Education is the Key to the Future

The Butan team is incredibly proud of Ms Nonduduzo Ngcobo who graduated cum laude with a Masters degree in Social Sciences for her research titled: “Fashioning Meaning: The Graphic T-shirts of Butan Wear and Magents Lifestyle Apparel as Socio-Cultural Communication about South Africa”.

‘A study of fashion might seem trivial – after all, fashion is often thought of as the fickle pass time of the image obsessed,’ said Ngcobo. ‘Academics once also took this stance, with early fashion theorists often engaging with the study of fashion as the leisure activity of the wealthy.

‘However, contemporary academic studies view fashion as a means of articulating social status, belonging and personal expression.’

Her dissertation explored the graphic T-shirts of two South African brands Butan Wear and Magents Lifestyle Apparel, to expand this notion.

Ngcobo argued that clothing can be analysed as a fashion designer’s narrative about the lived reality of their consumers. An analysis of the T-shirts revealed that both brands balance their consumers’ needs and personal creativity in designing shirts that serve as representation of their clients’ social reality.

‘Both brands use the fashion system as a channel and their garments, media and design as a message conveying meaning about social realities of the collective identities that exist in present day South Africa. Butan Wear, a street-wear brand synonymous with South African hip-hop culture, draws from global and local hip-hop and popular culture in creating T-shirts that are reflective of their consumers’ zeitgeist,’ said Ngcobo.

‘The brand amalgamates global and local hip-hop culture in the production of the shirts that serve as narratives about South Africans negotiating their identity in a contemporary globalised country. Magents Lifestyle Apparel, a ready-to-wear label referring to clients as Konscious Warriors, create T-shirts that draw from ideological narratives without being overtly political.

‘The brand’s creative use of colours and witty phrases that accompany their depictions of South African struggle veterans serve as narratives of how the past influences the construction and maintenance of identity in post-apartheid South Africa,’ said Ngcobo.

She advised other students to work hard and thanked her family, friends and supervisor, Dr Lauren Dyll, for their support and guidance.

Author: Melissa Mungroo

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