Thebetsile "Thebe" Magugu, hailing from Kimberley and now based in Johannesburg, is a prominent South African fashion designer whose journey in the industry has been marked by innovation and global recognition. His meteoric rise includes winning the 2019 LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize and securing a spot as a finalist in the 2021 International Woolmark Prize. Magugu has left an indelible mark with eleven solo collections under his own label since 2017, along with collaborative capsules with international powerhouses like Dior, Adidas, and AZ Factory.

Magugu's introduction to the world of fashion was a blend of small, impactful moments and deliberate steps. From the influence of cable TV and Elle magazines in his formative years to his decision to study fashion design, photography, and media at Lisof Fashion School in Johannesburg, each step contributed to shaping his unique perspective.

After earning recognition for the best graduate collection, Magugu gained valuable experience by interning and working with various designers, fashion institutions, and retailers. Two years into his professional journey, he launched his eponymous label, THEBE MAGUGU, focusing primarily on women's ready-to-wear with a strong emphasis on accessories and multidisciplinary projects.

Magugu's collections, presented at Fashion Week Shows, are distinctive for being titled after university subjects, reflecting his deep respect for education. Some of his recent collections include "Art History," blending South African art with ecclesiastic and monastic shapes, and "Home Economics," exploring the expectations placed on modern South African women in traditionalist environments. His first official collection, "Geology," draws inspiration from the need for escapism, featuring references to hikes, fishing, and camping.

Recently, Thebe Magugu joined Johnnie Walker's Keep Walking SA Campaign as one of its ambassadors, celebrating individuals who strive for excellence and inspire the nation in their respective fields. His contributions to the fashion industry, both locally and internationally, make him a fitting choice for this recognition.

Vogue has acknowledged Magugu as "one of the industry’s most promising minds," highlighting his commitment to incorporating values of quality, novelty, and culture into his designs. Magugu's artistic expression draws motifs from Africa's rich history to create sleek, multi-faceted clothing for women. His designs challenge social expectations placed on modern women, offering a progressive and complex take on traditional feminine silhouettes.

In 2019, Thebe Magugu made history by winning the LVMH Prize, becoming the first designer from the African continent to achieve this prestigious accolade. The same year, he stood as a finalist for the renowned Woolmark Prize, further solidifying his position as a trailblazer in the global fashion landscape. Through his work, Magugu continues to redefine perceptions of South African identity, providing fresh context and an innovative perspective on contemporary classics.

Early Life and Education

Born on 1 September 1993 in the township of Ipopeng on the outskirts of Kimberley, Thebe Magugu's journey is rooted in his Sotho ancestry. His formative years were spent in the vibrant township environment that shaped his unique perspective on culture and identity.

Magugu commenced his educational journey at St. Patrick's Christian Brothers' College in Kimberley, where the seeds of his creativity began to sprout. Continuing his pursuit of knowledge and artistic expression, he ventured to the London International School of Fashion (LISOF) in Johannesburg. At LISOF, he delved into the realms of fashion design, fashion photography, and fashion media, honing the skills that would later define his illustrious career.

While he initially aspired to study at Central Saint Martins in London, Magugu faced rejection. Reflecting on this, he expresses a philosophical perspective, noting that financial constraints would have posed challenges even if acceptance had been granted. He embraces the turn of events, recognizing that this redirection allowed him to deeply engage with his local environment and culture.

Magugu views this redirection as a fortuitous opportunity to intimately connect with his locale and heritage. This connection, in turn, serves as a profound wellspring of inspiration for his brand. His eponymous label seeks to weave stories from South Africa's rich heritage and history in contemporary and relevant ways, ensuring that these narratives remain vibrant and remembered. Magugu envisions his brand as a visual encyclopedia, preserving and celebrating the cultural tapestry that defines his identity and influences his creative expression.


After graduating from LISOF, Thebe Magugu took a significant step by establishing his eponymous label in Johannesburg in 2016. His debut collection, "Geology," released in the spring/summer season of 2017, garnered attention, earning a feature in Vogue Italia. This marked the inception of a remarkable career that would reshape the landscape of South African fashion.

Magugu's subsequent collections showcased his distinctive approach to fashion. "Home Economics" for the autumn/winter 2018 season and "Gender Studies" for the spring/summer 2018 season were presented at South African Fashion Week, challenging conventions by featuring photographs on scarecrows instead of supermodels. Following this unconventional trend, he presented the "Art History" collection in spring/summer 2019, followed by "African Studies" in autumn/winter 2019.

In 2019, Thebe Magugu achieved global recognition by winning the International Fashion Showcase by the British Fashion Council. His most groundbreaking accomplishment came when he became the first African recipient of the 2019 LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize. This prestigious award not only brought him 300,000 euros but also a year's worth of mentoring from LVMH. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa commended Magugu, highlighting the conscious artistry he brings to his work, setting him apart from his contemporaries.

Taking his talents to Paris Fashion Week, Magugu presented his debut collection, "Anthro 1," at the Palais de Tokyo for the autumn/winter season. He expanded his reach with the release of his first menswear line in collaboration with Dover Street Market in London later that year.

Magugu's creative influence extended beyond the runway. His dress, "Girl Seeks Girl," exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2021, showcased his ability to blend art and fashion. The "Fingerprint Knitted Dress," worn by Dionne Warwick in a film directed by Solange Knowles, marked his entry into the 2021 International Woolmark Prize as a finalist.

Continuing his prolific journey, Magugu released the "Genealogy" collection during Paris Fashion Week in September 2021. In early 2022, he collaborated with AZ Factory, a brand under Alber Elbaz and Richemont, for the Amigos clothing line. His partnership with Adidas resulted in a tennis collection for the 2022 US Open, and later in the year, he designed the "Finding Beauty" local sportswear collection in collaboration with Adidas.

The year 2022 brought further recognition as Magugu engaged in a "Designer Swap" collaboration with Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, as featured in Vogue magazine. His Spring 2023 collection, "Discard Theory," debuted at the Victoria and Albert Museum during London Fashion Week. Magugu's influence expanded to Dior, where he collaborated on a limited-edition capsule collection, reinterpreting the iconic "New Look" for Maria Grazia Chiuri, with proceeds benefiting the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project.

Closing the chapter in 2023, Magugu presented his Fall/Winter collection, "Folklorics," at the Sphere Gallery in the Palais de Tokyo during Paris Fashion Week. With each collection, collaboration, and accolade, Thebe Magugu continues to redefine the boundaries of South African fashion, leaving an indelible mark on the global stage.

Personal Life

Beyond the spotlight of the fashion world, Thebe Magugu embraces a personal life marked by authenticity and a commitment to diversity. Proudly, he identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, adding a layer of richness and inclusivity to his narrative.

Magugu's openness about his identity serves as a testament to his belief in the power of self-expression and the importance of representation within the LGBTQIA+ community. By sharing this aspect of his personal life, he contributes to the ongoing dialogue surrounding diversity, acceptance, and the celebration of individuality.

In both his professional and personal spheres, Magugu continues to break barriers, challenging societal norms and fostering an environment where everyone can authentically express their true selves. His presence in the fashion industry, coupled with his openness about his identity, adds a valuable dimension to the broader conversation about inclusivity and acceptance.