The Durban July is a spectacle of African fashion and culture

The Durban July is a spectacle of African fashion and culture

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

Why Durban July is More Than Just a Horse Race – It's an Expression of Culture and Style

Almost 130 Years in the making, and the Durban July has not yet lost its charming appeal. Internationally recognized as one of the most illustrious events in the South African sporting calendar, the Durban July is once again set to put the country on hold in a few weeks. Led by the theme, “Out of this World”, hordes of fashion forward South Africans will return to Durban’s Hollywoodbets Greyville Racecourse in on the 1st of July 2023.

Bringing an unmistakable hype to an event steeped in both sporting prestige and sartorial tradition, the Durban July has shaped up to be an exuberant fashion and lifestyle experience. A must-attend for people from all walks of life, the event sees everyone, from celebrities and philanthropists to politicians and business leaders, in attendance. And everyone is always dressed to impress.


The Beginning

 Durban July Horseracing Event 2023
Horses racing during the Hollywoodbets Durban July in 2022. Internationally recognized as one of the most illustrious events in the South African sporting calendar, the Durban July is known as Africa’s Greatest Horseracing Event.

Founded in 1897, the Durban July is a cultural fixture, rivalled only by Cape Town’s L’Ormarins King’s Plate and the Cape Town Met, hosted annually in January.

Today, the event is a far cry from its comparatively humble beginnings, presenting a 2.2 kilometre race, and offering a R5 Million prize. Known in full as the “Durban July Handicap”, its layered history includes several name-changes and transfers of ownership.

Attracting South Africans from all corners of the country, the Durban July gives attendees the opportunity to dress up in bold and extravagant bespoke pieces, produced largely by the innovative talents in Durban’s burgeoning CMT sector. With such a strong fashion and entertainment element at its core, this gathering possibly capitalises less on the racing horses, and more in the unifying, celebratory tradition that underpins it.


Horseracing and Fashion

The relationship between fashion and horseracing is a mutually beneficial one. Fashion helps to make horseracing more glamorous and exciting, and horseracing provides a platform for fashion designers and other people in the fashion industry to showcase their work.

Horseracing is a famously sartorial sporting occasion. Iconic racing events such as the Royal Ascot, Kentucky Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, have left us with a treasure trove of archival style references.

Fashion and horseracing have a long and storied history. In the early days of horseracing, fashion was a way for spectators to show their social status and wealth. Today, horseracing is one of the most glamorous sporting events in the world, and fashion plays a major role in creating the excitement and atmosphere.

There are many ways that fashion and horseracing work together. For example, many fashion designers create special collections for horseracing events. These collections are often inspired by the sport's history and tradition, and they feature beautiful and elegant garments that are perfect for the occasion.

South African entertainers, Nandi Madida, Minnie Dlamini and Thembi Seete, frequently attend the Durban July, showcasing their racewear style. The Durban July is a drawcard for many high-profile individuals form different sectors.  

In addition to fashion designers, many other people in the fashion industry are involved in horseracing. For example, fashion photographers often capture the excitement of the races on film, and fashion stylists help celebrities and other VIPs look their best on race day.

The Durban July is therefore a gift that keeps on giving in this regard, playing host to some of the most iconic fashion moments in recent South African history.

Last year’s attendees are responsible for setting the bar quite high for this year. The unforgettable powdery tones of Minnie Dlamini’s Jessica Jane ensemble, in particular, closely channelled the high-brow tradition of the occasion. Thuli Phongolo, on the other hand, stopped the show in a stellar, intricately-beaded, golden piece.

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

This year’s exciting theme – “Out of this World” – gives attendees a clear mandate, and significant room to put their best foot forward. Not only is it in alignment with recent fashion trends and a wealth of intergalactic references to research and work with – from Andre Courreges and Paco Rabanne’s 80’s Space-Age innovations, to those futuristic, sci-fi aesthetics of the mid-to-late 2000’s – the era of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, and Beyoncé’s re-introduction as Sasha Fierce, a futuristic warrior in metallic Mugler corsetry. Closer to home, the impressive Cape Town Fashion Week collections by Malondié and Scalo, lend themselves beautifully to the theme.


AFI at the July

Having attended the Durban July last year, AFI will be returning to the event, holding court at the Gemelli Durban July Experiences. 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.

While the Durban July fashion scene is always changing, one thing remains constant: it's a unique opportunity to showcase creative and daring fashion in an environment of unmatched energy. From the classic glitzy gowns to contemporary trends, there's something for every taste and preference on the Durban July runway. No matter what you choose to wear or how you decide to express yourself, your style should be about enjoying yourself and having fun - that's what really matters!

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