Fashion in Motion: Thebe Magugu

Fashion in Motion, supported by Libbie Scher Mugrabi, is a series of live fashion shows at the V&A featuring leading fashion designers from across the world. Thebe Magugu presented his first fashion show outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, showcasing highlights from his collection 'Discard Theory', inspired by fabrics discarded by Europe and America.

Working with luxury ready-to-wear collections, womenswear and accessories, Johannesburg-based designer Thebe Magugu draws inspiration from his South African heritage. His designs interweave African motifs, craft and silhouettes to create vibrant and celebratory looks exploring the history, culture, and politics of the continent. His works explore themes of storytelling, education, family and ancestry.

To create the 25 looks in this Fashion in Motion series, Magugu visited Dunusa – a well-known site in Johannesburg for secondhand clothes discarded by Europe and America (Dunusa means 'bend over', describing the action of reaching and searching). Here he gathered and examined materials, which have been reinterpreted into this impressive collection.

Left: model wearing cream dress with wavy red/pint pattern, gold earrings and red boots, middle: model wearing blue dress, blue knee boots and blue headpiece, right: model wearing green and white pinstriped dress, with green knee boots, and green scarf.
Photographer: Kristin Lee Moolman

Combining traditional African silhouettes with western styles and graphics, Magugu explores the impact that these secondhand clothes have on the continent's identity politics. He describes the collection as 'trickle-up fashion' – an inversion of the 'trickle-down' theory which presents fashion as a hierarchical and class-based industry.

For this collection I thought about national identity politics, and how western influence has penetrated indigenous dress. Often times, I see a woman in downtown Johannesburg wearing a shweshwe wrap skirt – a fabric often worn for traditional ceremonies – but paired with a Vodafone or Manchester United tee. I found that Dunusa acts as a nexus between local and global, throwing everything into a melting pot that produces a post-modern interpretation of what African fashion is, and I’m delighted that I can bring these looks to the V&A for Fashion in Motion.

Thebe Magugu, 2022
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Having launched his eponymous label in Johannesburg in 2016, shortly after graduating from The London International School of Fashion, Magugu was the first African designer to receive the LVMH Prize for emerging talent (2019) and the winner of the International Fashion Showcase in the same year. Since then, Thebe has produced several major solo collections rooted in the idea of education, with collections named after university subjects. Past collections include Geology, Africa Studies, Gender Studies, and Alchemy. Most recently Magugu has collaborated with Adidas on the AW22 sportswear collection Finding Beauty.

Left: model wearing black shirt dress with pleated tiered detailing, knee-high boots and hat. Right: five models standing in a group, wearing black hats, black and white shirt dresses with red strip detailing and  knee-high boots
Photographer: Kristin Lee Moolman

This Fashion in Motion took place during the Africa Fashion exhibition, which displays a key look from Magugu's Autumn/Winter 2021 collection, Alchemy.

Explore previous Fashion in Motion catwalk events.

Fashion in Motion is supported by Libbie Scher Mugrabi.

Header image:

© Photographer: Kristin Lee Moolman