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HL Next Level 2018: Fashion Designer Thebe Magugu

Having got his start ‘sketching triangles on stick figures in crèche’, fashion designer Thebe Magugu is now a rising star.

Trevor Stuurman

Thebe Magugu | House and Leisure


Thebe Magugu used his latest three collections – Geology, Home Economics and Social Sciences – to explore issues including the land debate, gender identity, sexual violence, and even corruption in the fashion business.

Yet sincerity never gets in the way of aesthetics, quality, fit or the brand’s rapid commercial success.

His ‘Girl Seeks Girl’ dress from the Home Economics collection was nominated as one of Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Objects in South Africa, and his collection for Woolworths’ Style By SA is one of our favourites.

How did you get your start in fashion? 

By constantly sketching triangles on stick figures in crèche.

Did you always want to be doing what you’re doing now?

I have always known that I would be a designer – there was no question about it.

Do you have a particular favourite among the works you’ve created?

My favourite dress is one I created for my collection Home Economics , which is an angel-sleeve scuba dress with the print of a woman crying into the arms of another woman. This was just my suggestion that in the harsh conditions women find themselves (especially here in current day South Africa) it is important that they stick together and protect one another because it seems like no one else is doing so.

What has been your defining career moment to date?

Collaborating with Woolworths is quite significant because it really has increased my brand’s visibility.

Who are the creatives on your radar?

Artclub and Friends, Lebogang Motsage and Sindi Serape.

And any artists you look up to?

Bronwyn Katz, Tony Gum , Buhlebezwe Siwani, Bonolo Kavula, Lungiswa Gqunta, Thandiwe Msebenzi and Sethembile Msezane  – all astounding local artists who are having critical conversations around Africa and Identity.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I am a very observational designer so I find inspiration all around me – whether it’s the actual environment or the socio-political climate.

What is your earliest visual memory?

A nightmare I had when I was very young will always be my first point of the idea of aesthetics and story telling. It was quite devastating, which I suppose is one of the responses art and visuals can create.

Which is the one place you would recommend people to visit, and why?

I think everyone should go to Kimberley once – it’s like a time capsule, especially when one visits the area around the Big Hole.

What’s the most memorable creative production you’ve ever seen?

Black Swan will forever be the most important film I have ever watched – so beautiful, such glittering darkness.

Learn all about the game changers who are taking things to the Next Level in our #HLNEXTLEVEL2018 issue.