As someone who considers fashion through feminism couldn’t help but be enthousiastic with this. ‘Gender Studies’ SS 2018 collection by THEBE MAGUGU.
The name takes me back to the days I spent reading and researching. Feminism, gender, politics were all examined as elements of a woman’s considerations when putting together an outfit. You see I have this crazy idea that we are part of the material world which we choose to live in and therefore our actions are intertwined with it. One is not born a woman, one becomes one, asserts Simone de Beauvoir. And acts as one ,Judith Butler argues. So becoming means contructing an identity - doesn’t clothing participate in that? And what about becoming an empowered woman? Could clothes enhance something like that?
All the above just magically arose as the form of textiles and patterns and colours when I laid eyes on the collection. Identity politics and autonomy infused in design. Contradictory elements give us a clean feel of an evolving woman nature where sisterhood becomes key to prosperity.
The opening picture above is part of the Figures of Fortitude 2018 series by Aart Verrips. The faux ostrich coat - part of the SS 2018 collection - entered the permanent collection of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York after being part of the 2018 exhibition ‘Pink : the history of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful colour’.
Would you care for a glimse at the ‘Gender Studies’ runway? Masculine and feminine, red and white, half cut overcoats, darkened sunglasses, they all celebrate the woman who goes against all odds as you can see in the pistures below.
The final look of the collection - fourth picture in the row - included a printed top with words from Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Wild wrote that while being imprisoned for his homosexuality…
I should point out here that 26 year old Thebe Magugu is considered to be one of the most promising talents emerging in South Africa. A true multitasker - characteristic of his generation - whose last venture is the launch of Faculty Press. An anual zine with the significant role of presenting the face of contremporary South Africa, a who is who of youth culture that explores gender identity, feminism and LGBTQ+ rights.
I absolutely adore what Thebe Magugu does. He is the kind of designer who truly admires the feminine in all its power. From his point of view women possess both strength and vulnerability while beauty operates on a very subjective spectrum. There is no right or wrong side. Just an obvious rebellion against the discrimimation women still face. In his own words :
More chillingly, you would have to be existing in complete isolation to not see that there is currently what is obviously a war on women. If they are not being murdered in cold blood, they are being completely marginalized and essentially erased. Women who assert any sense of self-government are always seen as a threat to be stifled, stemming from the damaging fear of the feminine– that’s why they can be discredited as problematic or discarded in a field. […] Women really need one another right now.