LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE also known as LVMH, is a French multinational luxury goods conglomerate headquartered in Paris (France). Thebe Magugu is the winner of this year’s LVMH Prize, marking the first time a designer from Africa has picked up the award.
The 26-year-old designer, originally from Kimberley, South Africa, is known for his contemporary style and use of local suppliers. He launched his womenswear label in 2016 after studying fashion design, photography and media at the LISOF School of Fashion in Johannesburg. He has operated out of his home and had never been to Paris before this year.
Magugu will receive a €300,000 grant and a year-long mentorship from executives at the French luxury conglomerate. He said he plans to put the money toward a studio space and to employ more artisans in South Africa. “Winning the prize means the world to me. €300,000 [goes] a very long way,” said Magugu. “The unemployment rate is 30 percent of the youth in South Africa. That is massive. I want to do my part.”
Earlier this year, Magugu won the overall award for curation and fashion content at the International Fashion Showcase, supported by the British Fashion Council and others before receiving the LVMH Prize from Louis Vuitton's brand ambassador Alicia Vikander on Wednesday at the Louis Vuitton Foundation. The winner was selected from a shortlist of eight brands, which included a second African brand, Kenneth Ize from Nigerian designer Kenneth Izedonmwen. The six other finalists were Kunihiko Morinaga (Anrealage), Bethany Williams, Emily Adams Bode (Bode), Hed Mayner, Spencer Phipps (Phipps) and Stefan Cooke and Jake Burt (Stefan Cooke).
Magugu describes his work as “eclectic”. “South Africa is a place where there are so many dualities. It is both very beautiful and violent. It informed my work,” he said. He wants to stay in South Africa. “That’s my mission as a designer. I want to show the world that from South Africa you can get the entire cycle of production,” he said. “There are challenges I am not going to lie, in terms of infrastructure and system but the promise is there. There’s so much talent in the country.”
One of the biggest hurdles he said he faces is logistics. He said he told the jury that he hoped to tap into LVMH’s global network of stores. “The one thing I really struggle with is distribution, particularly shipping. It’s so easy to import in South Africa but getting out is what’s very tricky,” he said. “[LVMH] really understands how to get a product where it needs to be.”
He impressed the jury with his feminine, contemporary collection for Spring/Summer 2020 that included a pleated white and red dress, using a specific African mud instead of a print, adding a few agents in the mix so that it doesn’t fade when you wash it.
Magugu incorporates a microchip in every garment, using an app called Verisium. The technology can be used to display a description of the fabrication, a picture of everyone who worked on the garment and the general story behind the collection.