15 July 2022

The Homegrown talent behind the Commonwealth Games opening Ceremony Ensemble

Submitted by Steven J Brown
The Homegrown talent behind the Commonwealth Games opening Ceremony Ensemble

DURBAN DESIGNERS DO IT AGAIN: The countdown to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is in full swing and the young designers recruited to create Team South Africa’s kit for the Games’ opening ceremony are eagerly awaiting the moment their locally designed – and developed – kit takes to the world stage.

The proudly South African kit was unveiled at a fashion show event held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC-Durban) on Thursday, July 14 in collaboration with Mr Price Sport, the KZN Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, the EThekwini Municipality, the Durban ICC and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

The Commonwealth Games, or the ‘Friendly Games’ as it is also known, is an international, multi-sport event that takes place every four years and the Games have grown exponentially over the decades to its current spectacle of 6,600 athletes from 72 nations.

The 22nd Commonwealth Games will burst into life on July 28 and the curtain comes down on August 8. The event is expected to have a global audience of between 1 and 1.5-billion viewers. As one of the young designers involved in the opening ceremony kit creation, Sandile Sikhakhane, aptly exclaimed when asked about his involvement in the project, “Showcase!  One-and-a-half-billion people watching-perfect!”

The ensemble that will be seen by this huge audience was created in collaboration with the Commonwealth Games’ technical apparel partner, Mr Price Sport, as well as The City of Durban who played a crucial role in recruiting the creatives.

The same young Durban designers who brought us the Team SA kit worn by our Olympians at the opening ceremony in Tokyo last year have been roped in once again. This year, however, the design process has unfolded differently. The team of four joined forces to create the bold print seen across the kit, while Durban Fashion Fair designer, and Class of 2021 fashion student, Nontsasa Benstwana, brought the look together in her final design.

It all started with a creative collaboration of Sikhakhane, Mbali Zulu, Sipho Lushaba and Nompumelelo Mjadu who worked tirelessly to produce multiple prints. Their inspiration? All things South African, of course. From the discovery of diamonds and South African royalty to the bold colours that make up our country and our flag. Their various designs were then broadcast across Mr Price Sport’s social following who then picked the final print to be used across the range. And then it was over to designer, Nontsasa, to work her visionary magic.

What can Team SA’s supporters expect to see our athletes sporting at the Commonwealth Games opening display? Our male athletes will step out in a shirt emblazoned with the fans’ chosen print, as well as a pair of chinos and Maxed Elite Zeus trainers; while the sportswomen will wear a bold, tiered maxi skirt sporting the winning print, paired with a cropped linen shirt, and Mr Price Sport’s ever-popular Nova trainers.

President of SASCOC, Mr Barry Hendricks said: “Team SA really caught the eye at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in their Mr Price Sport kit. They were the envy of many other nations from the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony and all the competition in between. Having seen the designs and kit for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, we are expecting the reaction in Birmingham to be no different.

“Congratulations to all these inspiring young designers who have used their creative skills to come up with something truly South African and kit that will be worn with pride by Team SA’s athletes at the opening ceremony. We are going to look outstanding not only during competition, but away from it as well as on the medals podium,” Mr Hendricks added.

The EThekwini Mayor Councillor Mxolisi Kaunda congratulated the designers, “These designers are part of our signature Durban Fashion Fair Development Programme which mentors emerging designers. To see our programme recognised by Mr Price Sport is a heart-warming success story. Their work will be seen by the entire world, which is a huge deal. Our core aim through this programme is to encourage self-employment by empowering young designers,” added Mayor Kaunda.

KZN MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture Ms Hlengiwe Mavimbela said: “We are excited that this important milestone on the journey towards the Birmingham later this month, takes place in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. We will be watching the 2022 Commonwealth Games with keen interest, as you are aware that they could have been hosted here in Durban, but circumstances beyond our control did not allow for that to happen. However, we are happy that Team South Africa will be part of these games and we look forward to them returning home with more medals. We congratulate Mr Price Sport and their team of designers for the good work in designing the kit for Team South Africa, especially the involvement of developing fashion designers.”

THE VISIONARIES BEHIND THE DESIGNS

Self-taught sewist, director of her own label Jado Mjadu, and Lindiwe Fashion Skills Academy graduate, Nompumelelo Mjadu shares the highlight of the latest design collaboration. “I really enjoyed working with the same designers. After having worked together before, it was easy and effortless working as a team to come up with the final print design.”

Director his own label, SVL Designs (a label for dreamers, comprising uniquely designed, timeless garments) and Lindiwe Fashion Skills Academy graduate, Sipho Lushaba shares how it feels being part of a project of this magnitude for the second year running, “Sharing ideas with like-minded creatives was amazing. I’m really looking forward to seeing the final product. The whole project has been mind-blowing.”

Multimedia Fine Arts graduate and director of his own brand, sAnd!Le_da_creActive, Sandile Sikhakhane shares his biggest learning from designing in a team, “Working together, considering all ideas and unity is what helped us easily come up with a final design that we’re all proud to call our own.”

Durban Institute of Technology graduate and founder of clothing label, ZuluM, Mbali Zulu’s mission is to offer exclusive and original designs for today’s fashion-conscious African customers. Mbali shares what she loved most about the collaboration, “I loved working together as the four designers. We’re all unique, we’re all different, I loved that we got the chance to work together to make magic once again.” 

The final stage in the design process concluded with Durban Fashion Fair designer, and Class of 2021 fashion student, Nontsasa Benstwana who created the final opening ceremony elements. These then went through a final selection process where the Mr Price Sport sponsorship and merchandise teams picked the piece the athletes will step out in. “I never once imagined that I would be chosen for a project like this. It is a great opportunity. I believe this is a start of bigger and greater opportunities to come.”

Once the opening ceremony concludes, Team SA’s athletes will compete in Maxed Elite technical apparel, Mr Price Sport’s premium range of active wear and accessories.

Mr Price Sport’s Head of Marketing, Philippa Feher, said: “It has been another incredible journey leading up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games with one of the most exciting aspects being the design and production of the opening ceremony kit. Like our athletes, the kit too was truly homegrown... designed by our young South African designers, voted on by our country and produced on local shores.

“We were delighted to keep it local. Wearing a South African brand like Maxed Elite on the world stage continues to inspire our Team SA athletes. It’s always a proud moment.”