This is the design that won Leona Pillay, right, the Vodacom Durban July young designer award in 2016. Picture: Independent Media
DURBAN - When Pietermaritzburg-based student fashion designer Leona Pillay won a coveted competition at last year's Vodacom Durban July, her life changed forever.

Her prize for winning the Young Designer Award, presented by Durban Fashion Fair, was a trip to New York to attend the New York Fashion Week with the Vodacom Durban July Fashion Programme director Tiffany Prior.

“Winning the trip to New York City was not only a dream come true, but a feeling I couldn't contain,” said Pillay after she returned from the US fashion capital.

“I still get emotional thinking about it. Everything I did on the trip I had never done before,” she said.

After flying first class to the Big Apple on Delta Airlines, Pillay went to a show, got close up with garments on the rail and gained knowledge about African-American design history.

“One day, I walked into the department store Saks Fifth Avenue and was blown away by branded garments being so crisp and stitched to perfection. I said to Tiffany: ‘If this is heaven, I’m so ready to die’.”

She said she learned that fashion was exciting and that “it is is okay to say you don't know; it just means there is room to learn”.

She said that as a fashion designer, she would never be the same again and urged other aspiring young student designers to get involved in the competition.

“It's a massive growth and learning experience,” said Pillay, who studies at the Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion Design.

This year's Vodacom Durban July is on July 1.

Daily News