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Thebe Magugu's Family Heirloom Shirt memorializes anyone's loved one in African wax print

Fusing cultural heritage, product personalization and emotional resonance, South African fashion designer Thebe Magugu has introduced the Family Heirloom Shirt. From 6–22 October 2023, customers can upload a photo of a loved one — whether family by birth or by choice — and have their portrait incorporated into a custom African wax print shirt. Priced at ZAR 6600 (USD 342/EUR 322), the shirts will be available in Ice Blue, Candy Pink and Apple Green, and sizes XS to XXXL.

Magugu features his late grandmother Matiego Magugu on his own customized shirt: "Wearing it makes me feel protected and watched over by her, and I hope people choose subjects based off of emotional connection because that is a function of a charm — a physical part representing a metaphysical whole." Explaining the reasoning behind his latest project, Magugu says: "African wax prints often have important historical figures printed all over them. However, I think so many times, history and its figures have always been imposed onto us, and I love the idea of taking back and empowering others to fashion their own history with their own key figures."

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Allowing anyone to honor a cherished person on the traditional canvas of an African wax print — a tribute typically restricted to public figures like Nelson Mandela or Barack and Michelle Obama — Thebe Magugu is democratizing the notion of memorialization, allowing individuals to decide who merits remembrance in their own lives.

Other brands seeking to create material products with emotional value, which object in your neck of the woods carries the cultural weight of an African wax print? And how could you enable your audience to make it uniquely theirs, for an item that's both culturally and personally significant?