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Thebe Magugu: Born for and with fashion

Thebe Magugu won International Fashion Shwocase 2019.
Thebe Magugu won International Fashion Shwocase 2019.
Image: Tabatha Fireman/BFC/Getty Images

Designer Thebe Magugu may just be our next international export, with his winning streak these last few weeks.

He jetted off to Paris on Thursday to represent SA in the LVMH (Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton - French fashion house) contest created by Louis Vuitton's executive vice-president, Delphine Arnault.

If he beats the 19 other semi-finalists in the semifinals of this prestigious competition this weekend, he'll bring home a R4.7m prize plus a year of mentorship by the LVMH.

Born in Kimberley, in the Northern Cape, the 25-year-old Magugu also walked away as the winner of the International Fashion Showcase 2019 at London Fashion Week last month, where he was hailed "a leader of his generation".

He maintains that fashion was imbedded in his DNA before he was born and that the women in his life inspired him to pursue his passion.

"Fashion is something I feel l was born with, a need to create merging with a need to represent the strong female figures I grew up with. My mother has had the biggest influence on me. She pushed me to pursue my dream after having found sketches of women I did as a child and what looked like clothes on them," he says.

Magugu went on to study at the prestigious school of fashion, Lisof, where he also learnt the discipline of fashion media as well as photography.

"I then did an internship with Woolworths after I graduated, which taught me about the business and technical side of fashion. I still work with the retail store and design products for our continuing collaboration," says a proud Magugu.

He explains the theme of the International Fashion Showcase was Brave New Worlds.

He magically showcased the progress SA has made over the last few years through fashion.

"My installation features a runway that is actually our constitution - the one created post 1994, which has re-written a lot of wrongs. There are also women sitting around a table, floating, to show how women led the country (to what it) actually is [today]."

Through his fashion line, Magugu's clothes have always been more than just garments. He always pushes boundaries and tries to make a sociopolitical statement by reflecting the country through his pieces. He also names each collection after a university course like Geology and one was themed Home Economics.

With the latter, he reinvented domestic wear, using household product colours like blue and purple. His work expresses his annoyance with the unfair expectations expected from these women.

He says coming out tops at the International Fashion Showcase is his ticket to the international audience.

"It's given me quite a bit of motivation and access to people abroad, including people I have always admired!"

When he returns from Paris, he goes back to the drawing board to complete his SA Fashion Week collection.

"My new collection, titled African Studies, is about merging motifs and prints from my heritage with forward-looking and modern shapes."

Last year, Vogue Italia named Magugu as one of 10 people to watch in fashion.

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