143 completed outfits from student designers representing seven different design colleges and technikons gave the judges at the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award presented by Durban Fashion Fair a real headache as they battled into the night to reduce the entry to 25 semi-finalists.
Whoops and cheers greeted the news of successful students progressing to the next stage, while for others the weeks of conceptualising their designs based on the theme “Stars of Africa” ended in disappointment, and hopefully a learning process.
Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion scooped the lion’s share of the places in the semi-finals, as the city’s thriving design college, mastered by Martin Steenkamp, continued to grow as a force in this prestigious competition.
The students lived up to their reputation for thinking out-of-the-box and trying challenging garment construction techniques, using material that included porcupine quills, traditional tribal prints and even national flags, cable-ties, climbing ropes, brightly coloured beading, straw matting, leather and even a sixties-styled reed curtain.
The panel of judges, which included Durban design stalwarts Greg Wallace, Sindi Shangase and Kathrin Kidger, felt that the African-rooted theme had sparked an enthusiasm in the students that had never been seen before.
“We have never ever seen the level of excellence in the interpretation of the theme,” said programme director Tiffany Prior. “The depth and exploration in the individual interpretations of the theme was simply staggering. It is unparalleled in the history of this competition.”
“There is such a massive cultural diversity to tap into in, not only South Africa, but across the entire African continent,” she added. “The end result was an entry that was totally vibrant and inspiring, and it made the judges job very difficult this year.
“There were beautiful elements of colourful beadwork, handcrafted detailing, self-designed and printed fabrics – it was exceptional,” said Prior.
“There was a huge leaning towards reflecting the power of the women of Africa as a trend this year, and Queen Nandi was a recurrent inspiration.”
She added that the increase in the number of entries from some of the colleges that have been on the fringe of this competition had been matched by a dramatic increase in the quality of the work from the students.
The semi finalists in the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award presented by Durban Fashion Fair:
Nontokozo Mpangase, Nandi Gwala, Sibuyiselwa Sithole, Mamello Putsoane, Nosipho Ngcobo, Noxolo Ngabane, Nonjabulo Mfuphi, Nelile Mzobe, Ayanda Ndlovu, Esme Tibinyane, Mthobisi Hlongwane, Thandeka Radebe, Siyabonga Phakathi (all Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion), Fumane Moshesh, Tanyaradzwa Tirivanhu, Wandile Mbhele, Slungile Dlamini, Siphiwo Buthelezi, Nomasonto Nkosi (all DUT), Nompumelelo Mjadu, Makhosazane Ntshangase, Nonsikelelo Mbeje, Lushaba Sipho, Bongekile Funeka, Thobile Dlamini (all Lindiwe Khuzwayo Academy of Fashion Design).
The Vodacom Durban July takes place at Greyville Racecourse on Saturday 6 July 2019. More information can be found at www.vodacomdurbanjuly.co.za