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Fashion students flock to compete for Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award

Vega’s Aliyah Hassim with model Cera Perigadu showcasing her interpretation with a golden crowned crane for this year’s Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award competition. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

Vega’s Aliyah Hassim with model Cera Perigadu showcasing her interpretation with a golden crowned crane for this year’s Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award competition. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

Published Jun 14, 2021


Durban - Hotly contested by young fashion designers across KwaZulu-Natal, the Vodacom Durban July (VDJ) Young Designer Award, presented by Durban Fashion Fair, will showcase finalists’ work on the runway at Gateway Theatre of Shopping on June 29.

Second-year students at fashion schools have been working feverishly on their designs creating race day outfits based on the 2021 theme, Birds Of A Feather,

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This week 20 students from four design colleges were named as semi-finalists, who will now compete for the coveted finalist line-up.

On the five-member panel of judges, fashion designer Greg Wallis said 73 entries had been whittled down to the 20 semi-finalists from whom the finalists and the eventual winner will be chosen.

With the Durban University of Technology, whose students normally make a strong showing, absent from this year’s event, Wallis said he was excited to see the emergence of fashion design talent from newer colleges in the region.

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Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion’s Vincent Orishedere with model Felizo Makhathini. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

“It is quite amazing how every year the students rise to the occasion and no matter what the theme is, they interpret it in their own way and I must say the research and thought which have gone into the outfits this year was quite incredible,” said Wallis.

He added that there were exciting entries from new colleges which featured in the top 20.

“The energy and excitement among the students was incredible and when the semi-finalists were announced, the way the students came together, whether they had won or lost, was overwhelming.

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“It reinforces the fact that Durban is a real hotbed of fashion design and it never fails us,” said Wallis.

The Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion took seven of the 20 semi-finalist places and creative design lecturer, Martin Steenkamp, said his students took two months from concept to product during their second year.

Having won the award himself in 2016, as well as being a VDJ invited designer in 2018 and 2019, Steenkamp said researching and interpreting the theme were crucial.

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“Creative direction is the love of my life, I can do it all day, every day. I enjoy watching how our students interpret and design themes they are given,” he said, adding that from concept to creating a tangible product was “the beauty of fashion”.

Inspired by the tale of the ’Ugly Duckling’, Acsha Pietersen from the Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion puts the final touches to her design, modelled by Kayla Lindsay. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

“This year’s theme, ’Birds of a Feather’, is open and wide and has allowed students to explore mythological and cultural interpretations,” he said, highlighting one such example by student Acsha Pietersen, whose design came from the tale of the Ugly Duckling.

Vega Fashion School’s lecturer Keegan Naidoo said his second-year students had put in a huge effort for this year’s competition, with Tashriq Chanderlal and Aliyah Hassim making it into the to 20.

“Aliyah painted an East African golden crowned crane on duchess satin, she’s a brilliant artist and I was so impressed. Tashriq went for a deconstructed cage look to compare being restricted during lockdown to birds trapped in a cage.

“Fashion is about art, history and culture, it’s beautiful storytelling. You tell a story through visuals, as well as showcasing individuality and style. I absolutely love it.

“To win the VDJ Young Designer Award does wonders for any young designer’s career,” said Naidoo.

The 20 semi-finalists are Phumlani Buthulezi, Nomfundo Meyiwa, Acsha Pietersen, Vincent Orishedere, Nombulelo Ngcobo, Lindeka Duma, Thando Nguse (Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion); Mlungisi Mpanza, S'busiswe Dube, Nomathemba Zikhali, Portia Mkhize, Bernadine Singh, Zandile Mahlasela (Lindiwe Khuzwayo Academy of Fashion Design); Qhubekani Nzimande, Silindile Mzobe, Sduduzo Ntanzi, Gcina Ngcoya, Simangele Ngcobo (Fezile Fashion Skills Academy) and Tashriq Chanderlal, Aliyah Hassim (Vega).

The 2021 Vodacom Durban July takes place at Hollywoodbets Greyville Racecourse on Saturday, July 3. For more information, go to

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