There are few destinations that are quite as visually and culturally exciting as South Africa. It’s in the middle of forging itself a new identity – one that’s progressive, complex and exciting. One of the leading figures in this cultural renaissance is fashion designer Thebe Magugu, who has become a voice of hope and inspiration for the new South Africa
A life-affirming homage to his homeland’s clothing traditionsBeautiful Cape Town, the unforgettable Garden Route, sprawling vineyards and unique national parks. These are just some of the great reasons to take a Porsche on a voyage of discovery through Africa’s southernmost country. But to discover South Africa’s true identity means reaching out much further than these, admittedly, unforgettable tourist destinations. It’s an identity being written by people like Thebe Magugu, for example.
This lauded young designer, born in Kimberley in 1993 – one year before apartheid was abolished – is the face of a new and very different South Africa. The first African to win the prestigious LVMH Fashion Award, he’s typical of a new generation, one with a fresh and positive perspective on their native land. His mission? To help wipe away the past, along with everything linked to the one-sided, historic view of apartheid, violence and inequality that many still associate with South Africa. For Thebe is part of a cultural renaissance built upon the country’s progress. And one that is doing so without disrespecting the traditions of his forebears.
A style revolution built on freedomThebe places his fashion in the aesthetic context of a free nation, albeit one less than 30 years old in its current form. It’s a design philosophy that celebrates the country’s hard-fought freedom. One created by a young man who spent his childhood watching fashion shows from the great style capitals of the world on television, dreaming one day of visiting these distant faraway places.
Now living in Johannesburg, Thebe – an ethnic Sotho – calls on inspiration wilfully erased by the governing powers during the apartheid era. And he celebrates this legacy anew in today’s South Africa. With retro, floral trench coats reminiscent of his grandma’s tablecloths. With the quintessential Basotho blankets of the Sotho in an intense shade of blue, that he fashions into a modern poncho. Faint echoes from the day-to-day life of his family and ancestors.
Building a new South AfricaFor Thebe, maintaining a legacy that celebrates true South African culture also extends to insisting that his collections are created in factories and craft shops in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the two cities that are at the centre of the Porsche Travel Experience. One example is a skirt hand-painted by a local healer with terracotta-coloured mud. Many of his pieces deliberately veer away from the western understanding of South Africa’s cultural norms. And by doing so, Thebe aims to reinforce not just his own view, but also the cultural identity of his fellow South Africans. Is it any wonder that his contemporaries celebrate this exciting designer as one who will help play a significant role in South Africa’s future?
I think it’s so important to celebrate heritage in a way that can live in the modern world and preserve the craft so that it’s not lost
This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.