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Thebe Magugu’s Insider Guide to Johannesburg



Discover the hidden gems of Johannesburg with fashion designer Thebe Magugu as he shares his insider’s guide to the vibrant city. From his favourite cafes and restaurants to must-visit galleries and stores, Magugu takes us on a journey through Johannesburg’s diverse and captivating offerings as reported by the Financial Times. So get ready to explore the city like a local and uncover its unique charm with this exclusive insider’s guide.

Joburg wasn’t my first choice when I finished school in Kimberley. I initially applied to Central Saint Martins but got rejected, which was devastating. My mom suggested Johannesburg as my next best choice, with no other options. In 2013, I moved here from Kimberley to pursue studies in fashion design, photography, and media at LISOF (now the Stadio School of Fashion). As I settled in, I gradually fell in love with Johannesburg. The city is a fascinating mix of resourceful and creative individuals, but it’s also known for its violent side. Despite the challenges, Johannesburg has been unfairly judged. I always advise people not to rely solely on others’ interpretations, and I believe experiencing Johannesburg is essential to truly understand South Africa.

My mornings usually begin at The Gourmet Grocer, a delightful café and grocery store in Birdhaven. I never miss ordering rooibos tea and a smoothie with peanut butter and yoghurt. On Saturdays, I find solace there, catching up on work without the pressure of rushing to the office. Another favourite spot of mine is The Royale, a restaurant owned by my friends. Many of my collaborations and ideas have emerged from conversations at The Royale. Alongside the dining area, there’s a communal room where people gather, plug in their phones, and enjoy music together. Finally, for a more elegant and chic experience, I enjoy going to Marble, an exceptional restaurant in Rosebank. The decor, with its blend of browns, olives, and marbling, adds to the overall ambience. When I visit Marble, I indulge in a delicious steak accompanied by a sweet white wine.

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Located below Marble is BKhz, a gallery that holds a special place in my heart. It’s not just the space itself that I adore but also the person behind it, Banele Khoza, who is an artist in his own right. Every six weeks, Banele showcases emerging talents; his dedication and taste are extraordinary. I always leave the gallery having learned something new, which is crucial for me. In my work, I strive to portray contemporary South Africa as it truly exists today. To be a fashion designer, you need to be aware of the current pulse.


Africa Rise is an ideal destination for up-and-coming fashion names. Founded in Sandton by designer Thula Sindi, it represents a wealth of young, local talent. Another store I adore is 2A, which provides a local gateway to the world of luxury fashion. Luxury fashion in South Africa is often perceived as distant, but 2A brings it within our reach. I often browse the latest collections by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino and closely monitor Maria Grazia Chiuri’s work at Dior. Last year, when I saw the Dior collaboration I was part of in stores, it felt like a significant full-circle moment. I always felt like an outsider in the industry, so seeing the collection was incredibly special to me.

One place I frequent almost daily is Doppio Zero at Rosebank. As I walk in, they already know my order without me having to say a word – they simply ask, “The usual?” I always go for the pollo limone, grilled chicken breast with roasted vegetables and sweet chilli sauce. I love how all the flavours come together. If it’s the weekend, I treat myself to a strawberry Daiquiri. Food I Love You is another restaurant close to my heart, located at Constitution Hill. The establishment has an incredible story, occupying the building where Nelson Mandela was once imprisoned. Mpho Phalane’s food stands out because she infuses a sense of modernity into the traditional dishes we grew up with. It perfectly embodies those juxtapositions and tensions, where seemingly incompatible elements combine to create something beautiful.

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Photo: Facebook / @THEBE MAGUGU

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