The South African designer, Thebe Magugu, not long ago consulted a local healer who was expected to read bones and other objects just like someone might read tea leaves. It was requested by Magugu that she ask the ancestors what came next for him. But, he stopped her before she could respond. According to him, it made him too nervous, for a strange reason (Source: Elle Magazine). It wasn’t known by Magugu yet that to the date, he was creating one of his most personal collections. By the demands of modern life, he was frazzled, and temporarily he left his home in Johannesburg for the city of Kimberley, where devouring international fashion magazines were grown up by him, and then he rewound his life’s cassette. It was said by him that he was feeling so bogged down that he wanted to look at something that could bring him joy and for him, that was his family (Source: Elle Magazine).
Shown in Paris, his spring 2022 Genealogy collection, drawing on the “major shapes” and “incredible silhouettes”, his grandmother, mother, and aunt used to wear, and later he posed his models in front of his old family snapshots. While his past shows have an engagement with the political and social issues that are going on in his home country, from femicide to apartheid. For him, this is one of his favorite collections, since it is personal. He says that it looks like his and his family, in the past the collections have always been the other people’s observation and it has always been quite external (Source: Elle Magazine).
In the process of growing up, he got the impression that fashion can only take place in the established capitals. But, Magugu was the first African designer who back in 2019, won the LVMH Prize, and has built a creative community and a thriving brand in Johannesburg. The nuanced vision of South Africa could be seen and reflected in his work that pushes back on the external pressure as said by him, he sometimes has felt to depict it as a utopia.
He says that the people show their attraction towards the brand because it has started having a new conversation and introducing the people to situations, stories, or ideas that are not much spoken about. Whereas, the fashion establishment comes to Africa and picks up an image or two, puts it on a mood board, and goes on to its merry way, as added by him. But, he now thinks that people are there sitting in their seats to have an engagement with Africa and not just having a view of it from afar, and referencing it (Source: Elle Magazine).
Furthermore, the talent Magugu works with, from graphic designer to the illustrator Phathu Nembilwi or that healer whose bone compositions were photographed by Magugu for a print in his 2021 collection of fall – received a sales’ cut, through royalties, mostly. This is Magugu’s mission to properly empower people instead of paying them for exposure. “We’ve heard exposure too many times,” he says. “It’s the most frustrating word.” (Source: Elle Magazine).