In 2019, the winner of the most prestigious award for young designers LVMH Prize was the 26-year-old native of South Africa, whose collections are permeated by the depth of history and the acuteness of modern problems in his native country. In an interview with L’Officiel-Ukraine, he told you why he does not want to transport the brand to Paris and what he invests in each of his designs.
Modest, talented and very open-minded – this was how You seemed to Magug at our first meeting during Fashion Week in Paris, and in the future the impression only intensified. Before truly kind and gifted people, the doors to the big world open easier, and to you – one more confirmation of this. The industry noticed him only a couple of years after Magugu launched his own brand, and the LVMH Prize was just a cherry on the cake for general delight and support for a new, flourishing talent. He already prophesied a great bright future and a significant place on the global fashion map, but you have your own vision of how he will grow further.
Through space and time
“Even in early childhood, I saw on TV how guests left one of the fashion shows,” Magugu recalls. “For me they looked like heroes of an incredible, wonderful world, and I knew that one day I would be among them.” He was born in 1993 – in time for the abolition of the appalling apartheid regime in the Republic of South Africa. Although racial segregation and repression are left behind, they still cast a shadow over the country in the eyes of the whole world – and you want to show that South Africa today is not limited to this. After studying in Johannesburg, he initially went on an internship to another brand, but for a long time he could not work there. “I wanted to tell so much through clothes, and the internship did not give such an opportunity,” he explains. “Yes, launching my brand at such a young age was a rather naive decision, but it tempered me and taught me a lot.” Being far from the world centers of the fashion industry, Magug managed to lay such a strong, loud and understandable to many narratives in his collections that his sound quickly spread throughout the planet. And he was attracted by the world's leading press and shops.
Remembering the story
Each collection of Thebe Magugu is named after one of the university disciplines that the designer studied, so he shows respect and gratitude to the education. His portfolio includes Home Economics, where he exposed the status of women in modern South Africa, Gender Studies, and Art History. And he called the spring-summer 2020 collection "Prosopography" in honor of a special historical discipline that studies the biographies of people of a certain era or locality who played an important role in its political and public life. The inspiration was the liberal women's organization The Black Sash (Black Belt), which fought for the rights of black people during apartheid. "Their courage admires me: to go against the tide, when the whole country is the tide," he shares. One of the former members of the movement, Sue Townsend, told him how they had to dress in jeans, anorak and coarse shoes when leaving the house. "This gave me the idea of the duality of their lives: they chose to be humble or rebellious, dress practical or luxurious, wear masculine or feminine clothes," the designer adds. Like the members of The Black Sash, he seeks to defend the culture of black South Africans, not only with protests, but with the use of ethnic and experimental techniques. So, one of the fabrics of the collection is painted with special mud, which the designer found from a local healer. There was also a place for personal history – on the pleated skirt of midi Magugu painted a portrait of his beloved grandmother, which for him became one of the examples of strong and unyielding women who steadily survived the horrors of those times.
Forward to the future
The LVMH Prize gave the designer not only tangible financial assistance, which he invested in a new studio and staff. “This has changed my thinking, now I am working with more global categories and making bold plans for my brand,” Magugu says. At the same time, he is not going to transport business to one of the world's fashionable capitals. According to his plan, the company should be based in Johannesburg and have good connections with New York, London, Milan and Paris. South Africa, like Ukraine, is a fairly young country on the fashion stage, which at one time lost a significant part of its infrastructure and crafts, but is now actively restoring them. And it is here that You see your future. He himself contributes to this, not only developing the brand, but also publishing the annual Faculty Press magazine, which has become a platform for self-expression of creative and LGBT + youth in South Africa. And in March, Magugu will present a new collection in Paris – in the format of an exhibition in the Tokyo Palace, along with a series of photographs by the Dutch artist Vivian Sassen. So LVMH Prize, maybe, was the first high-profile victory for you, but for sure this is only the beginning of his stellar journey.
Read also: The winner of the LVMH Prize – 2019 was the designer from South Africa to you Magugu