She’s got the beat! Hip fashion stylist ‘Boogy’ Maboi hops into new venture

A perennial presenter, Lethabo 'Boogy' Maboi has more to offer with her latest wardrobe hire business

08 May 2022 - 00:00
By Thango Ntwasa
Lethabo 'Boogy' Maboi takes centre stage.
Image: Steve Tanchel/Red Hot Ops Lethabo 'Boogy' Maboi takes centre stage.

“Style is an extension of your personality” are words lived by businesswoman, costume designer and style architect Lethabo “Boogy” Maboi, which should come as no surprise as her career has always been defined by her love of local fashion.

From her early days as a KTV presenter to her recent costume hire venture, Styled by Boogy, Maboi has built experiences and a career that seeks to showcase the best local approach to style. We look at her prosperous career, her inspirations, and the difficulties that still face SA's unsung fashion superstars.

You've been a powerful force in fashion for over 10 years, in an industry where newness is constantly expected. How do you keep your approach with clients fresh?

It’s my job, it’s like breathing, and it has become second nature. I’m always on the lookout and always have my ear to the ground. I’ve always been part of the fashion week scene but my secret is to always be a supporter of local fashion.

Is there a fashion icon who was formative for you?

Lauryn Hill, her style, for me, is it. She’s my black Vivienne Westwood, who’s my other icon. Lauryn’s other name is L Boogie and my nickname is the same because my name is Lethabo. Along the way the L got dropped and it just became Boogy.

Maboi gets candid about the South African fashion industry.
Image: Steve Tanchel/Red Hot Ops Maboi gets candid about the South African fashion industry.

Going viral has become one way for young style stars and fad-lovers to express themselves. Is there pressure for established stylists to be part of these platforms that require followers and trendy styling videos?

My Instagram account got hacked last year and I lost my following, which was in the 20 to 30 thousands. It was easy for people to refer others to my Instagram and it would verify everything they were told about me because you can see the work I’ve done and my whole story. After sitting without Instagram for a while I now have a 2,000 followers.

I’m in a space where Instagram accounts are used to verify the work of a creative. I’m in a position where I have a 15-year career and a name that everyone knows, but if you look at my social media right now it doesn’t correlate at all.

What do you feel that says about social media for creatives?

I’ve kind of detached from that world. As a creative, you are under pressure to use social media as your portfolio and I’ve come to realise that  For me it isn’t because my work lives through my clients and the people that I’ve worked with. I feel that there are two kinds of creatives: there are social media creatives and there are people like me whose work, life, legacy and reputation are on set and not online.

What excites you about the fashion trends, fads and aesthetics in SA?

I like the diversity of what fashion could be depending on where you go and who you hang out with. We still have a lot of subgenres like sbujwa, the baggies, and even the Swenkas. Even someone like Khanyi Mbau, calling herself the It-girl of the townships. There’s even taxi driver chic — that’s what I love about South Africa.

Do you have a favourite local find?

There's a streetwear brand called DEAD They’ve even got a contract with the Foschini Goup. I’ve been an advocate of the brand by wearing it and putting it on clients in music videos. Someone people would associate DEAD with is DJ Speedsta , who was a client of mine.

What made you fall in love with hip-hop fashion?

It was the music and being a hip-hop head; you engulf yourself in the movies and then the clothing. I’ve always said that the thing that makes me a rookie and a veteran in the industry is that I’m still the biggest fan.

Maboi  has strong opinions about the industry.
Image: Steve Tanchel/Red Hot Ops Maboi has strong opinions about the industry.

How has it been producing your own work as a costume designer?

It’s been my favourite thing to do. A lot of my work is custom-made stuff that I come up with. Ninety percent of everything we’ve done with Shekhinah is custom-made. I was Sho Madjozi’s stylist for the first two years when her career was blowing up. When you see how Sho Madjozi’s brand strength has been her look you really have to wonder whether you’re just putting clothes on people or creating their brands.

Would you say that is the downside of being a stylist?

Sho Madjozi has worked with different stylists but the look I made as an archetype remains. As creatives we are made to feel like owning your art is so important, but when it comes to stylists the conversation is muffled. I’m also an artist and this is my art but why am I not allowed to own my art?

Are there myths about the fashion industry you feel should be busted?

If you want glamour and glitz then don’t be a stylist. Being a stylist is the most thankless work. It’s hard work and it’s a lot of hours. Overseas, people work closely with their stylists, which is something I’ve started doing. If I’m working with you, it’s a relationship.

What can people look forward to from you this year?

I’m excited about the wardrobe hire space. Being a woman of colour in our industry, owning a wardrobe hire space is a big deal for me. It’s always been important for me to create a space for black and brown creatives. We are fighting every day to not have our work look like Vogue Italia. We  have our own stories to tell.

THREE FASHION ESSENTIALS YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT?

  1. Sunglasses, even though I never wear them.
  2. My grill, I’m still very hip hop.
  3. My kicks, I’m a sneaker collector of note.

Production: Stylist: Sahil Harilal; fashion director: Sharon Armstrong, makeup: Faith Seoue; hair: Kgomotšo Moloto; fashion assistant: Nombuso Khumalo