While Durban July will go ahead virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fashion designers say this version of one of South Africa’s premier horse races offers them very little benefit as they carry on struggling to survive the lockdown.

The Durban July, weddings and matric dances are important sources of income for fashion designers. The event will be held in an empty Greyville Racecourse this coming Saturday, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown regulations.

The 2020 Vodacom Durban July fashion theme is ‘Butterflies’, reflecting the social butterflies who are still managing to stay connected to their passion for fashion during lockdown. Event organisers are adamant that fashion must remain a key component of the 124-year-old event.

In the video below, the Vodacom Virtual Durban July experience is launched:

However, a Durban based fashion designer Mxolisi Mkhize of the House of St Luke Designs says none of his clients have ordered garments for private virtual parties.

“Unfortunately because this is the first time it’s happening, this virtual Durban July, most people did not understand it and also they did not get the concept that they must dress up at home still get to celebrate or to be part of the Vodacom Durban July. Sadly, there have been no orders for people who want to dress up and stay at home. We had a few enquiries with regards to themed masks with butterflies. But there has been no work or no business that has come through for this virtual Durban July,” Mkhize says.

Another designer – Madelein Clark of the Mads Exclusive – says she has advised her clients to wear garments from previous events at this year’s virtual parties.

“There has been a decline because they are not going to the race. But I do have my out crying clients that are still gonna stay home with their families. They are regular racegoers and not as previous years; also reviving old outfits just celebrating the theme butterflies. I’ve been giving information to clients to revive previous outfits that they ordered from me for previous Durban July. No really parties going on just families at home. Just trying to get the vibe of Durban July.”

Clark adds that since their business depends on social events that have been cancelled due to COVID-19 regulations, they are battling to make ends meet.

“We’ve had great losses, but we had to adapt, we were very blessed to be able to do masks for the community that’s why I have been able to have my staff still earn a salary. My business is basically social gatherings which was so busy before Lockdown and the very next day nothing. So my studio is hanging full of glamorous dresses, we don’t know which level, where, how it’s really the unknown for us.”

Organisers of the event which attracts thousands of punters, socialites and celebrities say people will still be able to enjoy the event online.

Gold Circle events and marketing manager – Steve Marshall says: “There will be no marquees on course as the event is being held behind closed doors.  There are gathering restrictions in place so I don’t think that large marquees will be allowed at the sports ground. The event this year is virtually there will be social media competition, people can follow the Vodacom Durban July Facebook page and get involved in dressing up and getting through pictures of the outfit this year and they will stand a chance to win some really great prizes.”