Thebe Magugu and Wanda Lephoto Join Forces for New Initiative PROJECT 16.1.C

Words by The Folklore Team

Wanda Lephoto and Thebe Magugu in their collaborative T-shirt. Photograph by Andile Buka

On this year’s Freedom Day, which marks the anniversary of the first post-apartheid elections held in South Africa on 27 April 1994, two homegrown designers announced a collaboration and the launch of a new design initiative called PROJECT 16.1.C. Named after the code for the clause in the South African bill of rights that stipulates the right to creative expression and individuality, PROJECT 16.1.C will be an annual series of collaborations between Thebe Magugu and another up-and-coming fashion brand, of which the team-up with Wanda Lephoto is the inaugural partnership. The two brands have come together to design and produce a commemorative T-shirt in honor of Freedom Day and the importance of voting.

While brand collaborations are usually between an established luxury house and an emerging designer, the partnership between two rising stars is a relatively novel concept. According to Bubblegum Club, a Johannesburg-based zine and creative agency that is also a partner on the PROJECT 16.1.C initiative, Thebe Magugu approached menswear designer Wanda Lephoto with the intent of using fashion as a vehicle to document culture through creating a shirt that merges both brands’ respective classic tee designs.

“With Wanda Lephoto, I deeply respect his approach; telling stories of familiarity and family through menswear,” Magugu told Bubblegum Club. “I find we both share that common thread – homages to current day South Africa. He was the perfect partner to begin this series of annual ‘microlaborations.’”

Storytelling and a celebration of the culture from which they were birthed are at the heart of both brands, and with this collaboration, Thebe Magugu and Wanda Lephoto hope to remind young people of South Africa of the importance of voting and practicing their right to creative freedom.

T-shirts have historically been used as a means of expression for socio-political views, with slogans and mantras that speak as loud as spoken words. It is through this lens that the duo has created a T-shirt of “everyday resistance”. One half of the tee features Thebe Magugu’s sisterhood emblem cut in half and the other displays a “salon-style” screen-print of Wanda Lephoto’s heritage-inflected garments.

“This collaboration means so much to me, besides getting to collaborate with Thebe who I love, respect and am inspired by,” says Lephoto. “Tt means so much to me that we get to collaborate on freedom, something that means so much to the both of us.”

Designed as a sartorial memorial to those who sacrificed their futures for many generations of South Africans and a celebration of their hard-fought freedom, the T-shirt will be available in early May.

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