As they head into the final furlong before the first round of judging in the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award presented by Durban Fashion Fair, students at all the major design colleges and technikons are starting to put the final touches to their garments designed around the theme “Stars Of Africa” ahead of the judging D-Day on 3 June.

The annual competition, which is open to all fashion design students registered at recognised tertiary fashion institutions in KwaZulu-Natal has a strong track record for unearthing emerging star designers, and each of the colleges has success stories from this competition on which to build their students aspirations.

The Durban University of Technology has been a traditional powerhouse in the student designers competition, and boasts last year’s champion Georgina Brink, adding to a long list of successes at the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award.

“The Vodacom Durban July Young Designer theme ‘Stars of Africa’ has sparked much excitement and enthusiasm among our group of second year students at DUT,” said Helen Smith, a second year student coordinator and Creative Design lecturer.

“This competition is always greatly anticipated by students as they are keen for the opportunity of showcasing their work on such a broad platform. Students are motivated by past successes in the competition and are hopeful of achieving as highly this year.

“Our students found the theme close to home this year and enjoyed researching and sharing information and stories inspired by their own cultures and/or heritage,” she added.

“Approaching the theme from a personal viewpoint has really helped students connect with and enjoy the research and design process for this competition,” said Smith.

The Lindiwe Kuzwayo School of Fashion also has a proud pedigree of producing stand-out student designers, and COO Kwame Kuzwayo says the class of 2019 is hard at work, with hopes of securing a number of places in the top 25.

“Our students are all excited about the theme and they have various concepts regarding this year’s theme,” said Kuzwayo.

“The one challenge they have is finance but most of them have made preparations a long time ago. We are also trying our best to assist where we can if students need help with brainstorming ideas,” he added.

Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion head Priscilla Bhika has a number of heroes that her current students look up to, including Martin Steenkamp and 2016 winner Leona Pillay.

“Our students have explored this theme “Stars Of Africa” with enthusiasm and great zest,” said Bhika. “We are very excited about their ideas and the innovative content that they have brought forward thus far.

She added that the competition was a vital building block in any aspiring designers career.

“This competition showcases our very own country as a platform for any designer who will be chosen to go abroad and be proud to showcase African fashion. We are very excited to see the finished garments as the competition is drawing closer,” she added.