South African Thebe Magugu Wins LVMH Prize for Young Designers

Thebe Magugu, a 25-year-old South African designer known for powerful and politicized women’s wear collections inspired by the social complexities of his home country, has won the 2019 LVMH Prize for emerging talent. He is the first African designer to be awarded the prize, the most lucrative in the industry.

The designer Thebe Magugu taking a bow during his show at SA Fashion Week, 2019. Image Courtesy: J Countess/Getty Images

The prize was presented to Mr. Magugu by the actress Alicia Vikander on Wednesday at a ceremony at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. One of eight finalists for the LVMH prize, Mr. Magugu will receive 300,000 euros (about $331,000) and a year of mentoring from within the professional ranks of LVMH, the French luxury group.

Mr. Magugu’s namesake label, distinguished by its structured dresses and sharp tailoring, was founded in 2016, and all products are designed and manufactured in Johannesburg. Inspiration for recent collections has included his mother as well as a series of highly publicized femicides that have taken place in South Africa in recent years. His spring 2019 collection, called African Studies, was a tribute to his home country.

In an interview with The New York Times earlier this year, Mr. Magugu said his aim was “to create an African brand with truly international implications.”

According to Delphine Arnault, the executive vice president of Louis Vuitton and the mastermind behind the prize, the young designer is well on his way.

“Thebe stood out to the judges thanks to the originality of his use of cut, color and materials and the innate femininity of his easy-to-wear pieces,” she said. “He married creative flair with commercial intuition, and it was very impressive to see, despite the outstanding standard of the other finalists.

“It is wonderful to have had the first African designer win the LVMH prize,” she continued. “We work extremely hard to make sure that talent of any nationality can apply. I am excited to see all that Thebe goes on to achieve, both in the next 12 months and in the years ahead.”

Along with Ms. Arnault, the other judges on the panel included the designers Jonathan Anderson, Clare Waight Keller and Maria Grazia Chiuri. This year, 1,700 designers from more than 100 countries applied for the award, which is open to designers under 40 who have produced at least two ready-to-wear collections.

Last month, the LVMH prize committee said that its Special Prize (an award for a runner-up chosen by the jury) would be renamed the Prix Karl Lagerfeld in honor of the designer, who died in February. Awarded this year to Hed Mayner, an Israeli designer of gender-neutral collections, it includes a 150,000 euro grant (about $165,000) and 12 months of mentoring from LVMH.

“It was the first year without Karl, so for his prize I wanted to vote for someone who I thought would have caught his eye,” Ms. Arnault said. “Hed would certainly have done that.”

Other finalists included Kenneth Izedonmwen, a Nigerian designer who produces collections in Lagos under the name of Kenneth Ize; Stefan Cooke and Bethany Williams from London; Anrealage from Tokyo; Bode from New York; and Phipps, by the American designer Spencer Phipps, who is based in Paris.

For the first time this year, the online retailer 24S (formerly known as 24 Sèvres), the LVMH luxury e-tailer, is featuring a capsule collection of outfits designed by the eight finalists in a bid to help them magnify their names internationally.

Previous prize winners include Doublet, the gender-neutral Japanese street wear label that won last year; Marine Serre, the French women’s wear designer who won in 2017; Grace Wales Bonner, the British men’s wear designer, who won in 2016; and Marques Almeida, the London-based label that won in 2015.

Source: New York Times

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