Thebe Magugu Perfects Unconventional Daywear with "Gender Studies"

 Print from AW 2017 "Home Economics" / Photo Courtesy of Thebe Magugu

Print from AW 2017 "Home Economics" / Photo Courtesy of Thebe Magugu

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - PROTOChic chatted with Thebe Magugu last year, asking how the South African contemporary womenswear designer starts his day. He quipped with a prayer and Kellogg's, adding a laugh that he is not an ambassador for the brand, but a serious lover of cereal. That same sense of playfulness rang true in his Spring / Summer 2018 collection presented during South Africa Fashion Week. 

Off the back of a strong Autumn / Winter 2017 collection "Home Economics" presented at SAFW last November, Magugu is carefully staking his claim to unconventional daywear designed to match the multi-faceted needs for the women in his spheres. Of that collection, Magugu said, "I was not inspired by, but rather wanted to comment on the expectations placed on women in current-day South Africa. We have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, but it is still quite subtly [and sometimes not so subtly] sexist, with unchecked misogyny that tries to erase women - whether socio-politically or just through cold-blooded murder...now more than ever, women REALLY need one another right now because from all the things that are happening in today's time, there is clearly a raging war on them." These contemplated ideas of identity politics and self-reliance carry on in his current seasonal offering "Gender Studies."

 Thebe Magugu / Photo Courtesy of Thebe Magugu

Thebe Magugu / Photo Courtesy of Thebe Magugu

Despite the seriousness of his subject matter, Magugu toes the line while still infusing spirit. The opening look was a lush bubblegum pink faux ostrich trench coat atop a cotton shirt dress with a brightly striped tie and finished with a duchess satin envelope clutch that resembled an airmail envelope. Graphic lines graced a coral blouse with shoulder epaulets paired with a two-layer pleated skirt. The final look included a printed top with words from Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Magugu noted that the piece was written while Wilde was in exile after his release from prison. "He was held for homosexuality, which is incredibly sad to think about, especially if one thinks that it’s still a reality for a lot of our brothers and sisters in certain parts of the world. The piece itself is quite beautifully written, and is an important read." Magugu incorporated the unconventional edge with half a coat belted at the waist. The pieces were considered and wonderfully saturated with plum, saffron, and chili. Behind their darkened sunglasses, these women were the ultimate arbiters in a paradigm where sisterhood is paramount to survival.

True TM devotees will recall a similar faux ostrich trench coat or the men's formal tie accessories from previous collections, but rather than a criticism, it is an accomplishment. As we think about the role of sustainability in fashion, the continuity in visual identity is what can propel a long-standing business. Magugu has done a phenomenal job in providing a playbook his clients can come to expect from him as well as a few innovations with each collection. In today's time, beauty we can rely on is a welcome salve. 

Images courtesy of INDIGITAL.