Travel to Lagos and Cape Town. It’s Durban’s turn to dazzle the continent’s fashion fraternity.
DURBAN, IN KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in South Africa, is known for many things – the sun, the sea and the food, but certainly not for its fashion. But that landscape seems to be changing now, and the coastal city seems to be causing a stir on the fashion catwalks.
Although the four-day Durban Fashion Fair is emerging as a part of the country’s annual social itinerary, the city’s small but growing fashion industry is getting a facelift. The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee have also found a team in Durban to design sportswear for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics (if that goes as planned).
“I think right now [Durban is] also [in] fashion race and we are also getting there in terms of other parts of the country with a bigger fashion scene, âexplains model Khwezi Ngwenya Ntombela. âThe programs here help our designers-in-training to improve and step up their game, so that every culture gets better every year. So, as fashion changes, they evolve with it and improve their skills which will ultimately make Durban a fashion capital. “
Ntombela has been a model since 2006 and now owns Mold Models, a school that trains young aspirants to come down the ramp.
âI like the idea of ââtraining, teaching and transferring my knowledge. Even when I watch a [fashion] show, I love watching models who know what they are doing and are confident, and knowing that I [had] apart [to play] in thatâ¦ â, she exclaims.
Mother and daughter, Swastika Maney and Sanyukta Singh, both creators and co-owners of House of S and S the Label at KZN, have been in the business long enough to come to an agreement. We meet them at a cafe in Pietermaritzburg in KZN, where they are sitting, dressed in blue and red and with a pink purse perched on the table.
Cheerful colors belong to the world they come from – the world of design and tailoring. In their shop, they organize and sell Indo-Western clothing with pieces imported from India, as Maney explains: âEach piece was personally selected by me during my travels in India; textures, colors and styles have all been chosen to ensure that I cater to the taste of all of my clients.
Since its inception in 2011, brands have grown and the duo claim to have styled South African celebrities such as Shashi Naidoo and Carishma Basday.
âI first started with 10 pieces on a table in my living room and here we are, 10 years later, in our Durban store, selling to customers in store and shipping to the rest of the world,â Maney adds.
Having initially started as House of S, and targeting a mature and more conservative population, the brand has since expanded its offering. S the Label, which Singh has been working on since the age of 17, has its own youthful cachet. Before the pandemic, the couple had started exporting their clothes across Africa and have since picked up on that with the easing of the lockdown.
Now about to launch their own designs and their own label, they have no intention of slowing down. A regular in the fashion world, Durban-based Neil Ramautar has also styled celebrities and the city’s well-off.
âWhen I was younger my biggest fear was being homeless. I didn’t have a good childhood and I knew I had to do somethingâ¦ This career happened by accident and I took it and ran with it and here we are today, âsays Ramautar, who went from a âpromotional spray boyâ to a beauty brand to a star stylist. Having locally made up names such as Khanyi Mbau and Kajal Bagwandeen, he attests to having also made up international singer Miguel and Bollywood star Bipasha Basu.
When he talks about the fashion scene in Durban, he thinks it’s the mixed culture that makes it unique. âWe are happy to be in our little world here. We’re not really concerned about the rest of the country, but the rest of the country has nothing about our culture here, we have our own little fashion world, âhe recalls.
With a number of projects in the pipeline, a makeup line under his belt and a waiting list that could stretch across Durban’s coastline, Ramautar is clearly in vogue. Shezaad Ally is also part of the fashion industry in Durban, sought after for her wedding photoshoots and fashion photography.
We have our own little fashion world [in Durban]. – Neil ramautar
Having started photography as a hobby during a sabbatical year in law school, six years later her hobby became her profession and the sabbatical year became a permanent mode of existence for Ally who also sees photography as a way to relieve pressure. of life. His photoshoots embody Durban’s unique culture, as he explains: âThere are so many different cultural backgrounds in Durban. Within each culture, you will find that they all have their own unique style. And that’s what I like. I like to work on new ideas, to try new concepts in different styles of people.
The Durban Fashion Fair is also a platform for future designers, some of whom are making waves in the sunny seaside town. We are talking to Mbali Zulu, who is part of the team that has developed sportswear for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
After studying fashion design at Durban University of Technology, she previously worked for large retailers in South Africa as a fashion buyer. Currently, she is one of eight rising star designers to be featured at this year’s Vodacom Durban July.
âMy favorite so far has been to be part of the Durban Fashion Fair mentoring program, which opened the doors for me to this incredible opportunity to design the outfits for the opening ceremony of the South African sports team, âZulu said.
And to be inspired by Durban?
âDurban fashion has its own unique handwriting. It’s inspired by the mix of culturesâ¦ My signature design is inspired by Africa and my culture mixed with a hint of Indian fusion. I love the bright colors of both cultures, the beautiful embroidery on Indian clothing and the stunning African beads on traditional Zulu clothing.
For the Tokyo Games, the team designed ready-to-wear outfits for the athletes.
âWe designed a great print that represents South Africa. We used natural fabrics. We wanted the design to represent every South Africanâ¦ The designs were inspired by the athletes. When they briefed us, they told us about their dream from a young age to represent their country at the Olympic Games. Nelson Mandela also dreamed of uniting South Africa through sport. The design embodies the unity and love we have for our country, âsays Zulu.
Ruth Unwin, who started out as a graphic designer before being drawn to the allure and allure of the fashion industry, is also part of the design team for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, working at Mr Price Sport. and with Gavin Maxwell, the brand’s chief menswear designer.
âIt was a fantastic and exciting trip for us as a team and a brandâ¦â, they exhale. âDurban is unique for the climate, the coastal weather and the sea, the sun and the sand. These elements served as the inspiration for the warm colors, light textured fabric in easy to wear silhouettes that also suggest the ease of the lifestyle we have here.
Designer Nompumelelo Mimi Mjadu also agrees: âThe history of Durban and its surroundingsâ¦ there are so many stories to tell. Durban has developed many innovative designers over the yearsâ¦ Durban has even more talents to discover.
My signature design is inspired by Africa and my culture mixed with a hint of Indian fusion. I love the bright colors of both cultures, the beautiful embroidery on Indian clothing and the stunning African beads on traditional Zulu clothing. – Mbali Zulu
And with that, the city is also developing an evolving new breed of fashionistas and style mavens capturing the imagination and interest of Africa’s growing creative economy.
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