In Conversation With Power Lawyer Thandi Maqubela

By Giulio Beltramo, Social Media and Marketing Manager

With a glowing smile and powerful presence, Thandi Maqubela, also known as The Sartorial Lawyer, is a successful Big 4 Legal Director with enviable style sense. We had the pleasure of welcoming Thandi into our studio to discuss her approach to business, fashion and living an authentic life.

How would you introduce yourself in three sentences?
My name is Thandi, a South African living and working in London as a commercial lawyer where I’m a legal director at a Big 4 Professional Services firm. I’m continuously working on being a diversity proponent within my sphere of influence, and this goes from encouraging diversity of thought to adopting a different approach to leadership. More than anything I’m passionate about encouraging women, especially women of colour to know that they can show up as their full authentic selves and still be successful.

In your career, what have been your fundamentals or ‘things you stand by’ that have helped you get to where you are today?
This might sound really trite, but it’s being my authentic self. I’m incredibly ambitious and I’ve never sought to hide that. Equally, I’ve maintained my own sense of what femininity is in the workplace, appreciating that this is different to different people. I think that balance has worked well for me. Above all else it’s maintaining integrity and fairness, the more senior I get the more important I think this is as it goes to character which is such an overriding factor for me.

“Dressing for Business” has been a topic of conversation that has undergone many iterations, especially in more recent years, what would be your top style advice for anyone about to enter the professional world?
This is an interesting question because it’s something that’s changed for me as I’ve progressed. When I started working I was in private practice so my work wardrobe was a bit more muted, although thinking back I think I did try to inject a bit more personality into the way I dressed. After moving to an in-house position I made an active decision to express more of my personality in my choice of clothes, doing so confidently. I think too often women are made to feel bad about caring about their appearance, which is odd to me because clothes are a very valid tool of self-expression and it’s also the first thing that tends to make an impact.     

What are your fashion go-to’s and styling tips?
I have a weakness for midi-dresses, statement sleeves and a cinched waist - it’s a silhouette that never disappoints. In terms of styling tips, I’d say the most important thing is to feel comfortable in what you wear. I don’t think you can feel and exude confidence if you don’t feel comfortable. If it makes you feel good when you wear something then you’re already winning!

What has been your biggest takeaway from 2020? How has this year shaped you and the things you do?
Like most, this has been an incredibly challenging year - on both a personal and career front. I know I can be a bit (translate ‘a lot’) of a control freak and I’ve really had to let that go and learn how to take the emotion out of things - a work in progress! I’ve embraced change and the word pivot has taken on a new meaning for me, in a good way. I’ve also become very comfortable with taking a pause and stepping back from hustle culture which has funnily brought new opportunities my way. We still have another 6 weeks left of 2020, so much could happen in this time! 

What has been your biggest learning curve moving countries and what advice would you give to lead a globalised life?
In short, it’s being more receptive to change and learning how to flex my style depending on the situation I’m in - this applies both in the context of my career as well as in my personal life. Overriding this, it’s being open to opportunities and taking them on even when I don’t feel like I’m the most skilled or don’t know the full scope of what they may entail.

There’s undoubtedly a lot that needs to change in the fashion industry in terms of ethics, sustainability and inclusivity. It’s a big question, but what are your thoughts on this and how can we better ourselves as a society?
I’m wary of answering this in a way that suggests that I have a thought-through approach on this as I think I’m very much still on a learning curve. I think social pressures have influenced people to be more considered in how they choose to consume, rightly so. People are definitely more engaged in terms of having an interest in things like ethical supply chains. Inclusivity for me extends beyond the covers of fashion magazines because they are clearly becoming more representative - it’s more about the makeup of the production team, the decision-makers and this should also extend to the people making the clothes - how are they represented and how do they benefit?

We’re about to go into lockdown. In a world without online shopping, what are the three items you would go out of your way to get?
I’m going to cheat with this one and answer in a collective fashion. 

  • My entire skincare routine
  • My library of books
  • Silk pyjamas 

SHOP thandi's top picks

Like what you've read? Share it with your community!