A conversation with Critic Studios founder, Hakim Ngcongwane

A conversation with Critic Studios founder, Hakim Ngcongwane

When you’re from a township, ambitions to pursue a career in design are a somewhat of a taboo. A risk, as our parents have ambitions of seeing us a doctors, lawyers or accountants. Well, Hakim has completely defied that narrative, having dropped out twice at different design institutions, despite that, he’s still adamant on creating a design brand from nothing, driven by his love for design. We sat with him, and yeah, this is what he had to say about his vision and relatively short journey, which we reckon looks very promising indeed.


How would you best describe Critic Studios?

CRITIC STUDIOS is a multifunctional design brand focused on creating a balance between art & design. More than anything it’s a belief and a platform to “VOICE YOUR OPINION” because that’s what Critics do after all.

Renzo Rosso, founder of DIESEL and president of the OTB Group.

  1. Simply because of how the DIESEL brand manages to transform the everyday jean andfindinnovativewaystomakeitlookcoolerbut sustain the function purpose of design and how that product eventually ages to be 10 times better than when you first wore it.
  2. Understanding the importance of creating a legacy brand and how to sustain it culturally
  3. Ke tlha Pheli ke gava ka frank! Hopefully someday in Italy I see a person a person with a CRITIC STUDIOS tattoo on their sleeve.

What is your grand vision for Critic Studios?

To operate as a legacy brand. Kinda how MoMA and OTB group runs it’s operations. Personally I believe that’s what Africa needs the most to help shape and sustain its own art and design industry.

What are some of your frustrations at this point in time?

Designing economically and simply because the design industry is mostly privately owned. Therefore as a kid from Pheli lacking the financial and necessary resources to access this private industry kinder limits your room to create economically as a start-up company.

Your Thoughts on South Africa’s streetwear and design scene?

  1. Personally I feel like we as South African brands need to start thinking globally when we approach our designs. therefore that will internally change our approach on how to create products that are export worthy.
  2. We need to document and support our own street, entertainment design industries. Really support their course instead of serving lip service.
  3. Thirdly create content that’s original to your native space. That way you learn how to manipulate it to be better aesthetically, this will help consumers at large understand what they buying into.
  4. I love it’s growth, there’s finally hope in the general schemes of the culture and the necessary economic backing for established local brands.

Design education is quiet expensive in South Africa, is it worth it? What’s its biggest drawback?

Design education is necessary for South Africa, the problem is that it’s packaged as a luxury service instead of a basic educational service, thus why it’s best accessible in private institutes where it’s exploited for profit.

As far as its worth, personally certain aspects’ of it are necessary but as a full service pack, it lacks basic infrastructure or materials one has to spend money on to help better the quality of the education. It also needs a stronger external industry support to help graduates step into the real nature of the business more skilled and knowledgeable of what they are doing.


Critic 3

Through this very short journey of Critic Studios, what has been your biggest lesson?

Learning patience, time management as a skill to help design better function wise and business wise essentially cause of the direction we at CRITIC STUDIOS are positioning ourselves in. Most importantly how to design economically to help create the creative wheel rolling without relying too much on funding or external support especially in this struggling economy.

Anything we should look forward to in the near future?

Hahaha di sa tlo bowa. I kid. Currently working on an actual collection for fashion week and an art/design side project aimed at showcasing what the brand is about. But between now and then, we honestly just working towards strengthening the foundation and recruiting troops that we believe can help add value to the culture and the brand.

Why should we buy a Critic Studios item?

Cause of the resale value as the brand grows. More than anything as a belief that we South Africans have taste that’s native to our own kind of how Gucci was made by Italians for Italians.

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