Thebe Magugu is a born storyteller.
Earlier this week, the South African designer revealed he was launching the heirloom blouse, a wax print shirt that can be customized with the wearer’s own image and name as a way to memorialize people through cloth.
More from WWD
His spring collection also honored the memory of the dead, only this time it told a story that continues to reverbate through the ages as the epitome of racist colonial exploitation.
The LVMH Prize winner was inspired by reading a book about Sarah Baartman, a member of the Khoikhoi community who was sold into slavery and exhibited in carnival-like shows in 19th-century Europe under the name “Hottentot Venus.”
“It got me thinking a lot about the Black body, especially the Black female body, as this sight of fascination but also highly sexualized,” he said. “It’s a story that I really wanted to tell this season because I don’t think a lot of people are all that familiar with it.”
Presenting the collection online, Magugu kept the sexual references nuanced. Several outfits were trimmed with lace, while others were accessorized with latex opera gloves. He chose a pink pair to go with a silky black trenchcoat embellished with an oversized rose dripping silk fringe.
Illustrations of Baartman’s symbolically fragmented body appeared on items like a buttermilk cape dress, while a map detailing her journey was used as a print on a black and pink belted dress. Its pleated skirt was made of split panels with a coin attached to each tip, in a pointed commentary on sexual trafficking.
Magugu’s skill lies in creating beautiful clothing that carries a political punch. As an independent business facing considerable logistical hurdles, including crippling power cuts, he kept the collection tight at 17 looks, but felt he had more to say on the subject. Look out for a second chapter.
Launch Gallery: Thebe Magugu RTW Spring 2024
Best of WWD