Destined to design

Gorge, swanky and one of the most vivacious personalities in the South African world of fashion, Kathrin Kidger cultivates a personal style that is both witty and exuberantly idiosyncratic.

Coming from a lineage of women involved in arts and fashion, Kathrin is well-versed in the language of fashion. She’s dressed some of SA’s hottest celebs, sold her fashion-forward creations to the international market and, for the 21st time, this award-winning Essenwood designer and entrepreneur extraordinaire leapt into a creative orbit in her interpretation of this year’s Durban July Out of this World theme, unbound by commercial expectations or trends.

And if her previous creations are anything to go by, fashion fans can expect breath-taking, conceptual elegance, translated into race day ensembles that will leave you speechless.

Photo: Sean Laurenz,; Make-up: Aldytha da Silva, Make-up Your Mind; Hair: Clair Swart Hair Inc; Venue: STARBUCKS, Gateway

Fun-loving, loud, and a lover of all things, mostly on the extra side of life, Kathrin wears her heart on her sleeve. With a deep rooted love for fashion and what it communicates, she looks back on a childhood spent watching her mother toil at her sewing machine over matching tracksuits for Kathrin and her sister.

“My grandmother used to sew for London fashion houses and my great grandmother was an English Milliner, so a large part of my career choice felt destined. I still bump into old school friends from time to time and most of them recall how I told them it was always fashion for me.”

Kathrin honed her skills at DUT, qualifying with the Student of the Year Award and Daphne Strut memorial prize, and went on to win the Durban Designers Collection 2004, which secured her a coveted slot in the SA Fashion Week. It was only after winning the Smirnoff Red Fashion Awards 2004 – one of her earliest and most memorable career highlights – that Kathrin was able to focus her full attention on her own label.

A massive fan of practicality over frills and fancy on the daily grind, Kathrin loves an element of elegance when it comes to her personal style. She draws creative inspiration from socialising, problem solving and play. She also prides herself on creating gorgeous pieces that woman can’t help but fall in love with, saying that the spoils of her career lie in dreaming up gorgeous dresses for brides, their moms and everyone in between.

“Working with amazing women and creating something they have their hearts set on is a privilege. Having them share how amazing they felt and looked at the very special events in their lives, are daily, weekly, monthly highlights that live with me forever.”

On this season’s forecast, Kathrin says weather that triggers the chills brings a newfound freedom to explore winter fashions.

Meloh Mdluli of I Model Management and Fabulousdotcom; Photo: Sean Laurenz, Dress: Kathrin Kidger, Make-up: Aldytha da Silva; Venue: Gateway Theatre Of Shopping

“I’m obsessed about sheen and sheerness and combining fabrics. Liquid slinky metallic fabrics – although so unflattering on the bod generally – are just my best at the moment. And fabrics I haven’t seen before or are rather applied differently. Like metallic tweeds. I love texture and pieces that stand the test of time. The biggest insight into this year’s Winter is about going back to wearing pieces that celebrate who we are as individuals. Instead of cocooning for the better part of two years, we finally have that space to wear items that celebrate our style, our wants and our beliefs.”

If you’re battling to decide what colours to shade your wardrobe with … powder blue and deep burgundies are your go-to winter hues, suggests Kathrin.

“I like the idea of clashing combos. Life is for living. Just because its Winter, it doesn’t mean our colour palette has to reflect that season!”

Besides the supersized trend – whether it’ blazers, hoodies or pants – , Kathrin says sheer pieces layered and tailored detail will take centre stage in 2023 fashion trends.

“I love the trend of everyday preciousness that’s becomes a hot topic in fashion circles. These are stand-alone pieces that are exceptionally well crafted – even a basic trench coat – that tell a story, and instead of being reserved for special occasions, are being embraced in everyday attire. Hopefully we can leave behind the revival of platform sandals and low rise jeans. And don’t even get me started on bug-eyed glasses!”

2022 – Show me the honey! theme. Photo: Sean Laurenz

Reflecting on her years spent actively involved in the Durban July, Kathrin says it’s always so cathartic being involved with an event of this nature.

“As a developing designer, it is an amazing platform to showcase who and what you are. It certainly helped cement my place in the Durban Fashion scene in the early years. Not as a dressmaker, but as a celebrated South African women’s wear designer, who cares greatly about maintaining a standard within this vivid community. Whether that be judging or generating a capsule collection.”

What brings her back year after year?

“This event is so big for Durban. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in its magic? I love how inclusive this event has truly become, and the role fashion plays. It changes year on year, and the dynamics of the growing designer programme is inspiring. Watching what younger designers bring to the table and their evolution is something to behold.”

A peak at Kathrin’s 2023 Hollywoodbets Durban July Invited Designer Showcase. Photo: Sean Laurenz; Make-up: Aldytha da Silva; Hair: Clair Swart Hair Inc

As for this year’s theme, Kathrin thinks it’s super current. “With AI and its place in society taking centre stage, it really plays into the narrative of what the future holds. I’m obsessed with the different takes that come with this theme. It could talk to inspirations taken from space, the infinite inspiration the universe offers, and of a world to come.”

What can fashion fans expect to see come race day? “Lots of ingenuity. This year’s brief pushes boundaries. Durban July fashion is multi-faceted and truly for everyone. People wear gowns (something not really considered a thing at race events), many come for the fashion, some don’t even see a horse race, and perhaps others come for the party long after the last race. That’s what makes it a Durban July right? True eclecticism, Durban style.”

Amidst six trailblazing fashion designers hand-picked to bring all the glitz, glamour, and drama to the Durban July’s  Invited Designer Showcase, Kathrin adds her lustre to the line-up alongside Mxolisi Mkhize, Sibu Msimang, Madelain Clark, Joel Janse van Vuuren and Sadie Bosworth-Smith. Just what she has up her sleeve is anyone’s guess, but it definitely features a whole lot of white.

“The idea of white space refers to negative space or the spaces between various design elements. I’ve used different textures to create and emphasise this. Knits, organza, puffer fabrications, as silver detailing … like a play on the retro concepts of the future. I got lost in the works of Rudi Gernreigh and what futurism means to me.”

You can witness Kathrin’s dramatic showcase at the Durban July, on Saturday, July 1.

Details: Follow Kathrin Kidger Designs on Fb or @kathrinkidgerdesigns on IG or visit