Student fashion designer Sonto Mthembu secured a notable back-to-back win for the Lindiwe Khuzwayo Academy of Fashion when she won the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award presented by Durban Fashion Fair on Tuesday afternoon.

Parading their outfits in front of a a handful of invited guests instead of the packed auditorium that has become a hallmark of the student designer competition, the ten finalists showed their outfits inspired by the raceday ‘Butterflies” theme before the judges announced the top three student designers.

Mthembu’s striking white outfit with unique shimmering arm drapings was inspired by an unusual foray into lepidoperology as she became fascinated with a very specific butterfly that became the inspiration for her garment.

“On January the 28th a very special butterfly was seen, both here and in Johannesburg,” she explained. “For me it was striking and it brought life, even though we were about to be gripped by this pandemic,” she explained.

Emotion overwhelmed Mthembu when she was announced as the winner of the prestigious competition that brought with it R10 000 in cash, an array of prizes and a trip to SA Fashion Week next year, as her mother Judith Gumede had made the trip down from Eshowe to watch her daughter in the finals.

“That was the most exciting part,” she gushed, admitting that the tears she shed on the ramp when she was announced as the winner had a lot to do with the mother being in the small audience in the room. “She was determined to come and celebrate the day with me.” said Mthembu.

Mthembu said that making up her elaborate outfit had taken over a month, hampered during the lockdown by the lack of access to the industrial sewing machines they used at their design college, and her lecturers.

“It was the worst! There was so much material and I had to use a domestic sewing machine and it took forever!” she explained.

Namisa Mavuma, also from the Lindiwe Khuzwayo Academy of Fashion was named second runner up, with second place going to Mamello Putsoane from the Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion.

The win follows the awarding of the 2019 title to fellow Lindiwe Kuzwayo Academy of Fashion student Makhosazane Ntshangase.

“I hope this gives every single student that entered this competition hope. They all did so well, especially this year,” said Mthembu.

“I know they will be very excited at Lindiwe Khuzwayo Academy of Fashion. She is clearly doing something goods there!” she added.

The winner walks away with an all-expenses paid trip the SA Fashion Week 2021, R10 000 in cash from Schweppes and Gold Circle, a R5000 Gateway Theatre of Shopping gift voucher, a Samsung Galaxy S9 and a R2500 Kryolan gift voucher.

The first runner-up takes home R3000 in cash from Schweppes and Gold Circle, a R2000 Gateway Theatre of Shopping gift voucher and a R1800 Kyolan gift voucher. The second runner-up gets R 2000.00 in cash from Schweppes and Gold Circle, a R1000 Gateway Theatre of Shopping gift voucher and a R1200 Kryolan gift voucher.

Each of the ten finalists gets R2000 in cash from Schweppes and Gold Circle, and 5GB of data from Vodacom. The top three students will also be integrated into the Durban Fashion Fair mentorship programme in 2021 and included in their future shows.