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

Elle (South Africa) - - CULTURE -

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”

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