By Kristine Botha
Twenty local finalists have been selected for the 2012 Da Gama Inter-Schools Consumer Studies Design Competition, an annual event that encourages high school learners to cultivate and display their talents in garment design.
The students are required to design and create three looks – day wear, evening and avant garde – using fabric sponsored by Da Gama Textiles. The finalists are judged on their creativity, design skill and use of fabric.
The main fabric used is shweshwe, a textile produced in Da Gama’s Zwelitsha factory in the Eastern Cape. Shweshwe originates from the indigo cloth found in South Africa as long ago as 1652 (after the establishment of a seaport at the Cape of Good Hope). It can be distinguished by its stiffness (before washing) and a distinctive odour.
Traditional manufacturing processes, which include passing the fabric under copper rollers with patterns etched into the surface, allowing for the transfer of a weak discharge solution onto the fabric, are still being used today.
The sponsorship from Da Gama Textiles provides a wonderful opportunity for local learners
There is a high demand for shweshwe fabric as it is used in traditional ceremonies in the Eastern Cape. However, as urban meets rural and cultures collide, the demand has increased for its use in modern fashion.
Shweshwe, with its vibrant colours, intricate prints and stunning patterns, has gained a national reputation as a quality product.
The idea for the Da Gama Inter-Schools Competition was initiated by Helen Bester in 2008 and the standard of work produced has increased each year. The finalists are chosen from submissions made by consumer studies learners in the East London area. The finished looks will be worn on the runway by Dee M Fashion Promotions models.
The sponsorship from Da Gama Textiles provides a wonderful opportunity for local learners who may not have had such a platform on which to display their skills otherwise. It also promotes the practice of buying local, as Da Gama fabrics are truly indigenous to the Eastern Cape.
There are three category winners and one overall winner. However, most participants agree that it is an honour just to be selected as a finalist and to be given the opportunity to showcase their work.
The finalists’ fashion show, which is open to the public, will take place on 25 July at the Guild Theatre in East London.