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Selected from one of the LVMH Prize’s most culturally diverse shortlists to date, South African womenswear designer Thebe Magugu has been chosen as the winner of the 2019 award. Based in Johannesburg, the 26-year-old’s designs caught the attentions of an eminent jury that included the likes of Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquière, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Humberto Leon, Carol Lim, Jonathan Anderson, and Clare Waight Keller. Following deliberation, yesterday LVMH ambassador Alicia Vikander announced Magugu would take home the €300,000 grant, as well as receiving a one-year mentoring programme from a dedicated LVMH team.

Within just three years of operating his brand, Magugu has had an exciting impact on the global perceptions of South African identity. His designs, along with the recent launch of his annual publication, Faculty Press, are presenting a progressive and joyous depiction of his home country. The designer was born in the small town of Kimberley in 1993, one year prior to the abolishment of the oppressive apartheid regime. For close to five decades prior, South Africa was run by a white supremacist minority which imposed a structure of governance founded on racial segregation.

While undoubtedly necessary to acknowledge the pain that has impacted its population, Magugu’s work actively seeks to expand the narrative surrounding the nation. His installation at the International Fashion Showcase in London earlier this year positioned garments above a long scroll with the text of the South African constitution. Magugu told Vogue: “A lot of people don’t know that we have the most progressive constitution in the world, because it was designed to rewrite the wrongs of the past.” This approach, which shines a light on the country’s social, political, and economic progress, is emblematic of the young designer’s outlook.

Magugu, who studied Fashion & Apparel Design at LISOF Fashion School in Johannesburg, explores the relationships between masculinity and femininity, as well as tradition and experimentation in his garments. Sleek, forward-looking design intersects with motifs from South Africa’s storied past, providing smart, multifaceted clothes. Commenting on Magugu’s win, Delphine Arnault, Executive Vice President of Louis Vuitton said: “I am delighted that, for the first time, an African candidate has won the Prize, all the more so since Thebe Magugu, aged 26, is the youngest designer of the 2019 selection. His creative work appropriates the codes of menswear and womenswear, of the traditional and the experimental, playing with volumes and traditional South-African know-how.”

Feature image: Figures of Fortitude, 2018. Photo: Aart Verrips. (via Thebe Magugu)

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