WINNER of the Durban July Young Designers Award, Leona Pillay, will be jetting off to New York on Friday as her prize for coming first in the event last year. The category seeks fresh design talent from all the fashion schools across KwaZulu-Natal. It is a lengthy process, there are auditions, pre-elimination rounds. Pillay, who designed a navy and beige cutwork piece, will attend various fashion shows in New York City, one of the fashion capitals of the world. She will attend three fashion shows and will be taken to various fabric stores in the city. “It is a proud achievement in so many ways, we are proud that Leona has exceeded her own expectations and is being recognised on such a grand international stage,” said school principal, Priscilla Bhika. Pillay said that she was overjoyed to be given this opportunity. “It still doesn’t feel real. I’m looking forward to experiencing a different lifestyle in New York and learning all I can to bring back home.”Pillay and four students have also been selected to be a part of the Durban Fashion Fair mentorship programme this year. Athenkosi Mfungula, Mandisa Dladla, Claudia Novuka, Tessa Rae van Rensburg and Pillay will spend most of their year in Durban studying under some of South Africa’s most famous designers learning firsthand from them. “It’s fashion, but on a business level and a very prestigious opportunity for our students to be selected. Our students were preselected at our annual fashion show last year and then went through a rigorous process to get into the programme. “We are proud of all our students and their achievements and look forward to them climbing the ladder of success,” said school principal, Priscilla Bhika. Speaking to Maritzburg Fever Dladla, ladies fashion designer said that she is looking forward to meeting other designers and learning from them. “I can’t wait to meet other designers and to learn about the different styles and other aspects in the fashion industry,” she said. Men’s wear designer, Mfungula, said he was “honoured” to have been selected. “This programme produces some of the greatest fashion designers in South Africa. There are even international designers that come through to teach us. It’s a huge honour to be selected. “Not only will we be getting invaluable fashion experience but we will be exposed to international fashion, a designers dream.” The students will also have the opportunity to have their clothes stocked in the Durban Fashion Fair Emporium store in Umlazi for the public to purchase.