Torishéju and Thebe Magugu in The Met's "Sleeping Beauties" Exhibition

Torishéju and Thebe Magugu in The Met's "Sleeping Beauties" Exhibition

AFI Insider

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, a custodian of fashion history with garments spanning centuries (and home of the Met Gala), has made strides towards looking beyond the usual sources for its "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion" exhibition.

This exciting move has resulted in two talented designers of African descent being featured in the Andrew Bolton curated exhibition: Nigerian-British designer Torishéju Dumi and South African designer Thebe Magugu.

Their inclusion marks a significant moment in recognising the immense creativity and cultural richness of African fashion on a global stage.

Torishéju: Blending Heritage and Modernity 


Torishéju Dumi's label, simply named TORISHÉJU, offers both women's and men's pieces. Dumi's artistic foundation was laid by her mother's love for 19th-century design, which surrounded her during her childhood in North-West London.

However, her Nigerian-Brazilian and Catholic background also plays a crucial role. Religion, tradition, and spirituality are recurring themes, evident in the "Mami Wata" capsule collection featured in the exhibition.

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Mami Wata, a powerful water spirit in West African folklore, is woven into Dumi's designs, bridging the gap between her British upbringing and Nigerian heritage. This fusion of cultural influences makes her work both personal and deeply evocative.


Dumi was on the cover of British Vogue in January alongside other designers of African descent making waves in fashion, Tolu Coker and Priya Ahluwalia. 

Thebe Magugu: Reimagining Folktales

South African designer Thebe Magugu is another exciting voice included in the exhibition. A piece from his AW23 "Folklorics" collection finds a place among the stunning garments.

This collection draws inspiration from South African folktales and legends, specifically the story of sirens and the mythical water spirit "Mongwa Wa Letsa."



The shipwreck print featured in Magugu's work uses allegory to represent these tales. It reflects the designer's childhood experiences, where warnings about water spirits instilled a healthy respect for nature's power and mystery.

By weaving these stories into his designs, Magugu creates a conversation between the past and present, reminding us of the enduring power of folklore.

Why This Matters: Celebrating a Wider World



The inclusion of the Torishéju and Thebe Magugu brands in the "Sleeping Beauties" exhibition is a significant step forward for the fashion industry. For too long, the narrative of fashion has been dominated by a single, Western perspective. By showcasing the work of African designers, the Met acknowledges the immense contribution of African culture to the global fashion landscape.



This recognition allows a wider audience to appreciate the unique stories and aesthetics that African designers bring to the table. It's a celebration of diversity and a powerful message that fashion is a language spoken by people from all corners of the world.

Images: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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