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Thebe Magugu, A South African Fashion Designer, Is Honored During The 11th Annual First Ladies Luncheon

Posted On : September 25, 2023

Oscar Alochi


Thebe Magugu is one of South Africa’s top emerging stars in the field of fashion design.
The Johannesburg-based, 30-year-old designer made history in 2019 when he became the first South African to ever win the renowned LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize.

This week in New York City, Fashion 4 Development honored him for his first visit to the country. He received the Franca Sozzani Award for 2023 at the First Ladies Luncheon, which was held in conjunction with the 78th General Assembly of the United Nations.

The “Mother & Child” series, which consists of eight costumes dedicated to celebrating South African tribes and traditions, is the name of the collection he displayed during the luncheon held at 583 Park Avenue.
The design of each outfit features a mother carrying her kid while dressed in the traditional attire of a different South African ethnic group.
The Venda Mother & Child Dress honors the Southern African Bantu people who are primarily found close to the South African-Zimbabwean border and the Swati Mother & Child Dress is a Bohemian-style moss crepe dress with a shirt collar, plunging neckline, and balloon sleeves.

The Zulu Mother & Child Dress, which is a rich maroon color, and the Tsonga Mother & Child Dress, which is red and blue, are also included in the collection.

According to him, South Africa has eight important tribes, and he wanted to honor them all. “I reinterpreted each culture by considering how mothers and children relate to one another. Depending on the culture, each outfit depicts a Madonna or mother figure cradling a kid.
It’s wonderful to see South African’ culture represented.
Coming from South Africa, a nation defined by indigenous customs, colonialism, apartheid, and its post-apartheid age, the fashion we see leaving the country, especially to Magugu, is being influenced by the country’s past, present, and future.

Being there is incredibly validating, he added. The Franca Sozzani Award feels very appropriate for me because I created my business with the intention of sharing history, cultures, and tales that may otherwise be lost to time.
I make capsules to preserve that for each one. Aside from being attractive, the fashion industry is also informative and educational.

Magugu’s ethical, eco-friendly clothing line is renowned for its recycled materials and storytelling as well as for its ethics. African Studies, the name of his spring/summer 2019 collection, was a commentary on the effects of colonialism on African culture.
It featured fabrics from Africa, such as kente and shweshwe, and patterns inspired by old African postcards.

Additionally, the designer has recently worked with community organizations to support African voices in the fashion business and train aspiring fashion designers as a way of giving back.

“When I started my brand in 2016, it was to pay homage, create an encyclopedia to the people and cultures that I don’t want to be forgotten,” the man added. These histories don’t lead to anything.
Fashion serves as a communication tool to inspire and transform, which is what makes it so brilliant.
The lunch was given in honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the one-year anniversary of her funeral in collaboration with the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

The VIP luncheon honored honorees like Hugo Boss CEO Daniel Grieder, artist Vuslat Sabanchi, Martina Cheung, president of S&P Global Market Intelligence, and Jean Shafiroff, who received the International Philanthropy Award from New York Assembly member Rebecca Seawright, who dubbed her “New York’s First Lady of Philanthropy.”
The event had a green carpet to honor sustainability in fashion.

As the goodwill ambassador for F4D, Naila Chowdhury, director of social impact and innovation at UC San Diego, was announced. The luncheon has previously recognized Victoria Beckham, Naomi Campbell, Donna Karan, Iman, and other influential figures in fashion.

Evie Evangelou, the founder of Fashion 4 Development, and Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein served as the event’s co-hosts.
The Queen’s preferred bread-and-butter pudding recipe, created by her personal chef Anton Mosimann, was presented this year. With a reputation for dressing Jay-Z and Missy Elliott, costume designer June Ambrose, Twin Peaks actress Amy Shiels, Laine Siklos, Marcelo Carvalho de Andrade, Dr. Ines Hernandez, Chaz Dean, Sofie Mahlkvist, Janna Bullock, Daniel Stock, Park Magazine publisher Christopher Pape, and artist Bonnie Lautenberg, the widow of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg were among the notable attendees.
Magugu remarked, “I think that Franca Sozzani was such a trailblazer, look at all the things she has done. The All Black issue of Vogue Italy from 2008 included over 100 pages of black models on the cover.

He recalled that at the time, representation was practically nonexistent. I am privileged to be compared to her as a changemaker. She influenced fashion in a variety of ways, particularly when it came to diversity.

The lunch was held in conjunction with The 3rd Annual Sustainable Goals Banquet on Monday evening, which honored Lazarus Chakwera, the president of Malawi, Joseph Hernandez, the founder of Bluewater Biotech, Jasmina Bojic, the founder of UNAFF, the United Nations Association Film Festival, Dr. Ramon Tallaj, the founder and chairman of SOMOS Community Care, and Ingmar Rentzhog, the CEO and founder of WDHT.
An emotional address by Italian model Bianca Balti served as part of the event’s tribute to the late Franca Sozzani, Editor in Chief of Italian Vogue.

The prize, according to Dr. Tallaj, serves as a reminder of the significance of solving urgent social concerns of our time. He remarked this during the event. “We have the power to weave together threads of compassion, innovation, sustainable development, and equitable healthcare for all,” he declared.

In 2016, Magugu launched the high-end South African fashion label bearing his name.
The vibrant ready-to-wear collections are constructed from recycled materials and frequently feature motifs that are inspired by the history of Africa, but with a modern twist to make them relevant.
When the designer’s debut line, Geology, was highlighted in Vogue Italia in 2017, it was definitely a significant break.

Sara Sozzani Maino, the founder of Vogue Talents, the creative director of the Sozzani Foundation, and a creative advisor to Conde Nast, gave Magugu the Franca Sozzani Award.

Sozzani remarked at the occasion that Magugu “has a great vision for his creativity,” “empowers women, and brings the cultural traditions of Africa to the world.”
Magugu asserted live on stage that “People only need to feel seen once.”
The designer revealed that he was raised in a rural village and that his early exposure to the world of fashion came from watching MTV programs and music videos.

“I was rejected by a prestigious fashion school at a young age, and I studied fashion in South Africa,” he explained. “In hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise because being close to the visual cues to symbols I grew up with made me privy to such beautiful inspiration.”

Content courtesy of Forbes Africa & NFH



Oscar Alochi


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