At the intersection of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, fashion has found a way to honor the strong, female ancestors that came before them.
For South African designer Thebe Magugu, it was an easy choice. At the core of his Fall/Winter 2021 collection, African spirituality and female divination is celebrated at full volume. The collection titled “Alchemy,” explores the occult, cultural heritage of the South African upbringing and the modern women changing the landscape.
“This season, I wanted to have a conversation with traditional healers, who have divinely been given powers to answer our most burning questions, and who act as a conduit between various realms, often by using objects of divination,” The LVMH prize-winning young designer writes. “It’s a very particular kind of strength, one that doesn’t show-off and relies heavily on the natural.”
In lieu of a traditional runway for Paris Fashion Week, like many other labels, Thebe Magugu’s instead greenlit a short film to showcase the Fall/Winter 2021 garments. The film, titled BANYOLOYI A BOSIGO (Ultimate Midnite Angels), tells a Romeo and Juliette-esque story of neighboring tribes in the desert. Shot and written by Kristin-Lee Moolman, the film expresses the intersectionality behind modern South African women and how they are not a monolith.
“I want female characters to have their own agency and can be heroes or anti heros without having to conform to the cinematic trope of women having to go experience major trauma to be allowed to be the same level of ‘badass’ as their male character counterparts,” Moolman writes.
Magugu’s collections often have a sociopolitical meaning. The South Africa-based designer’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection was an ode to the revolutionaries who fought to end apartheid while his Spring/Summer 2021 collection honed in on Johannesburg’s spies in the later half of the 20th century.
The collection’s draping, colors, and textures all allude to the magical elements found in his homeland. Sharp tailoring, high hats, and fluttering capes add a mystical perspective to Magugu’s models. On a plain background standing at the center of a rug, the models highlighted in the campaign give the camera an icy stare, as if they are hexing you with their divine powers. Dressed as warriors, feminine healers and modern working-women, Magugu incorporates both the spiritual and fun. A hat made of light blue dyed feathers sits atop a model’s head while fringed detailing adds a playful, ’70s touch to the bottom of skirts and dresses. The look isn’t complete without a pillbox hat, a sign of American royalty and elegance in the days of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis.
Every cut, print, and dye is integral to the label’s storytelling. The designer worked with Noentla Khumalo, a stylist and healer who provided inspiration for Magugu’s occult-chic prints. Fabric makers Larisa Don, Adachi San, and BYBORRE used traditional materials and practices to inject spirituality into the DNA of Magugu’s work. The short garment list, clocking in at just under 20 looks, is another testament to Magugu’s continued efforts involving sustainability.
Swipe through the gallery below to see every look from Thebe Magugu’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection.END
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