AZ Factory with Thebe Magugu
What if Africa was the birthplace of couture? This was the initial question asked for our collaborative product story with Thebe Magugu, INTERSECTION. As the birthplace of both Alber and Thebe, Africa is a foundational starting point for both designers and seemingly holds key aspects of haute couture such as generational craft and storytelling as part of its culture.
STORY 1 – AZ 2.0: Welcoming our Amigos into the Factory
AZ Factory welcomes Amigos, guest creatives, to co-create stories and products. With this new approach, we offer a new perspective on today’s fashion, driven by the vision of uniquely positioned individuals, rather than heritage houses exclusively.
Partnering with our Amigo Thebe Magugu for this first collaborative product story was a conscious desire to bridge common values and shared passion. The collaboration provided Thebe with a platform to develop and share his vision of what fashion means today and to him. The product story is the fruit of this immersion into AZ Factory’s aesthetics and value system set by founder Alber Elbaz – a desire to do things differently, whilst always keeping it fun – layered with own personal experiences.
STORY 2 – The genesis of a new product story
Craftsmanship and storytelling are key pillars of both Thebe and AZ Factory’s work. These themes are central to Thebe’s process, because both are also deeply rooted in his own heritage. Every aspect of his clothes links back to his upbringing, and the handiwork inherent to making beautiful pieces is also a reference to his native DIY culture, an imperfect, emotional take on creativity, which encourages error and spontaneity as channels for discovery.
And thus, from this dual attachment to his home of South Africa and to the world of fashion emerged a recurring reflection worthy of exploration.
The design phase was a collaborative learning process with AZ Factory’s studio team – Thebe admits to having quite a systematic way of doing things, which includes sketching out his ideas before he tackles composition. In the AZ Factory studio, simple, precise pieces were draped and tweaked on mannequins, in an organic and free-flowing manner. Deconstruction, then, became a form of education.
STORY 3 – What if Africa were the birthplace of couture?
Titled Intersection, Thebe’s product story with AZ Factory initiates a new fashion conversation around Africa and couture. For Thebe, their shared commonality of these 2 pillars of craftsmanship and storytelling provided a symbolic starting point, and felt like an important and deeply personal foundation for this project.
Despite being historically excluded from the conversation surrounding couture and luxury, here Africa is placed at the center of the product story, with the juxtaposition of nu-Africa aesthetics and the notable principles of couture, as well as AZ Factory’s own creative language: classic garments are reinvented in smart fabrics, bold prints and modern, versatile silhouettes to create new hybrid shapes, intended for all women.
This is a new form of fashion, reimagined with joy, celebration and inclusivity at its core, and aligned with a shared vision for beautiful, practical and solutions-driven fashion that works for everyone.
“I think right now the conversation should be that couture can be for more than one type of person and I’d like to think we’ve achieved that with this collection. Bringing other people on board.”
STORY 4 – AZ Factory with Thebe Magugu, the creative process
Like AZ Factory, Thebe believes in the “Intersection of aesthetics and functionality”: beautiful should not be uncomfortable, and comfort should not be an aesthetic compromise. The pieces are visibly recognizable as Thebe Magugu: pleated midi skirts, bold colors, elongating lines and a kind of laidback sophistication that’s very uniquely his.
Take a closer look however, and you’ll also notice the fundamentals of AZ Factory dressing as athletic couture: a Makoti bridal-inspired look made from figure-skimming AnatoKnit technology fabric introduced in the MyBody story, a MyBody tank top Reworked with an exaggerated ruffle hem in recycled polyester, the balloon shape of a performance nylon bomber jacket, a swing coat in wool, a water-repellent cotton trench, and our signature silk scarves…
While the silhouettes are sleek and sophisticated, exuding precise work and thoughtful composition, the pieces also feature a playful spirit: removable bows, oversized proportions and cheerful prints are all reminders that this may be fashion that is serious, but that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The bold, primary hues – bright red, banana yellow, cobalt blue – are reminiscent of AZ Factory’s first product stories, as well. They’re also Thebe’s thoughtful nod to the palette of his home country, pigments found in nature, among fruits and animals, a connection to his upbringing. As for the customers themselves, this is a practical, functional, versatile and fun collection of pieces to feel good and look good in.
STORY 5 – Bringing Amigos together
Some of the collection’s key pieces feature cheeky illustrations by the Paris-based Franco Algerian artist Chafik Cheriet, who painted in the AZ Factory studio. At the time, Chafik was given full creative freedom to develop animal kingdom-inspired prints for Alber’s then-upcoming product story, which was never released.
Having gone unused, the prints were re-discovered by Thebe during his exploration of the AZ Factory archive, and he connected with the joyfully nostalgic reminders they provided: a cheetah print reminded him of his mother and grandmother, whilst the meerkat symbolized elegance, intelligence and gregariousness, qualities he recognizes in the women he designs for. In a full circle expression of the teamwork Thebe values, like Alber before him, Chafik also contributed to the set design for the product story’s lookbook shoot.
The result is a product story that feels deeply and authentically collaborative, a creative storyline told by Thebe in AZ Factory’s language, a beautifully hybrid formulation. Whether they are perceived as collector’s items to cherish or everyday staples intended to be worn for years to come, this product story is designed with all the Amigos and Amigas of AZ Factory in mind.
We hope you will love it as much as we do.
Special thanks to our Amigos and Amigas who took part in the creation of this campaign.
Photography by Nadine Ijewere
Videography by Anne Gryzcka
Styling by Chloe Andrea Welgemoed
Set Design by Ibby Njoya
Hair by Yumiko Hikage
Makeup by Louisa Trapier
Casting by Jordan Mergirie