Thebe Magugu, has been on the rise for the past three years. Ever since he won the LVMH prize in 2019 in Paris, year after year he gets better and better. All while fulfilling each and every goal he had, when he entered the competition. He made history as the first African to win the prestigious award

His desire to revive the little that is left of the textile industry by keeping factory production in South Africa, even after winning the competition. The primary goal was to use the resources that LVMH comes with to distribute his designs to more countries, which had been a struggle for his business. This line of thinking- that focused on the structural support the LVMH could provide, instead of just the financial-is what impressed the judges and made him stand out, ultimately. And his designs of course.

Based in Johannesburg now as an adult and entrepreneur after attending LISOF, the leading fashion school in South Africa, his roots are in the small town of Kimberley, in the Northern Cape province. His hometown and upbringing, experiences growing up and his culture- have been the main inspiration for his work. 

Photo: Courtesy of Thebe Magugu

This autumn/winter campaign is called ALCHEMY. “I hope you can look at the images and see parts of your parts and a vision for your future.” A quote that encompasses his work and the idea behind it. Growing up there were certain aspects of his childhood- such as his mom and her friends getting dressed for church in their “Sunday best,” that are now incorporated into his designs. A perfect example of how he took his past and used it in the future.

ALCHEMY is about the spiritual calling “Ukuthwasa”, which is when one has to go train under a traditional healer in order to answer  the calling and become a traditional healer themselves. Understanding that he has an international audience that is not familiar with his culture and the story behind the collection- he still wants people to appreciate his designs even if they do not fully understand the background behind them. Which is rare, considering designers love taking the fun out of fashion by being snobs to the very people they are trying to sell to, when customers do not get their references.

Thebe magugu
Photo: Thebe Magugu

The new collection was shown in a short film that plays out like a fever dream, one of the symptoms for people who have the calling and have to go through “Ukuthwasa” which tells you that you have been called or chosen by your ancestors. In the film, the models speak his language Sotho, and other South African languages such as Zulu. 

A reflection of his insistence to show up for the fashion industry by using local models, while shooting the short film locally and using local filmmakers. One of the reasons for him choosing to stay in SA, while he could have moved production to Europe, is the fact that many talented graduates be it in the arts or any other fields leave South Africa to lend their skills to companies and industries abroad, which contributed to the brain drain. A cycle he would rather try to break.

Thebe Magugu’s brand is based on quality, culture , novelty- and every season he has stayed true to them which is undoubtedly part of his rising success.

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