"Drinking Tea in Fire" by Thebe Magugu.


By Alice Butterlin

Most of the world has been in lockdown for over a month now due to the COVID-19 crisis. A moment frozen in time, when people are faced with solitude, grief or anxiety and see their daily lives shift for the better or the worse. In this time of extreme uncertainty, we can also take the time to reflect, create and enjoy the passing of these strange elastic days. We thought it would be interesting to ask artists around the globe how their creative process has changed during the quarantine and if it has been an inspiring or rather daunting experience… with a quick snapshot of themselves in lockdown. Today we meet the LVMH 2019 winner Thebe Magugu, a talented South African designer who made his runway debut at the last Paris Fashion Week. It’s only the beginning of his career but the fashion world is already charmed by his very personal and clever collections that blend elements from his country’s traditions with a futuristic twist. Far away from any clichés, he melds culture, history with a strong sense of responsibility towards the planet. Discover how he’s been spending his days lately.

How has your daily life changed since the beginning of the quarantine?

To be honest, I lived my life like I was in constant quarantine so the change wasn’t that drastic. However, because I no longer have access to my studio and my staff whom I so love, its tough feeling stimulated because what we do is fuelled by others and materiality in general. I think something that helps is some sort of a routine.

Did you realize certain things during this time?

This time I think has allowed for deep introspection, and has given us a birds-eye view of our lives and our industry, and this makes me realize the speed in which we were all moving was crazy. And maybe speed is one of the underlying problems of our industry, which feeds into other things like unsustainable practices, unresolved ideations and maybe even the cruelty. Its made me conscious of the fact that I need to make sure I am operating at my own pace, and not at the industry’s pace.

Does the quarantine inspire you or rather paralyze you?

I think possibly both – because you can’t be mobile – this paralyzes you but sitting within yourself and wondering allows for inspiration. I think this is an important time to refill your tank with references and visual literacy brought on by books, films and art, so that when things go back to normal, you will be enriched.

Did you start or go back to certain activities you didn’t have time to do normally?

The biggest activity I don’t have time to do normally is sleep – which has been an incredible blessing. I also have the time to experiment with sketches and mock-ups 2 or 3 times over, which is like an exciting rabbit hole – seeing where initial concepts can end up becoming if just explored to their skeletons.

What do you think you’ll take away from this frozen time?

Gratefulness for sure, which is an umbrella term for so many other things – like patience, peace and love.

Are you worried?

I am worried for those in less fortunate positions and I worry about those in essential services, who risk their health and lives everyday fighting for our safety. I can imagine both the physical and emotional tax that has. There have also been millions of people being laid off their work, which is devastating because that means breadwinners everywhere cannot provide for their families. That’s why it is critical to be considerate of others at this time by doing our part – whether that’s staying in doors or helping with food and money if possible (donations).

How do you see life after this crisis?

I think people will be more considerate as a rule – considerate of others, considerate of the environment, considerate of their own impact. This is a very big win for sustainability I feel, because we will be more sensitized (unlike our old normal, which ‘was not sensitive at all). I imagine fashion especially will rethink its structure, with many smaller brands possibly looking at localizing a bit more and finding a critical path that works for them and not one that feeds into the industry (or old ideas on what it was).

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