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South African Luxury Fashion Designer Thebe Magugu- A Fashion Force

Through his work, Fashion Designer Thebe Magugu proves that African fashion has a place at the global table.

Fashion is and has always been a means to share meaningful, impactful, thought-provoking narratives. Coco Chanel designed clothes for women that fought back against restrictions imposed on women during her time. She created garments that were not only flattering but comfortable. In 1966, YSL created the first women’s tuxedo and forever changed the course of fashion.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock it’s safe to assume that you’ve heard of South African luxury designer Thebe Magugu. His meteoric rise to the top of the fashion world is nothing short of remarkable. Especially considering that all of this happened within a few short years since the launch of his brand. The LISOF Fashion School graduate and Joburg-based designer has become a force to be reckoned with ensuring that the Eurocentric fashion world’s eyes are centred on him. Telling African stories that are deeply personal to him combined with craftsmanship and a fine eye for detail has garnered him an unmatched reputation. The new vanguard of emerging designers are challenging the status quo and redefining fashion on their terms. Thebe, who’s proudly South African, has reinterpreted what it means to be an African designer. Cliched ideas and concepts are no longer allowed and what we have now is an exciting era of design on the African continent.

The fashion industry ecosystem includes collaborations. To be asked to collaborate is a sign of success and, in a sense, validates your brand. Since winning the prestigious LVMH prize, Thebe has been unstoppable. Following the passing of AZ Factory Founder Alber Elbaz, he was asked to work as a guest designer for the label. He eagerly accepted the challenge and the result, as we know it, was extremely successful. Thebe shared that he loved the fact he and Alber hailed from Africa, so he decided to explore the concept of this continent being the birthplace of fashion and couture.

Image: Supplied

Another of Thebe’s noteworthy partnerships was with sportswear giant Adidas. The campaign, released in August this year, highlighted inclusivity and his heritage. For this collection, Thebe was inspired by his mother, grandmother and aunt. In an interview with Hypebeast about the collection, he said: “I’m infinitely inspired by the energy of the women in my life and the heritage of my native land. Bringing together such personal stories through design and blending them with Adidas’s iconic performance and lifestyle pieces has been an amazing process. The collection celebrates all the positive influences around me and a sense of community that’s so important to me. I hope it inspires that joyful feeling in those who wear it.”

Image: Supplied

In 2021, Vogue challenged two designers to repurpose each other’s work. The magazine’s objective was to encourage designers to communicate with each other through their work. This initiative continued in 2022 with Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli and Thebe. Once again, this collaboration ratifies his place within the elite fashion space. As an African designer, Thebe proves the importance of inclusivity in an elitist and exclusive industry. Thebe described to Hamish Bowles at his appreciation of gaining a deeper insight for the level of craftsmanship required for Valentino’s haute couture piece and classifies it as a work of art. Although some designers might consider this a daunting challenge, Thebe saw it as an opportunity to reimagine and immerse a part of himself. The result was that he cemented his place among the fashion greats.

As the fashion industry embraces our continent’s new generation of talent, I’d venture to say that Thebe serves as the zeitgeist of our era. This is only the beginning of what we can expect from Thebe Magugu.

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