DAF 2016 Alumni, Paidamoyo Kondile, graduated not only with her diploma in Fashion Design from DAF, but with the coveted SAFW Student Competition prize, sweeping up 1st place with her intricately made African print dress.

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We catch up with her, finding out about her inspiration and design process.

1. How did you interpret the competition brief?

The competition was for a dress in an African print. After making the decision to enter the competition I allowed myself time to just think about what being African actually meant. I chose to create a dress and a print which told my own African story and I believe that as family is central to any African identity I wanted to depict that in both the print and design. The basis of the print was from one of the baskets used in my Lobola negotiations which marked my transition from my father’s family into my husbands family. The dress had a very masculine collar and a pronounced round-shaped skirt symbolising the union of male and female joined by a basket weave waistband. I believe that it was the personal nature of the print and design that made the dress unique and interesting.

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2. What special techniques did you incorporate into your design? (printing/fabric manipulation)

I created my own print and once I had decided on the basis of the print, I took time to play around with the placement of the shapes and experimented with different colours till the design resonated with me. I also sought advice from people i could trust to enhance my thinking process without necessarily imposing their views on what i felt was a very personal design story. I used a repeat pattern and then introduced a border print to draw the eye to the curved shape of the skirt. 

I created a waistband by weaving strips of the printed and plain fabric, and I deliberately didn’t finish the edges on the strips to depict the texture of the baskets which are never totally smooth. 

To create the rounded shape I used boning on the side seams and horsehair tape on the remaining seams and around the hem. I also lined each panel with stiff tulle which I then incorporated into the structure. 

I wanted the collar to be strong and dramatic to symbolise that in any successful union, strength is a prerequisite. 

3. How long did you work on the garment?

Once I had decided on a print and the design, the actual work on the dress was about 7 sleep-deprived days (including the 2 mockups). 

4. What was the most fun part of the experience for you?

I loved the challenge, and because it was not part of the curriculum I had complete design freedom. To be honest there were times when I questioned myself and doubted my sleep deprived vision, but it was incredibly rewarding. I loved the way that in the final stretch the support from the staff was tangible and help was available if needed. Without that support I might have given up at the last hurdle (that being when I had to replace a zip a few hours before the courier was due to collect the garment, or when the lining started pulling on the collar and had to be hand stitched in).

5. Anything else you feel would be interesting to mention?