From the dusty streets of Kimberley to the high-fashion museums of New York City – South African designer Thebe Magugu has experienced a meteoric rise to fame.
Originally from Kimberley in the Northern Cape, Magugu will go down in South African fashion history as one of the first designer’s whose garments were acquired by the highly-revered Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
The dress, from the 27-year-old’s “Girl Seeks Girl” Autumn/Winter 2018 collection was added to the Museum’s collection to “preserve it as an example of outstanding contemporary design”.
Magugu collaborated with artist Phathu Nembilwi to create the motif displayed on the dress. Nembilwi’s body of work largely celebrates women and femininity, and the motif seen on “Girl Seeks Girl” is an illustration of two women leaving one another.
According to Magugu, this is to signify that women need one another more than ever as “there is clearly a war that rages against them”.
Thebe Magugu names his collections after school subjects
Magugu names his collections after school subjects, and the name of his A/W2018 collection, which the “Girl Seeks Girl” dress is from is titled “Home Economics”.
“We have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, but it is still quite subtly sexist with unchecked mysogyny that tries to erase women – whether socio-politically or just through cold-blooded murder,” Magugu said, explaining the “Home Economics” collection. “Women who assert any sense of self-government are always seen as a threat to be stifled, stemming from the damaging fear of the feminine – that’s why they can be discredited as problematic or discarded in a field.”
The collection is made up of pale colours including purples and pinks, and according to Magugu, these remind him of chemicals that react badly to one another when cleaning during the home-making process.
“This emphasizes that women really need one another right now.”
“One of the garments that make the biggest statement is the angel-sleeve neoprene dress featuring a print of a woman crying into the arms of another,” Magugu said. “This emphasizes that women really need one another right now.”
All of the designer’s collections comes with recommended reading to help understand the issue he is highlighting with his clothing.
The recommended reading for “Home Economics” include a research paper titled “Gender based violence: Perspectives from Africa, the Middle East and India” by Yanji K Djamba and Sitawa R Kimuna, as well as “Rape: A South African Nightmare” by Pumla Gqola.