Given a world stage, these three independent fashion designers are shining the spotlight back home and finding the inspiration to be endless.
In 2019, Thebe Magugu was awarded the prestigious Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) Prize for designers who represent the future of fashion. He was the first winner from the African continent. After winning, he told Vogue that his overarching mission as a designer was to showcase a contemporary South Africa.
“So many people have stale ideas of what that means, and I really want to change that,” he said.
Prosopography, his spring/summer 2021 collection that followed, was inspired by the lesser-told narrative of women fighting against apartheid, specifically the women of the Black Sash.
His own personal history and South Africa’s broader past are rich inspiration for all his collections and campaigns.
His autumn/winter 2020 collection, Anthro 1, was inspired by the community in the township of Galeshewe, Kimberley, where he grew up. Objects he strongly associates with at this time feature in the campaign images, ‘from the wheels of a toy bike that will eventually scrape instead of turn from excessive use, to the satellite dishes which were the source of so many of our various awakenings’, he wrote. He describes his designs as work he wouldn’t have been able to do if he was from anywhere else.
With the event being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 LVMH Prize was split between its finalists, one of whom was sustainable fashion and textile designer Sindiso Khumalo. She was also named ‘Best Independent Designer’ at the 2020 Green Carpet Fashion Awards.
Sindiso’s eponymous label puts emphasis on African story-telling through the textile prints she designs which draw on folktales of her Zulu and Ndebele heritage.
Sindiso’s eternally inspired by African women including her mother, a former political activist, and her grandmother, a master pattern cutter and sample machinist. Inspirations beyond her family are women such as Charlotte Maxeke, the first Black South African woman to earn a bachelor’s degree in 1901, and the incredible life story of African princess Sarah Forbes Bonetta.
Her latest spring/summer 2021 collection, Minty, is an ode to American abolitionist Harriet Tubman. She told Women’s Wear Daily, “It’s just very important to talk about these women and to educate and to use my platform and use fashion as the tool to educate people on Black history and Black culture.”
It’s very important to use my platform and use fashion as the tool to educate people on Black history and Black culture.
‒ Sindiso Khumalo
One of two winners of Vogue Italia’s Scouting for Africa 2020 competition, Rich Mnisi’s collections always encapsulate modern culture meets heritage ‘to tell the unique stories of then, now and soon’.
After winning the Vogue competition, he released his spring/summer 2021 collection, Hiya Kaya, in a short film shot across beautiful South African landscapes in the Eastern and Western Cape and in a Tsonga village in Limpopo where women perform the traditional Xibelani dance. The collection was dedicated to Rich’s mother and all women.
The brand wrote: ‘In a timeless celebration of the majestic VaTsonga female form, the Hiya Kaya SS21 collection is truly a testament to her beauty, power, resilience, and fortitude. Her essence has finally been brought to the light, for the world to marvel and draw inspiration. We are honoured to have been entrusted to tell her story through wearable art.’