Categorized | Lifestyle

Q&A with Kelly Esterhuyse

22-year-old designer Kelly Esterhuyse is this year’s winner of the Elle New Talent Design Awards. Kelly showcased her designs alongside 7 other hopefuls at this year’s South African Fashion Week recently. Trend analyst and chief judge of the competition Dion Chang had this to say about the show, “The level of entrants was high this year and the judges faced an enormous task to choose one winner.”

What raised Kelly’s work above that of her companion was her visionary use of a rather neglected South African gem – Mohair. Did you know that South African Mohair is some of the most sought-after Mohair in the world? Despite this fact South African designers have remained rather oblivious to it or they have simply shied away from the challenges it presents as a medium for design expression.

Well Kelly has boldly gone where no man has gone before (I was once a Star Trek fan). She tackled this precarious element and came out the victor. Dion Chang added, “Ultimately what made Kelly’s range stand apart was her ingenious use of a much underutilized resource in South Africa – merino wool.  Knitwear has not appeared in a major way in this competition before and we liked her use of a local, indigenous textile which needs to be promoted.”

Well then there you have it, we’ve discovered the new cool… mohair. Not just any Mohair, it only qualifies as fabulous if it’s a Kelly Esterhuyse design. The young designer took some time out to tell Kasi Times readers more about herself.

In the beginning

I started designing in 2008 in my first year of varsity. Our varsity projects in first year were to design, screen-print and construct a hoodie that reflected who we were. We also designed, screen-printed and constructed a double duvet set. My earliest design memories are of Karl Lagerveld’s clothing range on the catwalk; that was when I fell in love with fashion design.

How did you come to enter the Elle Magazine competition?

I am currently in my fourth year of studying fashion design. Our fourth year brief was to design a range that would ‘solve a problem.’ I had chosen to design a mohair range because I feel that mohair is one of South Africa’s most luxurious yet neglected textiles. 70% of South Africa’s mohair is exported to countries like Germany, Canada and Dubai and through my range I wanted South Africans to realise the unbelievable potential mohair has. My goal was to showcase the diverse possibilities mohair possesses.  I am an avid reader of the ELLE magazine and once I came across the entry form for the ELLE new Talent 2011 search, I thought it was a great opportunity to enter as I had already designed storyboards for my varsity fourth year range. My designs coincided with the theme so I decided to enter on the spur of the moment.


My mom and my boyfriend definitely motivated me throughout everything. What also motivated me was working with a medium I had never worked with before which made it very exciting, as I did not know what the outcome would look like.


I studied fashion design at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Fashion Favourites

My favourite local designers are Black Coffee and Stiaan Louw, and my ultimate favourite international designer is Alexander McQueen.

SA fashion

My favourite aspect of SA fashion is the diversity of the cultures and inspirations that the designers use. What makes South African designers special is that when we study fashion design, we are all exposed to the wider scopes of fashion design and not only in one particular area. We are taught about the design process, pattern making, sewing, printing, etc.

The day before the big show

I couldn’t sleep the night before, even though I was extremely tired. Thoughts were racing through my head like: are the models going to fit in the garments perfectly? What are the judges going to ask? What if I trip and fall?

My family’s plane was delayed by 3 hours and then I thought ‘that’s it, they’ll never get here!’ But they did :-)

There were fortunately no last minute glitches, everything fitted and ran smoothly.

What will you bring to the SA fashion scene? What do you think will bring you longevity in an industry that has many one-hit-wonders?

I will bring creativity and new mediums or textiles to the SA fashion scene. Determination, passion and hard work will bring me longevity.

Most valuable fashion piece in your closet?

My Country Road apparel

What is a must-have item for every woman?  

A white collared shirt


The geometric shapes on an X-ray inspired the patterns on my knitwear. At the time I had a lot of tension in my back from all the sewing I was doing and Googled tension and I was inspired by the patterns on the X-rays.

What set my range apart were the local textile I used and the way in which I created a 3 dimensional texture on my knitwear. Normally the knitwear patterns are knitted into the garment where as I created a pattern and attached it on top of the base jersey that I hand-knitted. This created the 3D structural look I was aiming for.


A challenge that I faced was sewing all the buckled straps onto my leather pants once they had already been sewed up. Getting the attached tubes of knitting symmetrical on the garment was also a challenge.


Our varsity 3rd year ranges brief was to have 2 mohair outfits out of the 8 we had created. This is what brought my attention to mohair. I came 2nd in the mohair category of the show and my design was published in the March edition of the Marie Claire 2011. I absolutely loved working with the fibre and decided to create my entire 4th year range out of it.


Knitwear because I believe hand knitting is a fine art and the youth perceive it as a ‘granny thing to do’. I believe it is a valuable craft that designers should know how to do.  Knitwear was a high trend for our 2011 winter season.

–          Keitumetse Segoai

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