Tshepiso Makhele
3 minute read
21 Nov 2018
1:25 pm

The rise of fashion star Thebe Magugu

Tshepiso Makhele

His modern South African fashion brand mainly produces ready-to-wear designs for women.

Thebe Magugu’s autum/winter 2019 collection at SA Fashion Week in October. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Designer Thebe Magugu knew from the get-go he wanted to be in the fashion business.

This year he showcased in two international fashion capitals, his faux ostrich pink coat is now part of the permanent collection in a New York fashion museum and his SA Fashion Week collection amazed the audience.

Journey in fashion

“After I matriculated in Kimberley, I came to Johannesburg to study fashion design, fashion photography and fashion media, which have always been my three big loves,” Magugu said.

Then he did a few internships and decided that it was time for him to take a leap of faith and start his own business. “At that time, I really felt inspired and truly wanted to tell my story through fashion. It’s been like that ever since,” he added.

Pushing against the odds

Magugu said that although it was an exciting time to be part of the South African fashion industry, designers still faced numerous challenges. “Things like manufacturing is still a serious issue, but it also presents an opportunity for one to be creative,” he said.

Despite all the challenges, he tries not to let any hiccups disrupt his mission to tell a story though clothes.

“I don’t have the most resources in the world, but I have inspiration. I try to take the little that I have and make it work in a way that allows me to communicate what I need to. It’s about pushing yourself and seeing what you can do with limited resources.”

Thebe Magugu’s autum/winter 2019 collection at SA Fashion Week in October. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

His collections

Thebe Magugu is a modern South African fashion brand mainly producing ready-to-wear designs for women. It also has a firm footing in accessories and small multidisciplinary projects.

Based on the values of quality, novelty and culture, the brand continuously pursues novel ways of presenting women’s clothing in polished and forward-looking designs using themes from the continent’s storied past.

The designer says every season is named after a subject. “We have had geology and gender studies to name a few. For SA Fashion Week, I wanted to take artistic motifs and subject matter from SA art, surrealist prints and colour and mix it into silhouettes and shapes that have a conservative and slightly ecclesiastic feel.”

Magugu said his aim was to match SA’s very artistic side with its traditionalism and history to explore the contrasting planes.

Fashion to Thebe

“Fashion is definitely different from clothing. When someone says ‘clothing’, I think of retail, going to a shop and purchasing clothes. But fashion is different. Fashion is a powerful tool for communication.”

Magugu said that through fashion he is able to communicate his thoughts. “I use clothes as a medium. You can communicate so much through visual cues and clothing. Looking at how a community dresses, one can see clues to what is happening socially or politically.”

He added that he viewed fashion as a mirror of society.

Thebe Magugu. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

F.I.T Museum

When the head curator of the F.I.T (Fashion Institute of Technology) Museum e-mailed him to say that she liked his pink faux ostrich coat and wanted it to be part of the permanent collection at the New York Museum, “I felt really honoured.”

“The F.I.T Museum’s new exhibition is titled Pink: The History of Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color,” he said, adding that it felt unreal to have his work among that of Michele of Gucci and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons.

Mgugu presented his latest collection to the international media and buyers in a public exhibition during Milan Fashion Week this year. “After Milan and the incredible feedback I got, I will make 2019 a time for exporting more, pursuing studio space and growing my brand beyond SA.

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