Sandy Day in her studio at her Durban North home wearing a hat she is busy creating for a friend for this year’s Vodacom Durban July. Picture: Leon Lestrade
Sandy Day in her studio at her Durban North home wearing a hat she is busy creating for a friend for this year’s Vodacom Durban July. Picture: Leon Lestrade
Designer Sandy Day with some of her fashion sketches in the early years of her career.
Designer Sandy Day with some of her fashion sketches in the early years of her career.
One of the designs Sandy Day showcased at her launch in July 1971 at the Oyster Box Hotel.
One of the designs Sandy Day showcased at her launch in July 1971 at the Oyster Box Hotel.
A Sandy Day design that won photographer Richard Shorey a photographic award
A Sandy Day design that won photographer Richard Shorey a photographic award
One of Day’s show-stopping creations.
One of Day’s show-stopping creations.
A Sandy Day design for the launch of a bust modelled from X-rays of an Egyptian mummy at the Durban Science Museum in the early 1980s. For fabric she used  hundreds of  metres of bandages.
A Sandy Day design for the launch of a bust modelled from X-rays of an Egyptian mummy at the Durban Science Museum in the early 1980s. For fabric she used hundreds of metres of bandages.
Models Michelle Hauser and June Schmahmann with Day at the Durban July in the 1970s.
Models Michelle Hauser and June Schmahmann with Day at the Durban July in the 1970s.
Sandy Day at another July in the same decade in the 70s.
Sandy Day at another July in the same decade in the 70s.
A candid photograph of Sandy Day in the late 70s or early 80s.
A candid photograph of Sandy Day in the late 70s or early 80s.
A dress Day designed for the Durban July in the early noughties that got a lot of coverage.
A dress Day designed for the Durban July in the early noughties that got a lot of coverage.
Buddy and Sandy Day at their official wedding reception to celebrate their 50th on the MS Melody in 2011. The couple eloped in 1961.
Buddy and Sandy Day at their official wedding reception to celebrate their 50th on the MS Melody in 2011. The couple eloped in 1961.
Durban - "I have always enjoyed fashion. It is unashamedly romantic. I just love creating those elegant almost fairy-tale looks,” designer Sandy Day tells me from the studio of her Durban North home, where she’s busy completing a dramatic oversized black and white race-day hat for a good friend.

It’s a room filled with garments and hats, designs pinned all over the wall, black and white photographs and beautiful objects Day has made and then there’s her memorabilia.

I am shown a letter from Nelson Mandela thanking her for a fund-raising fashion show and the crystal champagne glasses given to her by the racing fraternity for her work in setting up the July Fashion Showcase.

Day was born in Potchef- stroom and started out as a artist and a signwriter in Johannesburg at OK Bazaars and John Orrs. Here she met her husband Buddy. “We fell in love and I decided to run away with him. We eloped (to Durban) in 1961,” Day says.

It was only some 50 years later that they had their actual wedding ceremony.

Buddy and Sandy Day at their official wedding reception to celebrate their 50th on the MS Melody in 2011. They eloped in 1961.


“It was a Hollywood romance organised aboard the Melody cruise ship to celebrate our golden wedding.

“They turned a function room into a delightful chapel and there was a beautiful cake and I made my own dress from a beautiful antique wedding dress,” Day says. “The captain even gave us another cruise for our honeymoon.”

The couple ended up back in Joburg where together they worked in a satellite Walt Disney studio to promote Disney movies. She would do the drawings and he the animation. But Durban became their home in the mid-’60s when Buddy was transferred here.

Designer Sandy Day with some of her fashion sketches in the early years of her career.


Day tells how she got into the fashion industry. “I used to do illustrations for books, and people liked the way I dressed. Would I make clothes for them?

“I used to make my own clothes for myself out of the off-cuts. I once made an absolute hit out of 1.5 metres of curtain lining,” she says.

Before she eloped, her father bought her a sewing machine and while staying in Joburg’s YWCA, she would do alterations for her friends.

“It was my mum who taught me that necessity is the mother of invention.” she says. “And I took it to heart. If you don’t have money to buy it, make it.”

It was in 1971, two weeks after the July that Day had her first show in the Pearl Room at the Oyster Box.

One of the designs Sandy Day showcased at her launch in July 1971 at the Oyster Box Hotel.

“I designed, sewed, beaded and embroidered 42 garments myself. Plus I dressed my models, Monica Dredge, Sybil Buck, Hazel Bennett and Lesley Slater. It was a dream come true.

“I was very inspired by Valentino, by Yves St Laurent. It took incredible courage - I was never taught. Yet I taught.”

At almost 80 Day is still giving classes, teaching groups of woman how to make garments without a pattern.

Day, along with Debbie Davidson, were instrumental in setting up the July Fashion Showcase as a formal event.

A dress Day designed for the Durban July in the early noughties that got a lot of coverage.


She has designed for good friends Penny Coelen Rey (Miss World 1958) and Judy Page (actress), as well as making costumes for Napac.

She tells of the 1959 Rand Show, when she was chosen as one of six princesses to support Penny Rey.

“During the day I was signwriting, and here I was up a ladder painting an 2.4m peach for Koo, and then that evening, stepping into all the glamour.”

A Sandy Day design that won photographer Richard Shorey a photographic award

In her youth, Day was a photographic model. There’s a centrefold from Keur magazine with her on the beach modelling the latest bikinis.

She is also an artist and sculptress - an impromptu tour of her home reveals her paintings on the staircase.

Day designed for an old schoolfriend Marike de Klerk, former wife of former president FW de Klerk, in the ’80s, and has made outfits for Zulu Queen Ntofombi.

And she designed jewellery for Welsh singer Dame Shirley Bassey, and dressed another Miss South African-turned-Miss World, Anneline Kriel.

One of Day’s show-stopping creations.

Day has done extensive work for charity, especially Reach for A Dream and other children’s charities, and helped with the Princess for a Day event at Wylie House.

In the ’80s, Day created ranges for the annual Natal Mercury Durban Designer Collection, which showcased the city’s finest design talent.

She worked with many of city’s young designers, today established names in the fashion industry, and “retired” by launching her last range in 2016 at the Helenic Hall.

“Valentino had a 45-year career and I though so should I,” she says, although she shows little sign of slowing down.

“I could not have had such a wonderful and eclectic career without the support of Buddy,” she says.

A Sandy Day design for the launch of a bust modelled from X-rays of an Egyptian mummy at the Durban Science Museum in the early 1980s. For fabric she used hundreds of metres of bandages.

As for the future: “I would like to see elegance and sophistication come back, along with the charisma and pizzazz.

“But I’m handing it over to the millennials with love.”