Intensifying efforts to shine a light on talent from all corners of the globe, the sixth edition of the prestigious LVMH Prize flew the flag for young designers from emerging markets: South African designer Thebe Magugu scooped this year’s award – the first recipient from the country – along with a €300,000 grant and a year-long mentorship from the French luxury conglomerate.
The recognition comes at a time when industry eyes are increasingly shifting towards the African continent. Earlier this year, international supermodel Naomi Campbell appeared on the runways of Lagos Fashion Week, inevitably contributing to placing Nigeria on the global fashion map. But African designers are also garnering international interest in their own right, including Nigerian native Kenneth Ize – who was also a top ten finalist for this year’s prize – and London and Cape Town-based designer Sindiso Khumalo.
“I am delighted that a candidate coming from the African continent wins the LVMH Award for the first time,” says Delphine Arnault, founder of the LVMH Prize, in an official press release. “Especially since Thebe Magugu, at the age of 26, is the youngest of the candidates of the 2019 selection.”
“They are interested in the cultural aspect of my work because it goes above the exoticism of other brands from emerging markets.”
Launching his namesake label in Johannesburg in 2016 following a fashion degree, Magugu’s elevated yet eclectic pieces wowed this year’s jury for several reasons including his play on “masculine and feminine codes, tradition and experimentalism, a strong sense of volume, and traditional South African know-how,” explains Arnault.
In a post-event interview with LVMH, award-winning actress Alicia Vikander, who presented the awards, underscored the designer’s unique point of view: “Right now, the world hasn’t really been introduced to Africa and what they have as a culture to share. I loved the coats, the extraordinary shapes, and the colours he played with.”
Magugu agrees, telling Vogue Paris that he believes his strong yet refreshing cultural references landed him the win. “I think they are interested in the cultural aspect of my work because I think it goes over and above the exoticism people often feel for brands coming from emerging markets,” he says, adding, “they are interested in the story I was saying, but I think they also really enjoyed the quality of the products.”
The second award of the night, the Karl Lagerfeld Prize – formerly known as the Special Prize and renamed in honour of the late designer – was handed to Tel-Aviv native Hed Mayner. The designer will receive €150,000 for his work and year-long mentorship.
Playing with proportions, fluidity and billowing silhouettes, Mayner’s winning collection reimagines elements from orthodox Jewish tailoring and military outerwear into timeless yet modern luxury menswear. “The jury was won over by the contemporary vision of Hed Mayner,” says Arnault. “His collection questions the masculine gender through an aesthetic that combines fluidity and structure, simplicity and luxury.”
For young designers bound to emerging markets for reasons personal, economic or even strategic, the inevitable shortage of availability and limitation of access to relevant networks from major fashion hubs makes it challenging to expand globally. This year the LVMH group stepped up to address this disparity, highlighting how true talent can emerge from even the world’s most far-flung regions.