When I first heard of the theme of the Hollywoodbets Durban July, I immediately thought about the Alexander McQueen Spring Summer 2013 collection. It was a celebration of all things bees. The models glided down the Paris runway in their garments inspired by honeycomb motifs and wearing bee-keeper veiled hats.
I remembered it because it brought a wave of trypophobia, and I have never forgotten it. And yet it is one of my favourite collections from Sarah Burton, the custodian of the iconic British brand. It was young and yet had a regal, Elizabethan feel to it, which rendered it timeless.
If any of the attendees at this year's Durban July would wear the collection, they would be spot on with the theme, which demands one to think outside the box and not be literal.
This year's theme is Show Me The Honey. There are many ways to interpret the theme, from the fluidity of honey, the colour, the texture of a bee, and its hive.
I am already thinking of the Zac Posen designed 3D dress that Nina Dobrev wore to the 2019 Met Gala. It was a 3D printed dress that looked like it was glass. It looked like crystallised honey.
Insider spoke to stylist and fashion entrepreneur, Mthokozisi 'Swenka' Chiyi about the theme, what it means and how to interpret it.
What are your thoughts on 'Show Me The Honey'?
I am in two minds about it, really. I have attended the Durban July since 2004, not only as an attendee but an active participant on the day. So, it has been 18 years of years of being involved deeply with what the July is all about. In recent years, there has been a focus on birds and butterflies, and now it's bees. It's a far cry from some of the themes that had meaning and made us think, like how 2004 was Over The Rainbow.
In previous years, we have had Games Other People Play, It's Showtime, The Big Screen and A Shore Thing. So when I think about those themes and how diverse they were, Show Me The Honey is not as interesting. We could have done more and done better and fresher.
Compared to previous years, does this allow for greater success on the fashion front?
Look, I am going to sound contradictory. While it's all linked to previous themes about birds and butterflies, this year's theme does have the potential for something unique and different. It's important to remember that we have three different types of attendees of the Durban July. People who go for the fashion competition, those who go because of their social standing and the punters. I expect those in the fashion industry to go deep in giving something new, different and not literal.
What are some ideas that people can think of when interpreting the theme?
If you think about fashion and design, you think silhouette, structures, proportions. If you are given a theme, your interpretation is first looking at the colours, the shape, etc. It won't be surprising that many people will think of the honeycomb and beehive, 1920s style Art Deco prints, or the shape of a bottle of honey. And then you think of the actual bee as an insect, its colours and textures. So don't limit yourself and be literal.
Think about how the whole process of making honey. I hope people will approach it inside out and think and be inspired by their culture. Fashion is about time and place. Think about your location and the era we are in today.
Men usually stick to a suit and tie. How can they have fun with the theme while still looking event appropriate?
It's going to take for men to think out of the box, but without doing too much. There are hexagon print ties. There are designs, textures and patterns that look like a honeycomb. If it's too much for them, then they can focus on the colours. The palette presents you with an opportunity to play around with them.
This article first appeared in Sunday Insider, March 13, 2022