Riding a wave of enthusiasm and perseverance students from the Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion were the biggest winners when the ten finalists in the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award presented by Durban Fashion Fair were announced.

Encouraged by the successes in previous years of Martin Steenkamp and Leona Pillay, who won the competition in 2016, the Pietermaritzburg students dominated the list of finalists released on Wednesday afternoon.

The competition has been traditionally been the domain of Durban fashion colleges, but this year Durban University of Technology and the Lindiwe Khuzwayo Academy of Fashion secured three places in the top ten each.

“It has been a very difficult year for the student designers, with the technikons and colleges closed under the lockdown,” said fashion programme director Tiffany Prior.

“During lockdown we have been aware of the enthusiasm amongst the students and the immense importance that they place on the competition, which has helped kick-start the careers of numerous well-known names in the local fashion industry.

“The fact that there is such an event balance between the design colleges is a very healthy sign for the fashion industry in KwaZulu-Natal,” said Prior.

“We might have been forgiven in expecting the quality of the entry to be slightly lower than usual, but it was in fact the opposite,” she added.

“The standard was exceptional, which is remarkable considering that the students didn’t have access to their lecturers or the equipment and machinery at their colleges,” said Prior.

“Martin Steenkamp, who has come through the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award programme is now part of the driving force at the Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion, and winning almost half of the top ten places is an exciting reward for their enthusiasm and tenacity during a very difficult year.”

“The judges could see the impact that design mentors like Gideon and Gian Paulo Brezolin had in the high standard of the DUT entries and Kwame Khuzwayo on the Lindiwe Khuzwayo Academy of Fashion finalists,” she said.

“It has been a depressing lockdown, but what we have witnessed in this competition this year has really lifted our spirits,” Prior concluded.

The ten finalists of the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award presented by Durban Fashion Fair:
Esme Tibinyane, Nomathemba Dlamini, Nelisa Ndlovu, Mamello Putsoane (all Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion), Silungile Dlamini, Goodness Sithole, Caleb Moodley (all Durban University of Technology), Namisa Mavuma, Ayanda Khoza, Thandeka Mthembu (all Lindiwe Khuzwayo Academy of Fashion).