AZ Factory welcomes Thebe Magugu as the first “Amigo”
Fulfilling Alber Elbazthe dream of a new type of fashion company with open arms for like-minded creativity, A-Z factory unveiled a future strategy based on serial guest talent and freewheeling projects.
Revealing the plan exclusively to WWD, the company said South African designer Thebe Magugu would be its first “amigo” to design a “product story” for the brand. It is due to be unveiled in late March or early April at retail, with its first product launch landing in June on the AZ Factory online store, Net-a-porter, Farfetch and select wholesale partners.
No more WWD
“It’s not about collaborations. They are true creative partners who believe in the founder’s vision and spirit,” said Philippe Fortunato, Managing Director of Fashion and Accessories Houses at Compagnie Financière Richemont, who created AZ Factory as a joint venture with Elbaz in 2019.
Fortunato explained that the intention is to invite talent with big ideas, and those who need “support and help” at a critical time in their career, analogous in some ways to fashion awards, offering only a complete ecosystem – a design studio, a workshop, the marketing muscle and the communication channels – and not just the money and the mentorship.
“We want to make sure that whoever we invite has great talent, fully embraces the vision that Alber has set out, as well as the values…and who will use all the facilities we have in-house to ensure that this product is unique. and different, but very much in line with the creative motto of the person and of AZ Factory,” he said. “We’re really bringing an education to young designers that we’re going to nurture and develop further.”
He noted that “when Thebe came here, he became part of the team”.
Fortunato, who was joined in the interview by his strategic adviser Mauro Grimaldi, noted that his first project is described as Thebe Magugu “with” AZ Factory rather than “for” AZ Factory, a subtle but vital distinction for someone like Ebaz, who chose his words very carefully and mapped out a brand manifesto based on “smart fashion that cares” and “beautiful, fun, practical and solution-focused” apparel and accessories.
These phrases appear in an unorthodox press release that AZ Factory is due to send out on Friday, describing “a collective laboratory and factory, a place that nurtures creativity, emotion and playful storytelling around the core values of love, of trust and respect”.
Magugu has never met Elbaz, who died aged 59 in April 2021 from COVID-19but was selected by AZ Factory to be one of 44 designers who created Elbaz-inspired looks for the “Love Brings Love” tribute show held during Paris Fashion Week last October, and which is now the subject of of an exhibition which opens on Saturday at the Palais Galliera in Paris.
By a happy coincidence that seemed to confirm the merits of its choice for a first “amigo”, the Palais Galliera museum, unaware of AZ Factory’s strategy, chose Magugu’s outfit from the tribute show: a white dress, belted in blue and accented with a dramatic feathered hat – for promotional posters and other key visuals.
Serendipity seems to abound at AZ Factory. Out of the blue, Design Museum Holon — located in the Israeli town where Elbaz is buried and his family is based — recently called AZ Factory with an invitation to host the “Love Brings Love” exhibit. It is due to open in the Ron Arad-designed institution in September.
Asked about the timelines and frequency of new amigos being invited to AZ Factory, Fortunato described an open process, suggesting incoming talent could bring projects related to innovation, entertainment or fabric technology.
“It’s really open to a lot of options, and professions, or crafts, or guilds in our industries, the first is a designer, but it’s open to anything,” he said. “We already have three or four concrete projects in the bag. Mauro was extremely active since his arrival, and that was his memoir. We wanted the collective work to be nurtured.
He declined to identify upcoming projects, reverting to Elbaz’s vision of resetting how fashion works by experimenting and trying new things.
AZ Factory unveiled its first fashions, centered on smart fabrics, in January 2021, alongside a business model focused on projects rather than collections, and with storytelling, problem-solving and entertainment integrated into the design, distribution and communications.
Magugu rose to prominence in 2019 as the first African designer to win the LVMH Prize for Young Designers and has been showcasing her collections during Paris Fashion Week since February 2020.