Fashion tips for the Durban July

Fashion tips for the Durban July

From the Stars to Your Wardrobe: Mthokozisi Chiyi’s Guide to Nailing the 'Out of this World' Theme at the Durban July

Breaking Down the 'Out of this World' Style: Tips from Durban's Leading Stylist

By Buhle Mbonambi

When fashion and culture come together, the result is often a spectacular event. Each year, around the world, cities and countries show off their fashion sense at events like the Cannes Film Festival in France, the Met Gala in New York City, the Oscars in Los Angeles, and South Africa’s Durban July handicap. These grand occasions not only provide fashion lovers with an opportunity to appreciate incredible styles from designers all over the world but also bring people of diverse cultures together to share their love for fashion.

The theme for the 2023 Hollywoodbets Durban July is ‘Out of this World’ and presents fashion lovers with an opportunity to show off their fashion sense like never before. These garments by Alia Bare, Malondie and Alia Bare, will allow you to set yourself apart from everyone else.

Durban has been hosting the world-renowned Hollywoodbets Durban July for 125 years. Every year since 1897, people from all over the world flock to this unique event for what is known as Africa’s Greatest Horseracing Event. And like other horseracing events, fashion is a huge part of the event. 

Everyone, from high profile attendees to everyday punters, gets dressed up and ready to revel in the excitement of a true fashion showcase. From haute couture gowns and suits to experimental beauty looks, you are guaranteed to find something special at the Durban July.

READ: For Out of this World looks at the Durban July, try Scalo and Malondie at House of Nala

Every year, fashion mavens look forward to interpreting the theme, which is based on global trends and forces designers to go the extra mile. This year’s event theme, ‘Out of this World’, is a continuation of the fashion and beauty industry’s obsession with all things metaverse.

Durban-based stylist, Mthokozisi Swenka Chiyi, says that the ‘Out of this World’ theme at the 2023 Hollywoodbets Durban July, is an interesting theme that allows for proper fashion interpretation. PICTURE: Instagram/@uswenka_

To help decipher the theme, AFI spoke to Mthokozisi Chiyi, popularly known as uSwenka, a leading Durban-based personal stylist and creative director, who dresses some of the most influential people in South Africa’s business industry. Known for his style and for always understanding what is expected when it comes to fashion at the Durban July, he gives tips on how to nail the theme and give yourself a chance of making the best dressed lists.

READ: From Runways to Racetracks: Understanding the Significance of Durban July Fashion

How does one make sense of the theme of the Durban July this year?
It’s a very interesting theme. Whether you decide to be literal about it and draw inspiration from astronauts or dig deeper and look at African spirituality or rehash the Heavenly Bodies theme of the 2018 Met Gala, you will win still. For those who want to think their fashion sense is not high up there with the stars and want to play it safe, there must be, at least just one, fabulously outstanding and Out of this World (OOTW) detail or element about your outfit.

Compared to previous themes, how does it compare?
It’s a fresh take as far the theme is concerned. Last year was ‘Show me the Honey’ and this year it is OOTW. We are coming from Butterflies, Under the Seas and Birds of a Feather, so this is an improvement that allows for proper fashion interpretation.

The time for simple suiting, is over. Go for Out of this World silhouettes that allow your personality to shine through, as shown in these garments by Scalo, Suitability and Scalo.

Do you think it will be easy for attendees to get the theme right?
It’s an easy-to-interpret theme. It allows one to be creative and artsy, fashion-forward and avant-garde.  As such, one can just decide to be simple and allow that one OOTW element to do the talking. Whether it is accessories or the actual design, the attendees should not struggle to dress accordingly.

What are some key trends to look for when looking for an outfit for the Hollywoodbets Durban July?
As a tradition to horse racing events, a statement head gear (hat, fascinator, or any equivalent hair accessory) for ladies. For men, definitely suits and 2-piece matching sets to honour this traditionally formal event. Trending lately, for ladies, it has just been “skin.” Whether it’s mini skirts and dresses or cropped tops or sheer outfits, skin has been trending. We are also witnessing a new fresh wave of “voluminous” fashion, even for men.  From chunky sole shoes and sneakers to wide leg pants and oversize coats.

Mthokozisi Chiyi advises against evening gowns that boast a train. He would prefer attendees at the 2023 Hollywoodbets Durban July, to rather wear elegant cocktail dresses that are theme and event appropriate. These options by Scalo, House of Nala and Taibo Bacar, are perfect for the Durban July.


What are some tips for creating an outfit that is both stylish and comfortable for the event?
It’s simple really: Stay in your lane! Dress up as yourself, for yourself. Consider the theme, respect it, and use it for inspiration. Do not lose yourself in trying to be relevant to the theme. You’re going to end up being a joke!

What are some accessories that would be perfect for an 'Out of this World' themed outfit?

  • Statement head gear, 
  • Earrings
  • Gloves (men/women) always make an outfit look perfect. Plus, it’s perfect for the weather in Durban.


What are some dos and don'ts when it comes to dressing for the Durban July?

  • No jeans (it’s not a bash)
  • No sandals for gents
  • No stilettos (you will thank me later)
  • If it must be heels, let it be a chunky heel, or, worse case scenario, get heel protectors
  • Do bet on the horses, at least once. It is a horseracing event, after all.
  • Do not undress the store mannequins. Twinning is not sexy! Give us a bit of your flare and taste.
  • No dresses with elaborate trains, please.

Durban July Fashion CAMPAIGN
African Fashion International will be at Africa's Greatest Horseracing Event- the Hollywoodbets Durban July. With appearances from the AFI Fastrack finalists, the House of Nala label and other luxury African fashion brands we are building up to an exciting celebration of African Fashion. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS

Why is the Hollywoodbets Durban July such a popular, must-attend event?
Besides the fact that it’s in Durban, the warmest place to be, HDJ is one of event in SA that’s been able to cater to all types of people. Whether you want the formal glam event on Saturday or you want to revel at the after, there’s something for everyone!


This interview had been edited for length and clarity.

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