The Vodacom Durban July Fashion Experience has added a brand new element to its popular pre-raceday fashion shows with the formalisation of a new category that harnesses some of the best designers to have emerged from the Fashion Experience programme since 2005.
“This is something we have talked about for some time,” said Vodacom Durban July Fashion Experience Programme director Tiffany Prior.
“There are so many Durban designers who have a rich, long running association with the Vodacom Durban July, putting together a category that celebrates what the Vodacom Durban July Fashion Experience has done for them as fashion designers was always going to be a winner,” she said.
“Some of them are former winners of the pre-raceday competitions, while others have been loyal supporters of the raceday fashion competitions. What they all have in common is they are all amazing and successful designers with deep roots in the Vodacom Durban July Fashion Experience, thanks to the Gold Circle team.
Designer Brenda Quin has been involved with the Vodacom Durban July for over a decade.
“The themes have always added a fun element to raceday and certainly kept you thinking out the box,” said Quin. “It is the categories of Best Dressed Couple and Best Ladieswear plus the Avant Garde section that draw me back each year.
“I have taken part in raceday fashion competitions, showcased as an Invited Designer on numerous occasions and I have also had the privilege of showcasing at many of the preraceday shows,” she added
“I was due to graduate from college later that year, unaware that the subsequent trip down from Bloemfontein to Durban would be the catalyst of a series of events that would forever alter the trajectory of my career and personal life,” says Lues.
She has participated as an Invited Designer twice before and continues to contribute garments to each year’s event either via the raceday fashion program or by dressing attending celebrity clients such as DJ Zinhle.
“It was indeed a humbling experience and I will forever be grateful for it, I can’t wait to be a part of this beautiful tradition again and again,” he said.
Another former winner of the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award, Leona Pillay, has accepted a place to show in The Timeless Collection. The pride of the Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion when she won in 2016, Pillay has now established her label ‘Lordes’.
“My prize for winning the Young Designer competition was a trip to New York City, where I was blown away,” recalls Pillay.
“It is an inspirational experience, full of excitement, creativity and celebration,” says Clark.
“I am honoured to be a part of this amazing fashion experience, so rest assured – as always – that I will be bringing my best game!”
Martin Steenkamp shot through the ranks of the DUT student designers and has since worked with some of the industries luminaries.
He was runner-up in the Fashion Challenge last year, having been a finalist in the Young Designer competition and a winner of the raceday Best Menswear Ensemble competition.
“The Vodacom Durban July has always been a platform that allows designers to be expressive and fashionably creative,” said the Durbanite.
Racine Denny was bitten by the Vodacom Durban July fashion bug as a student at DUT, where she made the finals of the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award as a third year, and then in her final year used the Fashion Challenge platform as part of her dissertation.
“I wanted to test out a dress created from a fabric that I had made if it would, firstly be accepted into top ten, and from there how the audience and judges would react to the fabric.
“I had great media coverage and feedback and once again the Vodacom Durban July exposed me to all of the magic that goes on behind the scenes and the hype and build-up of the raceday competitions.
“I was as a second year Psychology student attending the event. I remember walking past the fashion shows and being so excited and wishing that I could take part.
“A few years later I was in first year studying fashion at DUT, and I modelled for a friend of mine who entered the Young Designer competition, and we ended up winning it! It was then I decided that my third year goal would be to win the competition too.”
She won it in 2014, scooping a trip to the London Graduate Fashion Week, and was bowled over to be chosen as one of the Invited Designers last year.
From a finalist in the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award as an enthusiastic student, she has also been an Invited Designer and has also regularly served as a respected judge.
“The most challenging Vodacom Durban July assignment I had was when I entered the Fashion Challenge in 2014,” she recalls. “I had to push myself to the limit and finished first runner up. It was very interesting because I was the one being judged!”
Skye Pengelly is another former winner of the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award. After her trip to the London Graduate Fashion Week she started a career as a buyer for a major South African retailer, where she became fixated with the reality that many retail garments were being made abroad.
“Why were all the garments in stores made in China when we had a rich mix of cultures and incredible talent in our very own country?” she asked.
She had a dream and a vision to provide fair and ethical conditions for the labourers to work in producing locally made clothing, and started Pengelly, a locally and ethically produced ready to wear brand.
The ten designer chosen for The Timeless Collection are Brenda Quin, Hanrie Lues, Katekani Moreku, Leona Pillay, Madelain Clark, Martin Steenkamp, Racine Lyle Meredith Denny, Sibu Msimang, Sadie Bosworth-Smith and Skye Pengelly.