Hollywoodbets Durban July Young Designer Award to launch many fashion careers

The top student designs entered into the Hollywoodbets Durban July Young Designer Award were recently shortlisted to 25 exceptional creations that have now progressed to the semi-final stages of the competition.

The top student designs entered into the Hollywoodbets Durban July Young Designer Award were recently shortlisted to 25 exceptional creations that have now progressed to the semi-final stages of the competition.

Published Jun 17, 2022


The increased Hollywoodbets bursary prizes for the top three winners of the Hollywoodbets Durban July Young Designer Award, presented by Durban Fashion Fair, are the much-needed capital investments to pave the way for sustainable fashion careers.

The top 25 students from fashion design colleges and technikons across KwaZulu-Natal were recently shortlisted from an initial pool of 110 entrants. And they now stand in line to access the opportunity of a lifetime if they make it into the next round of the top 10 students who will showcase their designs at the Hollywoodbets Durban July on July 2.

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If history is anything to go by, this year’s top three winners can rest assured they have all the ingredients necessary to catapult themselves into South Africa’s fashion industry - and possibly onto international runways, too.

Looking at the impact that winning the Hollywoodbets Durban July Young Designer Award had on the careers of former students, it’s easy to see how this prestigious award was the catalyst for launching their successful eponymous labels.

Former Young Designer Award winner, Lara Klawikowski pinpoints her 2008 win as the precise event that lead to her launching her label a year after she had won. “I am really quite shy, and winning the Young Designer Award gave me a massive confidence boost,” explains the Cape Town-based designer.

“Attending the London Graduate Fashion Week as part of my prize back then gave me great perspective on how I measured up internationally. I came away from that experience firmly believing that I could indeed start my own label, and so I did just that. The moment I returned to South Africa, I went about setting up my label.”

Confidence in hand, one thing led to the next and soon Klawikowski entered and won another competition. The R30 000 prize money became the funding to buy machines, rails and ironing boards, among other equipment, towards setting up a little design studio for herself.

“I find it so fascinating that an entire career can be kick-started by a physical item of clothing - which in my case was the origami seagulls and coral print themed skirt with a moss corset that I designed for the Durban July in 2008 and then the SACTWU Condom Dress.

“I’ve heard many designers say that it usually is ‘that one dress’ that makes you famous and becomes the piece that you are remembered for, which now holds true for me too.

The Hollywoodbets Durban July Young Designer Award competition once again inspired design students to create exquisite raceday outfits following this year’s sweet theme, “Show me the honey”.

“Looking back, it was indeed winning the Hollywoodbets Durban July Young Designer Award that planted the seed that a fully-fledged career in fashion was possible. All I needed to do was figure out the how,” says Klawikowski.

Although the path to fashion design (after dropping out of a research psychology Master’s degree) was slightly different for 2014 winner Sadie Bosworth, the story behind the success of her luxe bridal Sadie Bosworth Atelier label is not too dissimilar from Klawikowski’s.

“Winning the Young Designer Award in 2014 was a momentous moment that played a major part in shaping my career. It was the marquee event in my early days that gave me the confidence to start my own business,” says Bosworth.

Being asked to be part of the Invited Designer Showcase for the Durban July in 2017 - just three years after winning the Young Designer Award - remains one of the biggest early highlights for the former Durban University of Technology (DUT) student.

“I felt deeply honoured, as I was still working as a part-time lecturer to fund my business while designing and sewing from my bedroom. Yet there I was, invited to showcase my work alongside the likes of KLûK CGDT, who were among the top designers in South Africa in early 2000s and who I had followed in fashion magazines for years when I was younger and dreaming of a career in fashion.

“It was the perfect morale booster, which allowed me to see the next phase in the evolution of building my Sadie Bosworth Atelier label. The very next month after the showcase, I took a massive leap of faith and moved into a studio to focus all my attention on running my fledgling label at the time and turn it into a business,” she says.

Recent 2020 Durban July Young Designer Award winner, Sonto Mthembu’s journey inspires too, albeit in a whole different way.

When Hollywoodbets and Durban Fashion Fair invited Mthembu to attend SA Fashion Week earlier this year as part of her winner’s prize, it further inspired her dream of one day seeing her label on the runway at the prestigious showcase in the future. Mthembu, who works as a police constable half of the week and feverishly refines her fashion design skills during the other half, became the 2020 Durban July Young Designer Award winner after just one year at the Lindiwe Khuzwayo Academy of Fashion at the time.

“At age 38, I would perhaps have been an unlikely candidate to win, as compared to my fellow students I was completely new to the industry and had just started my design schooling. I decided to finally put my long-time creative passion for design to the test. All I knew is that I am an artist and everything I did, I made sure I perfected - so I took a chance to enter the awards,” shares an enthusiastic Mthembu.

Former Young Designer Award winner, Lara Klawikowski.

“Winning the award became the start of history in the making. It literally changed my life and has turned my world around. Since that first door opened, they haven’t stopped opening,” she says.

Some of the doors Mthembu refers to include invitations by her local municipality, schools and even the Mayor of Eshowe, inviting her to give inspirational talks or offering her opportunities to showcase her work for future commissions.

Hailing from small town Eshowe near Richards Bay, Mthembu is passionate about seeing young people from her area have a local fashion design school right in the heart of the community in future. “When you’re from what is considered the farmlands, it can be hard to imagine dreaming big, as people often think that life begins and ends there.

“The Hollywoodbets Durban July Young Designer Award really builds a designer. My dream is to use my opportunity to inspire young people to expand themselves, learn a skill, get into sewing or fashion, as it can be a springboard to a whole career if they put their hearts into it and work hard,” she says.

Although each unique in their respective experiences, Klawikowski, Bosworth and Mthembu’s stories all carry a common theme: the paths to their successes align with the very reason the Hollywood Foundation invested in the awards.

“Encouraging educational growth and nurturing young talent is at the forefront of why we established the Hollywood Foundation bursary fund programme called the Future is Bright,” says Hollywoodbets Group Transformation Manager, Babongile Mkhize.

The business supports 290 students across the country with tertiary funding towards studies in line with their fast-paced and digital business operation as Hollywoodbets. This includes technology, marketing and finance-related studies, as well as those aligned to the sponsorships they invest in.

“We were so moved by the lasting impact of the Hollywoodbets Young Designer Award that it became our deciding factor for increasing the prize money from R10 000, R3 000 and R2 000 to R50 000, R30 000 and R20 000 bursaries towards the tuition fees of the top three winners of the Hollywoodbets Durban July Young Designer Award when we became title sponsor of the Hollywoodbets Durban July,” Mkhize says.

The sponsorship of this fashion award is in line with the company’s investment pillars of the Hollywoodbets Foundation and its commitment to celebrate arts and culture in South Africa.

“The way we approach funding is to see a student through their entire tertiary journey by providing the funding for the duration of their studies, where after we offer an internship within our business to help them kick-start their careers. We truly want to see young people succeed, so it is a full journey through to employment.

“Similarly, with the young designers, one day we will be looking to give these same students an opportunity to be involved with the Hollywoodbets Durban July, possibly even designing future collections for the event,” concludes Mkhize.

With the top 25 Young Designer students raring for a top 10 spot, and then much like the equines on raceday, hoping to make it onto the winners’ podium on Saturday July 2, the public can look forward to seeing exquisite raceday outfits inspired by this year’s “Show me the honey” theme.

The Hollywoodbets Durban July will be run at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday, July 2. You can register for an account today and get your bets in here.

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