Focus On: Thebe Magugu

In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! Thebe Magugu staged his debut presentation at Paris fashion week after scooping the prestigious LVMH prize last autumn. The first African designer to win in the competition’s seven-year history, Magugu paid homage to his homeland with a photo exhibition entitled Ipopeng Ext, after an area in Kimberley, South Africa, the city in which he grew up. Fittingly, the name itself translates as “to beautify oneself.” Elegant and evocative portraits of Magugu’s local community lined the walls of the museum; they had been captured by two of the continent’s most celebrated young image makers: South African photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman and Sierra Leone–born stylist Ib Kamara. “These people and places were my earliest references,” said Magugu gesturing to a picture of his cousin Smangaliso posing in his neighborhood church wearing a fluffy light blue sweaterdress. Exquisite reminders of Magugu’s childhood were threaded throughout the collection, including a photoprint of his aunt’s iron roof that was abstracted to look like distressed denim on a marabou-feather-trimmed button-down with matching pants. Inspired by a retro tablecloth, the carnation-print trench coat had a characterful charm that was just as striking. Magugu’s uncle Nephtaly was pictured on a motorcycle dressed in a collared shirt that was covered in an illustration of two black women consoling each other by the Johannesburg-based artist Phathu Nembilwi. Beyond telling a very personal story, Magugu’s clothes are often a form of social commentary, particularly as it pertains to women’s rights in South Africa. As the designer explained, the print was a subtle political statement on the country’s rising femicide rate. Perhaps equally radical is Magugu’s unwavering commitment to producing in South Africa. The new logo satchel was handcrafted by artisans in Johannesburg, while his latest knitwear offerings were all made in Cape Town. Magugu is poised to export his special made-in-Africa vision across the globe.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki, photos courtesy of Thebe Magugu.

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