14 Oct THE AFRICAN AESTHETIC AND THEBE MAGUGU
By Rob Greeff
It began in Africa. In the simple act of throwing on an animal pelt over his or her body to ward off the cold, humanity’s ancestors created “fashion”. 6 million years later, the world takes note of a new voice envisioning our future, complete with the power of the African Aesthetic.
It’s no surprise that the place that brought the world diamonds would also bring us the significant talent of Thebe Magugu, the South African designer who shook the annals of history by becoming the first African to win the very prestigious LVMH Prize. LVMH is the world leader in luxury, and its acknowledgement of Magugu’s creativity and execution is noteworthy in itself.
Like his illustrious peers who operate in the spheres of Art, Music and Media, Magugu is young, black, creatively defining y blessed and the African Aesthetic in ways the world has not expected. The arrival of his name as someone to watch was swift, decisive and propelled by the sheer expansiveness of his talent. A fresh graduate of LISOF School of Fashion, he won the 2015 Africa Fashion International (AFI) Fastrack programme and has been an integral voice in the Woolworths Style By SA capsule collections since 2016.
Magugu presents the deconstruction
of the modern African woman’s identity
At the same time he has garnered critical praise and attention with furniture design through a collaboration with industrial designer and craftsman Emile Millward, took the overall prize for curation and fashion content at the International Fashion Showcase, a beneficiary of the British Fashion Council. In the process, Magugu earned praise for his collection earlier this year from none other than Vogue Editor in Chief, Anna Wintour.
Magugu is clear on his goal in designing clothes for women. “I want to make clothes that empower women. His penchant for tailoring is sophisticated in the way that it celebrates the body with nipped in waists that architecturally embellish the feminine silhouette. Swift transitory understandings of garment construction segue from one uncomplete shape to the construction of another in beguiling ways that seem right, but play with scale, volume and asymmetry. It is a heady mix, but observed as a whole, the eye intrinsically recognizes the cleverness interspersed with layering and contrasting use of fabrications.
That being said, the clothes are inherently beautiful and wearable. Intellectually, Magugu presents the deconstruction of the modern African woman’s identity, as she makes her way through the socio-economic and political landscape that is 21st century Africa. Collections are titled after social science subjects and the gender politics are subtly engaged with whilst distilling a postmodern African Aesthetic. It is a dynamic that jousts between the feminine and masculine in a forward looking way, energised by motifs and themes from an Africa rich with a diverse heritage.
Magugu’s creative journey and oeuvre is still young and his imagination has yet to plumb its depths. We know it began it Africa, Thebe Magugu will show us the future too.