Designers need to take the power of retail into their own hands: Thebe Magugu

Venturing into new territories and capturing new eyes, the lauded local fashion designer has launched his much-anticipated online store

20 September 2020 - 00:02 By
This image featuring Thebe Magugu's muses is a reference to the 'Mpho Ya Badimo' (Gift of the Gods) ritual that the fashion designer and his family still practice.
This image featuring Thebe Magugu's muses is a reference to the 'Mpho Ya Badimo' (Gift of the Gods) ritual that the fashion designer and his family still practice.
Image: Travys Owen

Since launching his debut collection, Thebe Magugu's self-titled label has become a much-loved South African brand. The award-winning fashion designer had a stellar display at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year as part of his LVMH Prize nod and has become the go-to designer for many a stylist, including the teams behind hit HBO series Insecure and Beyoncé's lauded Black is King.

Seeking to feed into his growing global popularity and appeal, Magugu has launched a new website for lovers of the brand to shop for his items online.

"I think now more than ever designers have to take the power of retail into their own hands. Everything to do with wholesale is collapsing so quickly," says Magugu, who was discouraged about the industry after a number of stockists who had made orders for his garments closed shop.

By taking matters into his own hands, Magugu not only sought to create an online shopping experience but also to bring a personalised outlook into his life and work.

This includes a series of images with scenes inspired by motifs from his youth and modelled by his nine favourite muses, including muso Zoë Modiga, stylist Amy Zamaa and creative consultant Tinuke Eboka, among a bevy of SA's top models.

Shot by Travys Owen, the scenes feature the nine muses posing on metallic basins, playing with black plastic motorbikes, and hanging on satellite dishes.

"I hope you can look at these images and see parts of your past and a vision of your future," says Magugu.

One of the scenes show the muses gathered around a potjie pot billowing with red smoke, a reference to the Mpho Ya Badimo (Gift of the Gods) ritual Magugu and his family still practice.

"We celebrate our ancestors and remind them that we are thankful for their protection. The year we skipped the ceremony turned out to be quite a diabolical one. So at this point, it's almost an obligation," he says. "I thought it would be interesting to have this as a full-circle moment of the things that inspired me as a child to the things that are going to be in the online store."

Magugu has also launched an exclusive line of T-shirts that will feature the quirky doodles from his personal Instagram account.

Titled Extracurricular, the range also features a shoot in line with Magugu's academic aesthetic.

"It's almost like the extracurricular activity of the main brand. Francesco Mbele, the photographer, thought of a classroom photo from the early 2000s with a blue sky background and an accompanying treatment on the photo," says Magugu, who featured a number of Joburg-based creatives.

Thebe Magugu's muses: Amy Zamma, Kgatliso Annah Seroalo, Vanessa Ngolo, Graobe Noelle, Tinuke Eboka, Tamara Moeng, Zoë Modiga, Refiloe Seretlo and Tracy Mokgopoa.
Thebe Magugu's muses: Amy Zamma, Kgatliso Annah Seroalo, Vanessa Ngolo, Graobe Noelle, Tinuke Eboka, Tamara Moeng, Zoë Modiga, Refiloe Seretlo and Tracy Mokgopoa.
Image: Travys Owen

The site will also feature Magugu's foray into menswear, something that a lot of people have requested from him.

"A lot of men have been asking whether I would consider doing something for them. I feel like my aesthetic can lean into menswear and I've done a few pieces that I'm excited to launch. I feel they'll do well and will look great on men," says Magugu.

In creating the website Magugu looked to Commission Studios, the London-based team behind Rihanna's Fenty communications, who also collaborated with Official Business.

"It looks almost like a university site because it looks like basic HTML and then out of nowhere there are these sudden bursts of maximalism. When you enter the site, there's an entire stack of library books that have each collection's name on it for the 'book' on Geology or the 'book' on Prosopography.

"I wanted to create an immersive space where you can shop, learn, and go away feeling nourished in some sense," he says.

• Check out Thebe Magugu's website here


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