It’s crazy how heavy my suitcase was; so heavy that even our shuttle driver let out a perplexed but almost-silent “Yoh” as he lifted my luggage into the trailer at the back of the 23-seater minibus. I felt compelled to justify: “It’s heavy, neh? Sorry, man... You know us girls, we come to Durban for two days but we pack for five. Eish! The weather; it’s confusing!” He laughed and I laughed, only it wasn’t so funny on Thursday night when I spent two hours playing dress-up agonising over what to wear to the Vodacom Durban July horse-racing event on Saturday. According to my weather app, the mercury promised to peak at 23 degrees - pretty decent - but it forecast strong winds. Confused weather is a royal pain but I had the luxury of a large bag and over 20 kilograms in luggage allowance so I had every right to use it unapologetically.
When it comes to being an eco-warrior, I can’t proclaim to be at the top of the champions list, but in keeping with my business's mission, it would’ve been sacrilege if I commissioned another custom-made designer gown or spent a small fortune on a brand new dress, while I do in fact have so many outfits that have only ever been worn once prior and begged to be re-used (besides, they hadn’t even made an appearance on Instagram yet!). This year’s race-day theme was ‘Stars of Africa’ with the Vodacom VIP paddock specifying ‘African Couture’, so I narrowed my choices down to two striking dresses which already occupy rail space in my closet. Both garments were made to measure my petite frame by local talented designer Suzaan Heyns, two years ago, and depending on what weather conditions Saturday presented, I’d make a final choice then.
In complete contrast to Friday evening’s rain showers upon arrival at King Shaka International Airport, the next morning was actually sunny, delightful, and just what The Mayyarani ordered. I decided to keep the dual-tone velvet dress and matching cowl hanging up, and instead opted for this unusual little ‘fish scale’ frock paired with a Braccialini bag, sheer black pantyhose, and limited-edition booties by Italian brand Baldinini.
Crafted from bits of genuine leather which were individually shaped and then painstakingly applied by hand to cover the cotton lining, this garment is truly the epitome of ‘African Couture’. Completion of this one-of-a-kind item required several visits to Suzaan’s studio where she noted my body measurements and personal preferences for length, sleeve style, and neckline to achieve a hard-wearing and versatile garment that offers protection against the elements between seasons. We settled on cap sleeves, a high collar to reveal a hint of jewellery, and a flattering scalloped hemline that touched down to the slimmest part of my thighs.
I’m in two minds about selling this extra-special Suzaan Heyns creation; It travelled with me to Milan Fashion Week in September 2017, and the minute I get zipped up in it, I seem to transform into a real-life mermaid / warrior princess who believes that she can kick a$$ but look super-classy while doing it.
Umayya Theba, 'The Mayyarani’