It takes guts to start a business, but a clothing brand? Well, that’s a whole other story.
With T-shirts branded with slogans like “Spread the Love” and jackets adorned with political speeches from back in the day, we decided to sit down with the founder of a very successful local urban streetwear brand to hear his story, one which began back in the early days of our democracy.
It started as a concept, a store which would cater for like-minded people. But soon, the urban clothing brand famously known as Magents was conceived and gave birth to its first collection in the 90s.
Back then, the store was based at Majita Tailors in Randburg, but founder Didier de Villiers quickly took the brand overseas where the reception was overwhelming.
Today, Magents is known internationally as a fiercely South African fashion brand which invokes simplicity, philosophy and social consciousness seen in every item.
In light of Youth Day, Didier spoke to us about the brand’s ties to South Africa’s political culture, and how the brand’s messages aim to ignite the youth of today:
What’s the best aspect of running Magents?
The coolest thing about being a part of the Magents story is that you do what you are most passionate about and in doing so change peoples lives.
What message do you want people to take from Magents?
The core of Magents is to ignite. There is a whole chain of events that happen before you walk out with your purchase at the store and we want our fam to be conscious of that as well as of the life they live.
What influence has your upbringing had on the brand as a whole?
I lost my parents at a very young age, but my mom loved clothes and travelling so our home was graced with people from different cultures and I picked up a keen eye for style, fabrics and cuts.
I was then forced to grow up with my eyes wide open. I had to think for myself and work things out: the good and the bad in society and that also within oneself. It made me question the purpose of life and the significance of things.
This naturally drove me to a philosophy which plays a part in our collections and is evident in the DNA of Magents. Being part of such an amazing country combined with this very fresh period within our history, gives you loads to express and is truly inspiring.
What influence did the turbulent events of ’76 have on you growing up?
It taught me a lot about people and life in general. We need to be so careful with what we allow in our minds and how a human can just kill another, especially when it’s just through instructions from authority.
Thought control can be a dangerous evil, may we take heed to what is whispered in our ears.
What are your thoughts of June 16, 1976?
It is a grave evil when someone’s spirit is suppressed or oppressed. We were sitting in a situation where a government chose to feed colour groups different views about each other, thus creating warped stereotypes.
I do believe that Bantu Stephen Biko’s court case had a lot to do with the uprising of 1976. Everyone should read in his book I Write What I Like where he writes of the racist prosecutor in between him and the judge. It depicts those thoughts which were prevalent in the two groups at the time.
Yes, June 16 is when the youth stood up against the Bantu education but its also when the people cried out “ENOUGH!” Enough of this evil spirit of oppression and the manifestation of society that goes with it.
We celebrate those youth only one day but their actions changed our life everyday.
Do you have a message for the youth of today?
The lives of those that have gone before us, including the ’76 squad and many others, have changed the way we look at each other – and let’s never forget. Let’s not cheapen the day, viewing it as a mere holiday but rather let’s celebrate it in honour of those brave warriors that stood up for our way of life, that which we have today and everyday.
The struggle is certainly not over, as no one is free till everyone is free.
Working closely with Didier, Theithei Letlabika (seen above, right) had a few words to say on the brand’s affiliation with Youth Day:
What did you do to make Youth Day worth the fight?