How I snagged an H&M dress for R20 by shopping at a “dunu boutique”

Nothing pleases Nomfundo Mlaba more than beautiful clothes at a bargain price. She told ZILUNGILE MNISI how about her best bargain “an R20 H&M dress” and how she manages to pull off her trendy, vintage style at under R100 an outfit.

I like vintage style. I used to raid my grandmother’s closet and wear all her old clothes but I eventually ran out of options. I started buying vintage clothing last year when a friend of mine introduced me to “dunu boutiques”. It comes from the isiZulu word “dunusa“, which means bending over with your bottom in the air “it’s what bargain hunters everywhere do as they search through goods at roadside stalls for a good buy. Now I buy most of my clothes from the street and I accessorise them with shoes or bags from retail shops. This way I can maintain a great look by accessorising inexpensive clothing with more pricey accessories.

The area that I buy my clothes from is one of the busiest streets in Durban, around the Market area. The most expensive item you will find there is just over R30 but you can get shirts from as low as R5, dresses for about R15, and jackets and blazers for up to R30.

MLABA green dress [via Instagram]

If you’re lucky you might find designer brands that are not normally available in South Africa at a very low price. I once bought a green chiffon dress from H&M for just R20. It is one of the best buys I ever made; a dress that top designers like David Tlale would design and have their models wear at fashion shows.

You have to be careful when shopping this way, because the clothing is second hand and you have to look out for defects. I once bought a cream skirt that had a stain on it. I loved it and hoped I would be able to remove the stain. But it wouldn’t come out and I had to throw the skirt away. I was disappointed because I could have used that money to buy something else.

Finding great buys is sometimes a struggle, but I have managed to make friends with the people I usually buy from. They know my style and keep some stock separately for me. It’s unusual to buy an item that fits perfectly, so I normally tailor my clothes but the local tailors are cheap and there isn’t much additional expense. Sometimes I buy items that other people pass over and then take it to a tailor to add an element of my own.

One of the biggest challenges to shopping this way is safety. The area that I buy my clothes from is one of the busiest in Durban and there’s always a danger of being robbed or pickpocketed. I normally go with a group of friends; we leave our phones and other belongings behind and just carry empty bags and money.

Shopping like this is great for students because it saves a lot of money and you can still look very stylish and unique.

Featured image by Zilungile Mnisi, other image via Instagram