves with our tailor but the difficulty is finding a Cut, Make and Trim (CMT) that can reproduce that quality for production. Sourcing fabrics is also a challenge, unfortunately South Africa does not offer a wide range of fabrics, and options are very limited.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business as well as your creative process?
Mmuso and Maxwell: There was a decline in sales, however, the most significant change was that we simplified our creative process, we now gravitate more towards creating less complicated clothes.
What are your career highlights?
Mmuso: I actually don’t have one yet [laughs].
Maxwell: Definitely our SS17 fashion show, a season after winning New Talent Search at SA Fashion Week. It was our first independent collection after the internship program. The reaction and reception to our Lilac Asymmetrical suit in 2019 was our first time introducing the style. Initially, I did not like the cut but ended up falling in love with it.
What’s next for Mmuso Maxwell?
Mmuso and Maxwell: Launching our online store in November. Hopefully, we will also get more stockists so we can expand the business and create much-needed job opportunities for our community.
Pre-order their collection here.