For the first time in the history of the event, the Vodacom Durban July went digital in an effort to observe to social distancing guidelines and help curb the spread of COVID-19.
The event took place on Saturday 25 July 2020 as a broadcast-only event, live on SuperSport 4 and SuperSport 10. This year, celebrities and fashionistas took on the 2020 theme, ‘Butterflies’ and shared their #VDJ2020 looks on social media.
Fashion lovers also experienced the official pre-party and fashion competition on Channel O on Friday, 24 July, and an after-party on Saturday, 25 July, to celebrate in accordance with government regulations and health protocols.
One aspect which formed part of the Vodacom Durban July was the Channel O VDJ 2020 Channel O Lockdown House Party ‘Best Outfit and Mask Category’ fashion competition.
Winning the competition was Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Keegan Naidoo. “I am thrilled, it always feels great to be a winner but this is the win I have been wanting for a very long time, as I am a great fan of the Vodacom Durban July festivities,” he said ecstatically.
Naidoo is a lecturer at the DUT Department of Fashion and Textiles and also a second year Fashion Master’s student at DUT. When he started studying Fashion and Textiles at DUT in 2009, he also began working in the fashion retail industry. He said that this was one of the best decisions he had ever made as a student, as it helped him harness all the qualities he needed to become a Fashion and Textiles lecturer, which has been a life-long aspiration of his.
With COVID-19, and the Durban July being virtual, Naidoo detailed more on his experience. “Even though the VDJ experience was virtual this year, the excitement and joy was still there. There was certainly much more time to prepare this year as compared to previous years because the deadlines were pushed back, giving me more time to perfect my entry. However, it still took me many hours to put my ensemble together. The selection process was done virtually, so we had to post our entries on Instagram and Twitter,” he said.
Due to the current pandemic, it was a challenge for Naidoo to find a model, so he decided to model his design himself, as his drag persona, ‘Paris’. “It made fitting so much easier and quicker and I had so much of fun doing it,” he added.
In terms of designs for the competition, Naidoo said that designers could enter as many designs as they desired. “I used the transformative nature of the ‘butterflies’ theme to create a two-in-one ensemble – the bottom layered skirt was detachable to transform the look into a cocktail dress. I knew this year was going to be a unique experience so I did a photoshoot of my ensemble the previous week to capture the look in all its glory. So on the day of the event, (25 July 2020), I was able to post different variations of the look on Instagram and Twitter at two hour intervals. Planning in advance definitely worked in my favour,” he said.
Naidoo explained that for this year for his ensemble he drew inspiration from his favourite quote from French fashion designer Coco Chanel, “there is nothing more comfortable than a caterpillar and nothing more made for love than a butterfly. We need dresses that crawl and dresses that fly. Fashion is at once a caterpillar and a butterfly, caterpillar by day and butterfly by night.” He said that the quote inspired him to create a look which embodied the creative spirit and transformative beauty of butterflies and garments which can be worn in two distinct ways; one for day and one for night.
“For decades, fashion has been influenced art, music, film and beauty, so to interpret this year’s theme, ‘Butterflies’, from a fresh perspective, I used the art of drag and the creativity and vibrancy from the community which it originates, to transform myself into the social butterfly, ‘Paris’. Butterflies, like the drag community today, are symbolic of transformation, resilience and adaptability: attributes which we have been compelled to harness during the current global pandemic,” he said.
Elaborating more on the fabrics he had used, Naidoo said that he used a fancy weave organza fabric in colour salmon. He fell in love with the texture, colour and the weight of this fabric. “I needed a fabric that was going to be theatrical and dramatic, and this fabric was perfect for the design I had in mind,” he said.
Naidoo said that as a fashion designer working during this unprecedented time, he was challenged to make use of every tool in his toolbox and to think, create and innovate in unique yet captivating ways. “I had to prepare everything in advance as time management was key, as I have learnt through my experiences, that everything virtually happens so much faster than it would in real time,” he said.
Naidoo has won R10 000 in cash, a designer outfit from a Durban based designer and 10 GB data. When he compares the standard of talent this year, he said that it was exceptional, and people pulled out all the stops for the virtual VDJ experience, as they did in previous years. For the talented Naidoo, he has won many competitions before, but this is his first fashion competition win.
Elaborating more on the impact the global pandemic is having on the fashion industry, especially with the usage of digital platforms, Naidoo said that the fashion industry has been hit hard. “Fashion is very practical, so our students learn by doing. With all the new government regulations imposed upon us, we were challenged to find new and creative ways to navigate through this difficult period and to ensure we continue to deliver the best quality of education to our students. It is getting easier, but will take a while before everyone becomes accustomed to the new norm,” he stressed.
Naidoo’s advice to other fashion enthusiasts from DUT is that in order to stay relevant in the fashion industry, it is imperative to constantly reinvent one’s self in fresh and exciting ways. “Draw inspiration from within you and everything that is going on around you and take your audience on a journey with you as people are always looking for a fantasy to be a part of,” he said.
Pictured: DUT’s Keegan Naidoo models his winning design as his drag persona, ‘Paris’.