OF style SPIRIT, & SUBSTANCE
This month a designer working in braille, an illustrator and a style icon share some insights into their careers, passions and covetable pieces
My story: BALINI NAIDOO Striking the perfect balance between style and function, Balini Naidoo designs clothing using a braille identification system for the visually impaired
I believe that what we do for ourselves dies with us, but what we do for others lives forever and I’ve always believed my purpose is to make a difference in society. My childhood memories are filled with colouring, sketching, painting and drawing. Fast forward a few years and I’d completed my Bachelor of Technology in Fashion & Textile Design in 2017, knowing for certain my passion was for design. My creative process always begins with a core understanding of who I’m designing for. Functionality’s very important to me when designing. Having a family member who’s visually impaired led me to start researching how to design a braille identification system for clothing. The one I’ve designed is printed on my garments and is intended to assist those who are visually impaired to make clothing choices independently. Most of my inspiration comes from architecture and my signature design aesthetic includes a monochromatic colour palette with an emphasis on minimalism. Most importantly, form must follow function. The positioning of the braille, the soft fabrics and other forms of fabrication help me make the clothing as comfortable as possible, but without neglecting important style notes and trends. The key is to make it easier for people who are visually impaired to acquire a certain level of independence when making fashion choices. The most challenging aspect when designing is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, not only as a designer, but as an individual. I’ve done a lot of work trying to understand what materials are the most comfortable while choosing the right phrasing for braille. This is why I spend time with the KwaZulu-Natal Blind & Deaf Society, to really connect with the individuals and the collective group of the people for whom I’m making my collection. My greatest experience and achievement thus far include completing my degree cum laude, as well as the incredible response I’ve received since introducing my concept to the world and all the exposure and awareness I’m helping to create for a growing group of individuals. My future aspirations are to encourage more designers to think outside the box and use design to address some of Africa’s challenges. ‘It’s in your hands to make our world a better one for all’ were the words of Nelson Mandela, whose life sacrifices make me a proud youth living in a free South Africa. Ultimately, that’s my drive: to be groundbreaking, to be innovative, to improve people’s lives and to inspire.
Career moves: THAMI ZIKALALA Thami Zikalala, a graphic artist focused on women empowerment, sheds light on her career WHEN DID YOU REALISE THAT ILLUSTRATION WAS SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO DO AS A PROFESSION?
I started noticing a trend of customised illustrations especially through youth culture and with my artistic background and design skills in Photoshop, I wanted to expand my illustration skills set. What started as a hobby eventually became a thriving passion which I eventually turned into a business. This all began in 2014, when I joined Instagram, as it inspired me to view the works of artists across the globe showcasing their works on a growingly popular platform and making that a business on social media.
WHERE DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM AND HOW DO YOU SELECT THE PEOPLE YOU ILLUSTRATE?
Instagram is my art hub, with artists showcasing works that are either painted or digitally rendered. When I select a specific local celebrity, I search through their social media platforms to determine whether they appreciate local art and share the works on those platforms with their audience or followers. This process helps me engage with their followers and gain more clients, which in turn helps my business grow.
DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGN STYLE.
I depict the everyday female, the hardworking woman. I look to women who are driven, passionate and have a strong work ethic: women I’d describe as boss ladies. I deliberately use words such as ‘smart’, ‘hustle’, ‘work’, ‘boss’, ‘ambition’ and ‘own your throne’ in my artworks, as these are motivational in everyday life. My focus is mostly on customised illustrations; this is the era of personalisation which depicts individuality. My illustrations also follow a vibrant pop culture theme.
WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER?
Meeting French illustrator Nicholle Kobi during her exhibition earlier this year. We have a similar vision in illustrating everyday black women. We’re also both hard-working, striving [to do more] as moms, businesswomen and future leaders.
DO YOU THINK CREATIVITY IS SOMETHING YOU’RE BORN WITH OR SOMETHING THAT CAN BE TAUGHT?
Creativity is something you’re born with and it’s established at an early age.
“I depict the everyday female, the hard-working woman. I look to women who are driven, passionate and have a strong work ethic”