Twenty-six-year-old South African designer, Thebe Magugu, first gave everyone a glimpse of the magic he can work with his hands at the 2019 London Fashion Week. He came into the showpiece as an underdog but by the time it was all said and done, he had strutted his stuff enough to be crowned the winner of the international fashion showcase.
And just this week, he went one better at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, France, And even made history in the process. Thebe Magugu has become the first African to win the prestigious and much-coveted Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) Prize for Young Designers.
The young South African was one of 1,700 top young designers from around the world who had entered into the keenly-contested competition. And emerged with the top honour after scaling through several rounds of the competition and impressing in the finals which took place on Wednesday, September 4, 2019.
By winning the competition, the fast-rising South African designer is now the first African-born recipient of this highly-coveted global fashion award.
Louis Vuitton representative, Alicia Vikander, presented Magugu with the award while marvelling at the sheer amount of talent on display at this year’s competition.
“The talent in this room is quite simply stupefying, and the finalists represent the future of fashion,” she enthused.
The young South African was elated with the win, as he should be. Reacting to his incredible victory, Magugu said, “It’s a lot of firsts. As a creative, you’re always questioning yourself, but people around me told me there was no harm trying. I went into it like a child and got the chance to speak to my design heroes like Clare Waight Keller and Nicolas Ghesquière. So no matter the outcome, I already felt like I’d won so many things.”
Gesturing to his trophy, he added, “This is like the cherry on top. I can’t say this has been two years in the making: this has been in the making since grade four. Every cell in my body has been geared towards my being a person in fashion and being a designer.”
Apart from the prestige that comes with winning the coveted award, Thebe will also receive USD 338 K, as well as benefit from a 12-month mentorship programme under the tutelage of the LVMH team of established, world-class designers. However, the South African is not keen on moving to Paris.
“My overarching mission as a designer is to showcase a contemporary South Africa,” he said. “So many people have stale ideas of what that means and I really want to change that. There are so many creatives doing incredible work in South Africa. I’m looking forward to travelling but I really want to stay there because it feeds my own creativity.”
Thebe Magugu has truly broken new ground by becoming the first African to win the LVMH Prize. Aged 26, he was also the youngest designer at this year’s competition. His work cuts across the codes of menswear and womenswear, of the traditional and the experimental, feeling his way around volumes and traditional South-African skill.
“The creativity of his designs is great — the colours, the cuts, it’s very feminine. We saw the talent, and we also saw the challenges — in export for example. It’s great to find talent with huge potential,” said Delphine Arnault, Executive Vice President of Louis Vuitton and founder of the LVMH Prize, who seemed pretty delighted with the outcome of this year’s competition.
Thebe Magugu’s history-making victory offers a much-needed break from all the negative publicity surrounding South Africa in recent weeks. The spate of Xenophobic attacks and gender-based-violence has marred the country’s image in the last few days, and perhaps, it is stories of individuals like Thebe that might help arrest the ongoing rot.
Featured Image Courtesy: Mail & Guardian