FIRST COURSE FASHION: Fashion was front and center at Tuesday’s Fashion 4 Development’s annual First Ladies Luncheon in New York.
Upon arrival, guests mingled amid a display of apparel designed by Thebe Magugu in the Park Avenue venue. The Johannesburg-based designer, who is this year’s recipient of the Franca Sozzani award, greeted well-wishers. After receiving the invitation, there was no way the designer could turn that down, having always been “a longtime admirer” of the late Sozzani ‘for all that she did for the fashion industry including Vogue Italia’s July 2008 all-Black models issue.’”
After landing in the U.S. Sunday following a 16-hour flight, the designer checked into his hotel and promptly set up his presentation. Visiting New York for the first time, Magugu planned to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a viewing, check out his designs in Bergdorf Goodman and see the sights. As for his first impressions, he said, “People walk very fast. There’s a buzz. For people who have only seen the city on television, to be here and feel the energy is really interesting. The weather is up and down. There are a lot of confusing things, but I love it.”
Fresh out of college, he started his company in 2016 intent on making it “encyclopedic in a way that captures key people, histories and cultures that run the risk of being forgotten. That’s what makes our industry so intelligent in that sense that there can be beautiful clothes that inspire,” Magugu said. “I like to use fashion in a way to inform and educate.”
Next week he will release his latest collection, and international growth is his priority. “There’s an incredible amount of responsibility when one becomes a brand. One day years ago I was just in my room sketching and then you look up, you’re steering this ship with people and there’s responsibility and timelines. It’s a very big responsibility to carry a business especially in fashion on your back,” he said.
Creating a luxury space, where one doesn’t yet exist in South Africa, can be challenging, but Magugu is making headway. F4D’s honor for his work in preserving culture is a sign of that. Further reassurance can be found in the fact that museums like The Met have been buying his work for their archives. “We’re getting over this idea that you can only do fashion in New York, in London, in Paris and in Milan. New voices from far-flung places in the world are getting to tell their stories and people are actually paying attention to them,” Magugu said.
F4D hosted its Sustainable Goals banquet Monday night at the same venue. Founder Evie Evangelou was unfazed by critics who are impatient about the state of progress regarding the goals. “People don’t understand how impossible it is to get there. It’s not easy. Everybody’s trying and we have to stay positive,” she said.
Luncheon guests also caught a glimpse of Stewart Parvin’s designs that were part of a tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II. A handful of his designs that were inspired by things that she would have worn were on view.
He worked with the royal for 20 years including on some of her final public events. Milliner Rachel Trevor Morgan was another resource for Queen Elizabeth II and provided hats that were inspred by her for the New York event.
Gesturing toward a deep purple long dress with a multicolored short jacket, he said that type of ensemble would have been worn to a more religious country and later altered to a shorter-length skirt to make it more wearable. The crème ensemble displayed was inspired by one the designer had created for HRH for a meeting with former French President François Mitterrand in Paris. That was an homage to the white ensemble that the Queen Mother had worn to Paris in 1938 following the death of her mother, the Countess of Strathmore. The Queen Mother’s couturier Norman Hartnell had done some research and discovered mourning white. The choice created a fashion sensation.