Joburg designer offers portraits for students deprived of graduation snaps

19 May 2020 - 16:50 By Naledi Shange
Joburg-based fashion designer and illustrator Vuyelwa Matsane is offering her services to graduates who can't attend their graduation ceremonies.
Joburg-based fashion designer and illustrator Vuyelwa Matsane is offering her services to graduates who can't attend their graduation ceremonies.
Image: Facebook / Vuyelwa Matsane

The lockdown has stripped people of a lot of things, from jobs and income to family time and a social life.

For students, it has robbed many of the chance to don their graduation gowns, take that walk to receive their certificates and, at the end of it all, have the special moment captured on camera.

A Johannesburg fashion designer whose business is among those that have slowed down has decided to put her illustration skills to use. Instead of designing graduation outfits, she's creating graduation portraits for her clients who have missed their graduations. 

While scores of South Africans have been turning to social media to show how they are having their own mock graduation ceremonies at home, Vuyelwa Matsane says she wants to help cement their achievements by giving them a portrait in their graduation gear.

Speaking to TimesLIVE, Matsane said the idea was sparked by a client who sent through the request, wanting to surprise her husband with a graduation portrait.

She decided to run with the idea. “I started brainstorming and realised this is actually amazing,” she said.

Matsane started  her first graduate portrait by using social media influencer Sarah Langa and her friend Kefilwe Mabote. “I saw that Sarah had graduated. I liked the fact that we know a famous friend of hers, Kefilwe, so I put them together,” she said.

Using a photograph of Sarah, she illustrated the portrait, adding a graduation gown, cap and certificate in hand.

Using a picture of Kefilwe, she then added her next to Sarah - capturing even the most intricate details, from the shine on their belts, earrings and rings to perfecting their facial features.

ATTENTION CLASS OF 2020 COVID19 May have denied you a graduation ceremony, but you can still have a beautiful memory...

Posted by Vuyelwa Matsane on Sunday, May 17, 2020

Matsane explained what she requires from the graduates: “I ask them to send me pictures of themselves. A good, clear, quality picture of the face and a good-quality picture of the body, so I know the sizing and stuff.

“I ask them to let me know what the regalia and belt should be like, and do they get a hat? I also ask them to send me a picture from their university so I can copy that on to the illustration.”

It takes her about 90 minutes to complete the drawing and another hour to edit and digitise it.

The businesswoman said this idea came at the right time.

“I was praying and stressing about the coronavirus because the fashion design aspect of [my business] has been silent. I was thinking how to make money and I really didn’t want to be doing masks. So when the idea dropped, I realised this is perfect.”

When deciding on her prices, Matsane said she took into consideration the fact that she would be catering for students.

A half-body portrait, containing only the graduate, costs R250.

To add a second image, which shows the graduate's full body, costs R300.

Having a guest added to your picture costs R500 - plus an additional R100 for every other guest.

Matsane has also offered her services to previous graduates who did not get photographs with their loved ones during their graduation ceremonies, or who could not attend their ceremonies.