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Thebe Magugu: Redefining African Fashion on the Global Stage

Thebe Magugu at F4D Sustainable Banquet. Photo by Oliver Archer
Thebe Magugu at F4D Sustainable Banquet. Photo by Oliver Archer

Thebe Magugu is the 2023 Franca Sozzani Award recipient and was honored at the 11th Annual First Ladies Luncheon, The Franca Sozzani Award recognizes the social commitment and artistic achievement of individuals in the creative industries. Created in honor of Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue, who passed away in 2016, To read more, visit here

F4D Ladies Luncheon

Fashion 4 Development's 11th annual Sustainble Banquet and Ladies Luncheon took place this past September, during the United Nations General Assembly Week, and Thebe Magugu on his first trip to the US was honored by Fashion 4 Development in their New York City event.

Thebe accepting award at F4D Ladies Luncheon.  Photo by Oliver Archer
Thebe accepting award at F4D Ladies Luncheon. Photo by Oliver Archer

"I am so honored to be given the Franca Sozzani Award for my work in cultural preservation through fashion by Fashion4Development during the United Nations General Assembly Week here in New York. I am humbled to have been given the award by my longest supporter and dear friend Sara Maino (@saramaino_). I grew up the township and my only access to the global fashion industry was through FTV and satellite television, but from such a young age (and I think this speaks to the industry back then), I always felt like fashion and its machine always pushed the message that you must either be from New York, London, Milan or Paris to make it as a fashion designer, and when you are an impressionable 11 year old, you internalise this message. Due to our circumstances, I couldn’t unfortunately study abroad but this in hindsight was a blessing in disguise because being close to all the visual cues and references, and languages and texts that I grew up with made my privy to such beautiful inspiration. When I started the brand in 2016, its mission was to act like an encyclopedia or a reference book of key ideas, people, cultures, that run the risk of being forgotten in the country and continent. And I am a firm advocate in transcribing culture for a modern generation, otherwise those histories and ideals will meet a dead-end. I think that’s what makes fashion so incredibly intelligent and a communication tool , it can inspire, it can inform, it can educate, and it can transform. I think Franca understood this all too well, the power of fashion to shift minds and recalibrate beauty standards. Thank you again to F4D, Evie Evangelou, Sara Maino - and all of you for your support and love." Thebe Magugu on IG

"When it comes to fashion design from South Africa, Thebe Magugu is one of its top rising stars. The 30-year-old designer, based in Johannesburg, made history as the first South African designer to ever win the prestigious LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize in 2019.

Mannequines at Exhibit from Thebes Collection at F4D Event
Exhibit from Thebes Collection at F4D Event

Thebe Magugu: Redefining African Fashion on the Global Stage

Particular designers stand out in the ever-evolving fashion landscape for their unique vision, innovation, and cultural resonance. Among them is Thebe Magugu, a trailblazer in the fashion industry whose work has garnered international acclaim for its fusion of contemporary design with African heritage and storytelling.

Born and raised in Kimberley, South Africa, Magugu's journey into the fashion world began with a deep-rooted passion for design. He pursued formal education in fashion at the London International School of Fashion (LISOF) in Johannesburg, where he honed his skills and nurtured a distinct design aesthetic.

Thebe Magugu Portrait
Thebe Magugu Portrait

Magugu is committed to infusing his designs with narratives that explore societal issues, history, and the multifaceted nature of South African culture. His collections serve as a canvas for storytelling, tackling themes ranging from gender roles to politics while celebrating the richness and diversity of African heritage.

The attention to detail, impeccable tailoring, and bold use of colors and patterns in Magugu's designs demonstrate his talent for craftsmanship and creativity. His collections often bridge modernity and tradition, blending contemporary fashion with elements deeply rooted in African culture.

In 2019, Magugu became the first African designer to clinch the prestigious LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers and in that moment he catapulted his brand onto the global stage. This accolade recognized his talent and signaled a shift in the industry, spotlighting the richness and innovation present within African fashion. The recognition afforded by the LVMH Prize opened doors for Magugu, allowing his brand to reach wider international audiences. It amplifies the representation of African fashion on a global scale, challenging stereotypes, and showcasing the diversity and sophistication of the continent's design landscape.

Magugu's impact extends beyond his exquisite creations; he inspires emerging designers, emphasizing the importance of storytelling, cultural authenticity, and pushing boundaries within the fashion industry.

As fashion professionals, observing Thebe Magugu's journey and design philosophy offers valuable insights into embracing cultural narratives, fostering innovation, and promoting diversity within our work. His success demonstrates the significance of acknowledging and celebrating the richness of diverse cultural influences in shaping the future of fashion.

From The Business Of Fashion:

The South African designer is stepping back from the global stage by prioritizing his local market, investing in DTC, and working with new stockists across Africa.

What I love about Thebe's designs is his homage to his roots. When brands connect to their culture and tradition, they provide a purpose for the brand and give meaning to each design, telling a story rich in heritage and creativity.


9 Mother and Child dresses were released, with images of subjects carrying a multitude of objects on their heads. "Much like my own family, who swung between South Africa and The Kingdom of Lesotho. Seeing the women in my family have to carry children on their backs and necessities on their heads always reminded me of (incredibly chic) Afro totem poles; a showcase of utter strength both physical and symbolic and I wanted to pay homage to this memory. This has been photographed by fine art photographer Tatenda Chidora and art director Chloe Andrea Welgemoed." Thebe Magugu

Thebe Magugu Celebrates Motherhood With Special Dresses Inspired By 9 Cultures Of South Africa Read More here on Vogue

Thebe Magugu's contributions to the fashion world transcend aesthetics; they represent a cultural dialogue, a celebration of heritage, and a redefinition of the global fashion landscape, making him a visionary force in the industry. We can't wait to watch Thebe's career and future collections!

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Hey there, lovely fashion friends! My name is Britta Cabanos, and I'm thrilled to have you here! 


I'm a 25+ year fashion industry design professional, and I'm passionate about supporting conscious designers, ethical makers, and sustainability. I believe that fashion can be a powerful force for good, and I'm committed to helping aspiring fashion industry pros make their mark in this exciting and ever-changing field. 


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