Fashion allows us to be true to who we are and that is exactly what South African fashion designer Thebe Magugu takes pride in. As an adolescent, Magugu found himself drawn to the bright lights of fashion through a satellite television. And even though he dreamt of starting his career elsewhere, the 26-year-old found himself looking inwards into his own culture when it came to designing and creating his own fashion brand.
This year, Pitti Uomo—the seasonal men's fashion fair—will be holding its 100th edition with Thebe Magugu as a guest designer. Through the use of art, craftsmanship and time-honoured African practices, one can only imagine what Magugu will bring to the table.
Pitti Uomo 100 will be an official menswear debut
Magugu is known for designing primarily within the field of women’s ready-to-wear. His collections through the years have sought to enhance the everyday woman—through sleek and innovative designs combined with motifs derived from South Africa's culture. This year—at the Fortezza da Basso where Pitti Uomo 100 will be held—Magugu will be stepping out into personally uncharted territories, debuting his very first menswear collection. This capsule collection is said to mark a new beginning, one of richness in youth and energetic awareness.
His message is South Africa
Magugu's work through his eponymous label, is a love letter to Africa—to put an end to stereotypes and show the continent's capability to produce contemporary fashion. The South African designer could have easily moved his brand's operations to a bigger city or even a fashion capital, but Magugu chose to be based in South Africa where his heart is. What better way is there to showcase its rich cultural history through fashion than straight from the source itself?
Making use of technology to tell the story of each garment
In 2020, Magugu showcased his autumn/winter collection in the Paris' Palais de Tokyo. As part of an exhibition during Paris Fashion Week, Magugu displayed images from the collection’s lookbook, garments from the collection as well as NFC (that's 'near-field communication' for the uninitiated) chips to be scanned. In partnership with Verisium, a Russian IoT (Internet of Things) company, the chips were embedded into either the collar, label or the seams of his collection. Upon scanning each chip, it not only allows buyers to have proof of authenticity, but also have access to Magugu's research and story behind the collection.
He won the LVMH Prize in 2019
In a short amount of time, Magugu managed to gain recognition for his culturally significant work from the fashion industry. In 2019, he became the first African designer—in the competition’s seven-year history—to receive the LVMH Prize. The collection that won the prestigious award was titled 'Prosopography'—a remembrance of the apartheid in South Africa.
On his agenda: the International Woolmark Prize
Before establishing himself as a fashion designer, Magugu used to work at The Woolmark Company— a brand that represents a commitment between wool manufacturers, brands and consumers on the authenticity and quality of the fibre. This year, he returns not as an employee but a contestant gunning for the 2021 International Woolmark Prize, an award which celebrates outstanding fashion talents from around the globe by showcasing the beauty and versatility of Australian Merino wool. The winner of the 2021 award will be announced on 10 June.
Pitti Uomo 100 will be held in Florence, Italy from 30 June to 2 July 2021.