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Interrogating the Suit: Thebe Magugu “DOUBLETHINK” Spring 2022 Menswear

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

With models seated back to back in a makeshift police station waiting room, Thebe Magugu’s Doublethink Collection illustrates South Africa’s rampant corruption and those who dare to fight against it through unconventional suits. The blow of a whistle announced the rise of each model who would stand from the line of chairs and enter the interrogation room where the soundtrack of testimonies from whistleblowers in South African scandals played, paying homage to the inspiration behind Magugu’s first complete menswear collection.

Influenced by Mandy Wiener’s novel The Whistleblowers, Doublethink explores the harsh treatment of whistleblowers attempting to expose corruption in South Africa. The title of the collection, originating in George Orwell’s 1984, implies the concurrent existence of opposing beliefs—the curated half-truths of corrupt politicians that mislead the public.

Debuting at Pitti Uomo on July 1st, the show’s commentary on corruption coincided with calls for the arrest of former South African president Jacob Zuma. Zuma’s refusal to face a commission investigating his participation in corruption presents a real-life example of the deception complicit in South African politics that Magugu attempts to remedy on the runway. Alongside the recorded excerpts from Mandy Weiner’s book and current corruption commissions, Magugu’s collection is further rooted in the realities of South African politics through his use of artwork from political cartoonist Jonathan Zapiro.

For Menswear Week 2022, the rest of Magugu’s collection paired traditional suit jacket silhouettes with a range of patterns, bowler hats and cowboy boots. Incorporating Western elements, Magugu creates a visual dichotomy of “Black Hat Bandits and White Hat Heros.” Models adorned with both black and white hats enter the interrogation room, allowing Magugu’s collection to demonstrate how even those who might wear the white hat elsewhere are met with consequences in South Africa. As models awaited questioning, powerful suits and black hats were placed under the scrutiny of enforcement in a manner uncommon in the real world. The use of the suit throughout the collection constructs an aura of authority which, when confined within a police station waiting room, invites a dialogue on the power that political leaders often abuse and escape punishment for.

Throughout the collection, Thebe Magugu speaks to the secrets concealed within the suit pockets of politics by creating a collection that pushes for political change in the treatment of South African whistleblowers. Doublethink juxtaposes visual representations of corruption on garments of authority in a reminder of fashion’s strength in conveying political messages on a global scale.

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