Built from two deeply political books – especially Mandy Wiener’s, The Whistleblowers – and the controversial cartoons of South African political illustrator Jonathan Zapiro, the eponymous label’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection was a mosaic of Masai check, bloodied trenches, felt Stetsons and bowler hats adorned by the brand’s sisterhood emblem, and came equipped with Magugu’s first ever men’s cowboy boots.
Dubbed Doublethink, in reference to George Orwell’s cult classic dystopian novel, 1984, the collection served as a medium to communicate the cataclysmic corruption that holds a tenacious grip on South Africa, Magugu’s homeland. However, it also celebrated the courage of whistleblowers who bring about powerful change, often at a great personal cost, never once losing the fundamental wearability of each garment.
The tale told by the models who were seated in a conceptual police station, intermittently waiting or operating a payphone and then one by one stepping into an interrogation room while pre-recorded testimonies played over the PA, is immediately evident as Magugu is one of fashion’s great storytellers. He has proven himself proficient when it comes to creating completely immersive productions with the kind of visual impact that doesn’t require much explanation.
Magugu’s contemporary take on wild west aesthetics, deeply influenced by paradigmatic cowboy iconography, invited us to see inside the catastrophe of familial sovereignty, bureaucracy and violence in his native country. Through the use of pronounced blacks and whites the collection displayed a reductive dichotomy of good versus evil.
The designer’s commitment to cultivating South African artisans through collaboration, and his similarly strong admiration of African culture and history, makes it impossible to ignore that Magugu is one of fashion’s most political practitioners in the wasting world we inhabit.