The name Kathrin Kidger is synonymous with rich colours, vibrant fabrics and timeless style. Although she’s super busy with her thriving retail space at Gateway Theatre of Shopping and upcoming showcase at the Vodacom Durban July, the Durban designer managed to squeeze in a quick chat about this year’s VDJ theme, ‘under the African sky’.
“If you know me, you’ll know that the Vodacom Durban July (VDJ) is probably the most important day of my life every year . . . except for Christmas. In fact, my besties and I call this month ‘Julymas’!”
The reason why Kathrin holds the event close to her heart and calls the VDJ the highlight of her South African fashion calendar is because, she says, she’s had the honour of seeing the event evolve and grow over the years. “The fact that, somehow, I have played a role along the way is something quite special. It still amazes me how many industries pull together for this one day a year in our town. I love how everyone gets on board with the VDJ and the pure fun there is to be had.”
As an invited designer again this year, Kathrin says she loves how modern and relatable the narrative of the theme is for most. “I have previously covered Afro-futurism, so maybe this year is about immersing myself in that concept further. I love the idea that Africa has become a focal point of design and, whilst our European counterparts may be temporarily enamoured with it, there is a real authentic voice when the topic is handled by African designers.”
Passionate about local manufacture, design and the ability it has to shape, change and transform others’ lives, Kathrin has always loved art and collectibles. She says growing up with a mom who loved the technicality of sewing and crafting invariably shaped her path.
“What I love about the design process is the challenge of expectation, the ability to learn something new every day, and I get to share the experience with both my mother and sister who work alongside me.”
Already having been in the fashion industry for 16 years, Kathrin started her label as a ‘side hustle’ while she was working towards a degree in fashion at Durban University of Technology.
Her ‘big break’ came when she won ‘The Smirnoff Red fashion award’ and the business start-up capital she needed, says Kathrin, then deciding to focus on her diffusion brand, Reine. She supplied numerous boutiques for some years before opening a retail outlet of her own. Now Kathrin’s flagship store stands proudly at Gateway Theatre of Shopping.
“Gateway has always cultivated and been a huge support in local design and showcasing proudly South African merchandise in a real and authentic manner. Deciding to go into this mall felt like the right fit for our brand.”
Kathrin says she hopes her customers realise the impact their purchases and support make – not just to the life of the person designing it, but to the people sewing, beading, embroidering and selling it. “We really do keep our clients at the front of mind seasonally. Nothing gets “churned” out and we like the idea that our sense of slow fashion has a place in a throwaway society.”
Apart from running a production line, a retail store and her thriving business, Kathrin is also a wife to her husband of nine years and mom to her eight-year old and six-year-old children.
“I am very lucky to have an incredibly supportive family who step in with food, simplify things for me and make me feel that I never have to choose between the role of mom and business woman. I can talk to any member of my family (or friends for that matter) about work and then about child-rearing in the next breath . . . I think there is a lot to be said by that. Balance is almost impossible to achieve, but time management, prioritizing and letting go of the guilt are good ways to help restore balance.”
Kath’s top VDJ tips:
Go with your first idea: Usually we have a great idea about what we are going to wear and then we get distracted (for lack of a better word) by other ideas. Your first idea is usually the most amazing one.
Trust your gut. Go for it: South Africans care way too much about what others think. If you want to wear that ‘wow’ statement hat, do it!
Afro-futurism: It is all about finding a new aesthetic that redefines our current wardrobe whilst paying homage to and celebrating traditional roots. Incorporate an element that feels authentic to you within that narrative.
Consider your comfort: It’s going to be a long day – know your limits. If you want to wear the sky scraper heels go for it, but make sure you have plasters and a bag big enough to take a rolled-up pair of pumps for later.
Recycle. Reuse. Reconstruct: You need not buy a new outfit . . . think of ways to make something you have look fresh and different. This might mean adding a Shwe panel, traditional brooch or some bead detail on a hem.
Innovate: Really, it’s not that hard! Take the time to read up about the theme, go online and get a feel for what you can do to take your look to the next level. Details: www.kathkidger.co.za; www.gatewayworld.co.za
Photographs: Chris Allan Photo | Makeup and hair: Juliet Martin Makeup