Thebe Magugu
South African fashion designer Thebe Magugu. Image: Tim Hulme

A young South African fashion designer whose garments are geared towards ‘the highly-functional nature of women’, Thebe Magugu talks about his stylish life

‘I’ve always loved fashion from a young age,’ says Magugu, who adds that while growing up in Kimberley in the Northern Cape, his only avenue into the world of fashion was FashionTV and seeing his mother dress. ‘My mother was very influential in making me fall in love with fashion. She is an avid enthusiast and her love and respect for the industry made me grow into it as well,’ he says. ‘My most cherished memory is when my she bought me a massive black sketch pad as a tactic to stop me from drawing dresses on any other surface!’

Thebe Magugu
Thebe Magugu’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Image: Trevor Stuurman

After graduating from LISOF in Randburg, Johannesburg, with a degree in Fashion and Apparel Design, Magugu was approached by Woolworths to complete an internship at their head office in Cape Town. This opportunity led to more work experience, and soon he decided to start his own fashion label. ‘I went into it almost head-first, and although there have been some setbacks, there have been just as many accomplishments,’ he says.

Thebe Magugu
Thebe Magugu’s Spring/Summer 2018 Gender Studies lookbook. Image: Aart Verrips

It is the presence of juxtaposition and interesting silhouettes that sets Magugu’s work apart, and last year he showed his first collection at SA Fashion Week part of the Woolworths’ Style By SA range. ‘I have a deep respect for education, and my collections are inspired by subjects I studied at university, namely Gender Studies, Home Economics, Geology and Social Sciences,’ he says. ‘It keeps things exciting, especially at the beginning of each season when I throw myself into these varies disciplines.’

Do you have a career highlight to date?

I’m proud to reveal that I have been chosen for the International Fashion Showcase by the British Council, The British Fashion Council, the London College of Fashion and Somerset House.

What’s an important part of your everyday style?

Functionality is very important to me, so I’m often carrying multiple bags all at once or a really oversized one. It plays into my aesthetic though, and vaguely reminds me of the way Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen looked circa 2009.

Thebe Magugu
‘Functionality is very important to me, so I’m often carrying multiple bags all at once or a really oversized one,’ says Thebe Magugu. Image: Tsepo Tsotetsi

Is there an item of clothing that changed your life?

Wearing crop pants for the first time was quite monumental for me because it was the first piece of clothing that I felt flattered my proportions. It also started making me think of a personal uniform.

Which decor trend are you loving right now?

Millennial pink everything. I love camp, so when this trend came along, it really gave people the excuse to decorate their home like a Wes Anderson film. I like the idea of living in a fashion campaign.

Breadway Bakery
Discover 5 Wes Anderson-style interiors here. Breadway Bakery in Odessa, Ukraine. Image: Mikhail Loskutov

What role does your culture play in your work?

A very important one. I subscribe to my culture by the very nature of the work I do – creating nothing from scratch. I am Tswana, and culturally we are known for intricate handwork and beading. We are also seasoned storytellers, which is something I do with every passing collection. I love both modern and traditional elements, and the two come together to form a very interesting aesthetic.

Which is your favourite piece of furniture that you own?

The Hawker’s Rocking Chair No 1 I created two years ago in collaboration with craftsman Emile Millward. It sits as a focal point in my living room today.

Thebe Magugu
The Hawker’s Rocking Chair by Thebe Magugu and Emile Millward.

Follow Thebe Magugu on Instagram. Want more stylish lives? Read about interior designer Jacoline Sema here.