Xolani Mawande Cape Town Fashion Week 2023. AFI Fastrack show

Experience Xolani Mawande's AFI Fastrack Prize Journey

Buhle Mbonambi

Xolani Mawande, the Cape Town-based brand by design duo Xolani Magadla and Mawande Mbawuli, has had a unique experience on their AFI Fastrack Prize journey. As the only team in the competition, they might have seemed to have an advantage, but they faced their own challenges.

Ahead of the AFI Fastrack Prize winner announcement on Friday, 21 June, we spoke to the designers about their journey in the programme. 

One of their biggest hurdles was public speaking. "Public speaking was the main one," they admitted, "but through having presentations, interviews and feedback catch ups with Khwaza (Tshisela, AFI Fastrack coordinator) really helped us speak about our work better."

The AFI Fastrack provided constant mentorship and feedback. Xolani shared a specific instance where this guidance pushed them creatively.

Xolani highlighted the "Comfort Challenge" at Joburg Fashion Week where they had to design and execute a piece in a short time, while working with a different creative partner.

"I am still proud of myself for being able to do that," he reflected. “We were separated as a duo to work with other designers and we are proud to say we both worked very well with them."

This experience impacted their approach to design, fostering a spirit of collaboration.

Xolani Mawande Joburg Fashion Week

The Durban July experience also tested them and Mawande pointed to the challenge as a turning point during the Fastrack experience. The mentors were initially not impressed with their presentation and they had to work hard to find something better.

"I don't know how we got bounce back after the horrible feedback we got from our first Durban July feedback session. But it tested our resilience and we created a really great garment in the end, that fit the ‘Out of this World’ theme and also looked like a Xolani Mawande design.”

Durban July 2023 AFI Fastrack

African fashion is known for its rich heritage, and Xolani Mawande have incorporated this aspect into their final collection for the AFI Fastrack Prize.

"All African stories matter and can be told through any type of fabric, not just African print. The story we are telling with our collection and the design is inspired by the indigenous games and African accessories.”

Sustainability and the Future

Sustainability is a growing concern in fashion, and Xolani Mawande are timidly taking steps to improve their system of working.

"Having learned about sustainability during AFI Fastrack, we are taking baby steps towards making sure we don’t contribute to the problem. The main two we are practicing right now are zero waste manufacturing techniques and using leftover materials we have from past collections."

A Message to the Industry 

Xolani Mawande CTFW AFI Fastrack

Through their journey in the AFI Fastrack Prize, Xolani Mawande has demonstrated growth, resilience, and a deep commitment to their craft, setting a promising path for their future in the African fashion landscape.

“The industry can expect a better and well-informed Xolani Mawande, as we will use everything we learned through AFI Fastrack to better our brand."

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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