Miss SA dress has tongues wagging

Ntandoyenkosi Kunene revealed some of her pageant costumes for the Miss World competition in the US. Picture: Moeletsi Mabe
Miss SA wears one of JJ Schoeman’s designs Picture: Moeletsi Mabe

Designer JJ Schoeman is Mr “Miss South Africa” — having scored the coveted job of creating seven garments for the reigning beauty queen to showcase at the Miss World pageant next month.

Schoeman has been the man behind the country’s most beautiful women’s gowns for more than a decade.

This year’s Miss SA, Ntandoyenkosi Kunene, will compete in the 66th Miss World competition wearing Schoeman’s designs. Despite having been involved with the local pageant since 2002, this is only Schoeman’s second shot at designing the national dress for the competition.

He said: “With Megan Coleman (Miss SA 2006), I was asked to do her traditional costume … Everybody had something horrible to say, they ripped me apart, I was shredded. I thought I would never survive,” he said.

Ironically, that dress won the silver medal and ranked second in the world, Schoeman said, making him realise he couldn’t please everyone.

Now, a more confident Schoeman said each Miss SA is unique and his designs were informed by her personality and strengths. In previous years the national dress has been a point of contention for many.

From over-the-top ostrich feathers, Nguni hide, Ndebele beads to incorporating all of South Africa’s cultures into one dress — it can be tricky.

So when Kunene revealed two of the dresses she will be showcasing at the Miss World competition, there was mixed reaction.

Schoeman said he deliberately steered clear of any cultural references, instead opting for drawing inspiration from Kunene’s home province of Mpumalanga. The sunrise yellow dress with burnt orange fade represents the province referred to as the place of the rising sun. Schoeman added gold and vermillion Swarovski crystals to the bodice.

“South Africa is represented by one person, she then becomes the country… you have the entire country looking at you [and judging], people saying they can do better and everybody finds fault.”

Trend analyst Nicola Cooper said this year’s dress was bang on trend when it came to colour.

“It is good to see the use of bold colour which is synonymous with Africa, which is displayed perfectly on a darker skin tone …,” she said.

Stylist Mahlatse James also loved the dress. He said: “It’s the sensible next pageant dress. The touch of diamante gives it global appeal. It puts Mpumalanga on the global map. I’m very happy that a seasoned designer has designed something so on trend. It just goes to show that one can’t take his talent for granted.”

Despite praise for the colour, Cooper wasn’t happy with the bodice, which she called “dated”.

“I think rocking her natural hair would be a wonderful representation of younger African role models such as Lupita Nyong’o, and a sign of the times.”

Kunene leaves on November 25. The 66th Miss World will be held on December 18 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Centre, National Harbour, Washington DC.

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