Sandisiwe Mbhele
Lifestyle Journalist
3 minute read
5 Jul 2021
4:10 pm

The Vodacom Durban July happened, are the glory days of events gone forever?

Sandisiwe Mbhele

Usually talked about days later, Durban July 2021 wasn't just muted but many didn't realise it occurred.

Young designers showcase their looks at this year's Vodacom Durban July event. Picture: Instagram

Around this time every year, the dust settles at Greyville racecourse for the Vodacom Durban July. The event organises high five themselves for yet another glamourous day at the races.

However, this has not been the case over the last two years. The Vodacom Durban July (VDJ) is one of the many event casualties brought on by the pandemic.

What brings people to South Africa’s most prestigious racehorse event isn’t necessarily just about the horses. It’s about the who’s who in the entertainment industry and what they are wearing.

ALSO READ: Vodacom Durban July: Still fashion’s uber catwalk

Recently, the memorable fashion looks of Somizi Mhlongo’s green two-piece suit with a dramatic train, Bonang Matheba’s ombre beaded gown by Gert-Johan Coetzee, which reportedly weighed 9kg’s stands out in my mind.

It may seem futile but the best dressed at VDJ is talked about days after it happened in pop culture. In South Africa, it’s our “red carpet moment”.

As an entertainment journalist, it’s one of the things on my to-do list, covering the hub of the most famous celebs, which tie-ins with sport.

But this looks increasing unlikely even as we get back to some form of normality.

Normality but not really

VDJ 2020 created some noise because of the unchartered waters, how would it organise their outdoor extravaganza in light of the restrictions and social distancing.

It was hosted behind closed doors and broadcast live on SuperSport, with pre-party packages for people to enjoy in the comfort of their homes.

As we watch the global north vaccinate in their numbers, hosting social gatherings, parties, sporting occasions with some filling up stadiums like the Euros, the virus still isn’t going anywhere.

Despite the high numbers of those vaccinated in the United Kingdom, they are seeing a resurgence with daily Covid-19 cases, above 24,000. This hasn’t halted the attendance of spectators, as seen at the oldest tennis grand slam tournament, Wimbledon.

It is still going ahead as the organisers decided that the centre court and the first court can increase the singles quarterfinal attendance to full capacity until the end of the tournament.

But the Springboks are nowhere near as lucky. The British and Lions Tour is set to start in two weeks, with no spectators. As South Africa’s vaccination process slowly progresses, the third wave, rugby would have been seen as irresponsible for allowing fans.

The Euros 2020 and Wimbledon, fans need to have proof of their Covid-19 status or that they have been fully vaccinated.

It has left many people wondering is this going to the case for years to come for big occasions. Holding events behind closed doors, or a limited amount of fans despite the accessibility of vaccines is something they don’t want to do.

Where to from now?

This year’s VDJ perfectly showed how large numbers of people are disinterested when it comes to minimised versions of their beloved events.

For the first time in a while, who won at Greyville racecourse was the biggest taking point across social media and in publications and not who wore it best at the Greyville racecourse.

There was barely a mention of any famous faces participation,  and what designers they chose to wear. The focal point of the fashion was showcasing young designers and their interpretation of the theme, “Birds of a Feather.”

There is so much that could have been done here, imagine what SomGaga as Somizi is known would have worn, other fashionistas like Boity Thulo, the carefree Zodwa Wabantu and Enhle Mbali. Stylists have also mentioned what a big financial knock this has been for them as well, not having any clients to dress.

Not to mention the artists, caterers, sponsors and sheer amount of people employed by the event each year.

The gowns and fashion could have been out of this world, so this year’s young designers had some points to prove.


Here is to hoping that Durban July 2022 gets back to its glory days.