Thando, Reinhard, Jessica Nkosi: best and worst dressed at Durban July

See who caught tens surfing the sartorial heat and who gave us a couture cold

08 July 2024 - 10:03
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In an ocean of Little Mermaid and Silver Surfer-inspired outfits, radio presenter Thando Thabethe approached expected shapes, textures and colours with panache. Her statuesque figure is the height of her get-up, thanks to the crafty eye of Willet Designs Couture.

The sweetheart gown is expertly made to accentuate her snatched figure (what we expect from the owner of a shapewear brand) and avoids a lumpy mess with diagonal draping.

Topped with asymmetrical side ruffles, it gives the overall look a mermaid-like quality but stays true to Thabethe's old Hollywood glamour sensibilities.

A watery effect is achieved with shiny glass organza. It becomes the cherry on top of a look with classic design elements, stripped-down beauty and fabrics that would easily make anyone else look like they copped the look at a small street sale. Thabethe avoided the costumey theatrics many opt for when attempting high-end fashion and showcased herself as a couture queen. All that's missing is her crown.


Gone are the days where stylists stay in the background making sure clients look good. Whether you look to Law Roach or Jason Bolden, the stylist is the new superstar and Mahalie has made a case with this fashion moment that mirrors Rihanna's Met Gala 2015 head turner.

Not only is this vision a mermaid tale extravaganza, it also pops up into an oyster-esque train and cape. For a theme calling to waves, fluidity was key in this House of Poulton custom.


When a theme looks easy and you are looking to stand out, it's great to think out of the box. If you don't have the ideas, turn to designers who know how to execute those narratives, as per Gumede's creation by Malondie. The rope strips of the cinched top depict oscillating waves when calculating the ripples of water.


Divorcing herself from the fins, wet look and long locks, Khosi Twala took on mermaids with a stylish flair. Her outfit referenced aquatic sirens with reflective sequins mimicking scales and an impressive nude fabric with contours to make the gown look like a second skin.


Looking outside sparkles and sand pit toy accessories, Mahlangu made an argument for coastal fashion in a multicoloured Imprint suit featuring asymmetrical cuts, layers of pleats and embossed textures to accompany the tapestry of bold shapes in his ensemble.


Speaking of Imprint, the founder of the design brand's flowing garments, which were a hot pick for several stars at the weekend, added pressure to what would become of his own garment. Rather than an on-the-nose approach, Mbane chose to ride a sociopolitical wave as part of an HIV/Aids awareness campaign with #ForeverWena.

Featuring a poster of gay activist Simon Nkoli, the azure and white layered outfit features an oasis-like print that makes his educational moment stand out and noticeable from a distance. That's what fashion activism ought to look like.



If there was a poster child for exact interpretation, Mbali Nkosi's arts and craft project would take the cake. Or should we say the crabs, since she decorated herself with urchins and the like? Don't get us started on the body paint in blue and silver to represent the ocean, and is that base bodycon dress supposed to be the sand on the shore?

Creativity requires a lot more than on-the-nose approaches, and with a theme as succinct as ride the wave, it seems Nkosi drowned under high expectations. 


Rarely one to take a step with the wrong fashion foot, Mogola dropped the ball in what looks like an outfit best suited for figure skating or as part of the entertainment troupe that dances in different marquees at the event. Abby Lee Miller called, she wants her Dance Moms outfits back.


Kganyago's galaxy cowboy moment is perplexing. Perhaps this deep voyage beyond the milky way is meant to call back to last year's theme, and while it has exciting design elements from Gert-Johan Coetzee, it's more prepped for a Beyoncé Renaissance concert than a wave-themed affair. Perhaps the fashions of One Piece's cowboy pirate, Nico Robin, would have been an excellent base for this outfit.


In an attempt to capture “the sand to the beach”, Nkosi somehow got lost and looks like she was more interested in paying homage to Nene Leakes' lingerie. A complete misstep that could have been saved by glossy makeup, shinier fabrics and wet look hair. 


For several years, Nigerian celebrities have eclipsed South African stars on shared red carpets and at public appearances. At least in the court of social media. This year's Durban July saw that fashion totem pole upended as style star Doromongy washed up on the shores of the horse racing event in what best resembles a Dipetsa knock-off.

The latter is known for his wet-look fabrics that are difficult to achieve, leaving Doromongy's design team out of their depth in a construction that overpowers her, making it look Photoshopped onto her body and making her proportions an eyesore. A look like this needs simplicity, lest the garment's symbolism gets lost in lacklustre skill.


The misfortunes of a sponsored outfit are that they come with the caveat of limiting the best interpretation. While the dress is a beauty in design, the #ForeverWena campaign colours make it look more like last year's space theme than one about waves and the activism she is bringing to light.

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