South African fashion designers making waves

These South African fashion designers are consistent in their efforts to put South Africa – and Africa at large – on the map.

Source: Thebe Magugu (Instagram)
  1. Rich Mnisi – “RICH MNISI
Source: Rich Mnisi (Instagram: @therichmnisi)

Founded in 2014, Rich Mnisi launched his eponymous brand ‘RICH MNISI’ – a contemporary and forward-thinking brand aimed at celebrating the rich heritage of South Africa. This is done through a range of prints and silhouettes, as well as the broader fashion sphere by looking at the past, present and future. This LISOF alum kickstarted his career through his win at Africa Fashion International, being named as Young Designer of the Year 2015. In the years following this win, his work has been featured in British Vogue, and Essence – to name a few. Rich has also hosted several fashion shows to showcase his work.

2. Thebe Magugu – “THEBE MAGUGU

Source: Thebe Magugu (Instagram: @thebemagugu)

Another LISOF alum, Thebe Magugu, uses his clothes to make social commentary on issues affecting post-apartheid South Africa, in conjunction with telling stories about his childhood he experienced in Ipopeng. It is fitting that the young designer was born in this small town as its name means “To beautify oneself” in Setswana – this town was one of the earliest influencers in Magugu’s career. In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious LVMH prize – the first African designer to do so. Instead of up and moving to Europe as most expected him to, Thebe has remained in South Africa with production for his brand taking place in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

3. Tshepo Mohlala – “TSHEPO THE JEAN MAKER

Source: Tshepo Mohlala (Instagram: @tshepojeans)

“These jeans will outlive me” says Tshepo, the owner and creative designer of Tshepo Jeans. His motivation for starting this brand was the ability denim has in story telling – the fabric is said to act as a time capsule into life’s greatest moments. Mohlala’s fashion journey is ridden by much struggle and sacrifice – having to work at a call centre to help pay for his tuition as his family could not afford it. Craft is the fundamental principle which underpins his brand and helped keep him motivated when the naysayers said no one would buy his jeans. The negative responses of some consumers actually worked in the brand’s favour – Tshepo Jeans received widespread attention and his work has since been bought in places like Asia and the Netherlands, and been personally picked up by the Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markle.

4. Laduma Ngxokolo – “MAXHOSA

Source: Laduma Ngxokolo (Instagram: @maxhosa)

This internationally recognized brand has had one purpose at the forefront of its operations – to celebrate Xhosa heritage; beit for Xhosa initiates or the ordinary Xhosa individual, Laduma has focused his brand on celebrating all aspects of his culture and has garnered worldwide attention for his dedication. Guided by his late mother’s influence, he has focused on celebrating his identity and bringing global attention towards it. Today his work has been worn by Beyoncé, Alicia Keyes and seen on runways around the world.

5. Sibusiso Malete – “DIGITAL FABRICZ”

Source: Sibusiso Malete (via Yaa Somuah Blog)

Unapologetic is the resounding word that comes to mind when talking about Sibusiso Malete, a young designer still forging his path in the cutthroat fashion industry. Many who have never heard his name are unaware of the fact that Malete was one of the early innovators of skinny jeans; him and his fellow dance crew members used to hand-stitch their jeans tighter before competitions. Since his appearance in the fashion scene, Buda has showcased his work at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and been the receiver of the AFI Young Designer of the Year.

Each of these designers have forged the way for the next young innovators to take the world by storm – what will they do next?