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Friday, March 7, 2014


(Benazeer Mulla)

Last month, third-year Durban University of Technology Fashion Design student Benazeer Mulla scooped the 2013 Emma Smith Art Scholarship Award.

Mulla was one of nine talented nominees from DUT's Faculty of Arts and Design who were in contention for the R40 000 scholarship prize.

Her Mind Control male fashion range - which was showcased during last year’s DUT Fashion Show, earning her the Most Innovative Range award and now the 2013 Emma Smith Art Scholarship Award - was inspired by underground Soviet street style. Mulla says her dark cyber punk interpretation explores noisy gritty textures, interrupted utilitarian design (Industrial Evolution, 2013) and a rebellious approach to anti-fashion-reminiscent of a futuristic post-apocalyptic Industrial evolution (Hack-tive:Cyber, 2012).

In her range, Mulla looked to the traditional symbolism of heraldic crests/shields (Coleman, 2013) and Soviet 1958-1963 propaganda posters to inspire her print designs (Preston, Macdonald, 2012). This took pictorial references from mythology and occultism while reinterpreting the shapes with sharp angular lines (Coleman, 2013). This was then infused with contemporary Cyrillic and ambigram typography (Preston, Macdonald 2012).

Her range featured backpacks designed using x-rays of the brain which she then incorporated with lighting. The backpacks fascinated many at the exhibition. Asked why the brain, Mulla said, “My choice of the brain stemmed from the fashion show’s theme i-aesthete, which was defined as a representation of one’s individual concept of beauty and how the way we receive and process information affects our aesthetic eye.” This led her to explore what influences or controls human beings and how they in turn consume this information, which then naturally led her to the brain.

Mulla’s other designs consisted of a mood board which she says she chose in order to illustrate her concept by creating a hologram using the pepper ghost effect. This special effect technique was popularised in the 1800’s by creator John Pepper and was used to project a ghost like figure in theatre productions (Smith, 2013). It can be achieved by using light to reflect an image off a sheer of Perspex set at a 45 degree angle. This angle enables the background to remain clearly visible while reflecting a partial ‘ghost’ image on the other side.

“I had not expected to win; I was the only third year student in this competition. I’m ecstatic,” she said.

After attaining her BTech Degree, Mulla plans to do a summer study abroad course in fashion communication. Congratulating Mulla, DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Ahmed Bawa wished her well in her future endeavours. “Regardless of who the winner is, all finalists have done exceptionally well and we wish them success and good fortune in all that they do,” he said.