Thandazani-Nofingxana-s-AFI-Fastrack-Prize-Journey African Fashion International

Thandazani Nofingxana's AFI Fastrack Prize Journey

Buhle Mbonambi

In the exciting world of fashion, Thandazani Nofingxana’s Abantu stands out by seamlessly blending heritage with contemporary design.

Through Abantu he pays homage to Xhosa heritage and the Eastern Cape, with textile development at the heart of his designs.

Entering the AFI Fastrack Prize, Thandazani faced the common challenge of mastering the business side of fashion.

Fastrack’s workshops on costing, positioning, and industry strategies transformed his approach, allowing him to make informed decisions and position his brand effectively.

We spoke to Thandazani ahead of the AFI Fastrack Prize winner announcement on Friday, 21 June 2024 in Johannesburg.


Before entering the AFI Fastrack Prize, what were your biggest challenges as a designer?

Fastrack offered workshops that equipped me with the business side of design. We delved into topics like costing and positioning, giving me the knowledge to navigate the industry effectively.

Understanding business aspects has allowed me to make informed decisions and be competitive. It also helped me refine my business model for South Africa and beyond.

Can you share a specific instance where the guidance and mentorship provided by AFI Fastrack mentors pushed your creative boundaries and resulted in a design breakthrough?

I have always struggled with how sustainability applies to an emerging South African brand. My focus was too narrow. During a sustainable project, Khwaza Tshisela, our facilitator, challenged me to see sustainability from multiple angles. She helped me adapt it for my brand and the South African context, considering my current stage as a designer. 

Thandazani Nofingxana Durban July 2023 AFI Fastrack


Sustainability and ethical practices are becoming increasingly important in fashion. How have you considered these aspects in your final collection, and how do you envision this influencing your future design philosophy?

Going into this collection, I had a clear piece of mind about my sustainability approach. It all boils down to the intentions I have in terms of minimising waste: placing patterns in a way that doesn't waste fabrics, opting for digital printing which uses less water, and most importantly, pricing the garments in a way that is sustainable and makes business sense. This is especially crucial considering the target market for this collection is the aspirational youth demographic in South Africa.

Beyond winning, how do you envision this program shaping your path as a designer in the African fashion landscape?

AFI feels like a future home for me. I now understand their mission of developing young designers. I see potential future collaborations and a strong foundation for positioning Abantu in the African fashion landscape.

Abantu Joburg Fashion Week

How have you incorporated Africa’s rich heritage and cultural influences into your final collection for the AFI Fastrack Prize? 

My final collection reflects my brand's focus on South African cultural nuances. I explore how traditional dress was used as a form of rebellion during apartheid, both within and outside the country.

It highlights the evolving nature of tradition, now a symbol of celebration and identity. The brief aligned with this exploration, with figures like Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela wearing umbhaco during their trials.

I also examined how traditional dress has been used for rebellion and identity globally. 

ABANTU Cape Town Fashion Week AFI Fastrack

What message do you want to convey to the industry with your final collection, and what can the audience expect from you as a designer AFI Fastrack?

My final collection tells stories I find interesting and that resonate with society, aligning with my brand's focus on cultural nuances. The message is that cultural elements, even those perceived as outdated, hold immense value and potential.

This is where I see my design "goldmine." The industry can expect me to continue exploring culture through various mediums, including homeware, accessories, and pop-up experiences. I'm ready to be a proactive force in the industry. 


The winner of the AFI Fastrack Prize 2023/24 will be announced on Friday, 21 June 2024 in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

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