Thebe Magugu, Straight to the source

October 7, 2022

The elegance, the allure, the attitude. The gaze. The composure of someone who does not mistake memory for nostalgia. Thebe Magugu draws, writes, photographs. His photos become prints; his words spread out across his fabrics. His ZuluTsongaPédi “heritage dresses”, are genuine paintings in motion. From the airplane envelope patterns, to the fabrics that appear as pages of writing in motion, the spirit is there – omnipresent, granting the hand its noble nature. “My first gift was a sketchbook,” recounts the South African designer. “In exchange, my mother asked me to draw on a daily basis. Her request gave me the direction, the purpose of my life.” At a very young age, he learned to his pants and create the waist of his blazers – a virtuoso dandy who fearlessly claimed his difference. “I come from a small town. The hands helped me. With my hands, I wrote poems, I dressed my friends. Just to escape from reality.” He offers a word that fashion has swept from its vocabulary: “education”. He turned his brand into an encyclopaedia. “People have too many preconceived ideas about Africa,” he suggests. 

Meanwhile, in the Paris Fashion Week® Sphere Showroom at the Palais de Tokyo, Magugu evokes a high dignitary who has come to present his collection, whose scope is universal. He talks about craftsmanship and cultural heritage. At 26, he was not only the youngest of the 2019 shortlist, but also the first designer from Africa to win the LVMH Prize.

His Spring-Summer 2023 collection, Discard Theory, once again focuses on his hands – how they have helped him to define himself as well as to stand out. And of course, there is fashion as “a social experiment”, which is illustrated by his clothes born from tons of textile waste that are part of everything the West rejects. In downtown Johannesburg, he takes the patterns of the blankets, the synthetic oranges and greens, the images of fish and chips, and transforms them into pure desires. A true alchemist, His documentary is a must-see.

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