Thebe Magugu’s insider’s guide to Johannesburg
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Joburg was never my first choice. When I matriculated in Kimberley, I applied to Central Saint Martins and got rejected, which was heartbreaking. It was too late to apply anywhere else, so my mom said: your next best option is Johannesburg. I came here from Kimberley in 2013 to study fashion design, photography and media at LISOF [now the Stadio School of Fashion]. I fell in love with Joburg the longer I lived here. The city has a lot of juxtapositions – you have resourceful and creative people but everyone knows that it can be quite violent. It does come with its difficulties but Joburg has also received an unfair rap. I always say: don’t always listen to other people’s interpretation. And you can’t say you’ve been to South Africa if you haven’t experienced Johannesburg.
I start my mornings at The Gourmet Grocer, a café and grocery in Birdhaven. I always order a rooibos tea and a smoothie with peanut butter and yoghurt. On Saturdays I sit there and catch up on work without having to worry about hurrying to the office. I also love a restaurant called The Royale, which is owned by my friends. So many collaborations or ideas I’ve had have come from conversations at The Royale. Alongside the dining area, there’s a room where everyone plugs in their phones and plays music, so it’s also very communal. If I want to dress up and feel chic, I’ll go with friends to Marble, an incredible restaurant in Rosebank. I love the decor, which has a lot of browns and olives mixed with marbling. I’ll order a steak and a sweet white wine.
Downstairs from Marble is BKhz, a gallery that I adore – partly because of the space but also the person behind it, Banele Khoza, who is an artist himself. Every six weeks he spotlights emerging names. His commitment and taste are incredible. You always learn something new and that’s really important for me; in my work, I’m always trying to portray what contemporary South Africa actually looks like now. I don’t think you can be a fashion designer if you don’t have your ears to the ground.
A place for emerging names in fashion is Africa Rise, which was opened in Sandton by designer Thula Sindi and represents a lot of young, local talent. I also adore the store 2A because it gives a local window into the luxury world; luxury fashion for people in South Africa is often something that’s far removed but 2A brings it to us. I often browse the latest collections by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino and I always watch what Maria Grazia Chiuri is doing at Dior. When I saw the collaboration I did for Dior in stores late last year, it was such a weird full-circle moment; I always felt like I was stuck on the outside of the industry, so seeing the collection was special for so many reasons.
A place I go to almost every day is the restaurant Doppio Zero at Rosebank. I walk in and I don’t need to say anything, they just say: “The usual?” My order is a pollo limone – grilled chicken breast with roasted vegetables. They serve it with a side of sweet chilli sauce and I love how all those flavours come together. And then, if it’s the weekend, I get a strawberry Daiquiri. Another restaurant I adore is Food I Love You, a restaurant at Constitution Hill that has an incredible story; it’s in the building where Nelson Mandela was once imprisoned. What is so good about Mpho Phalane’s food is that she infuses a sense of modernity into the traditional meals we ate growing up. It goes back to those juxtapositions – those tensions between things that seem like they shouldn’t be together, coming together and creating a beautiful result.