Dur­ban's Doyenne of De­sign

SLOW Magazine - - Contents -

Amer­i­can base­ball player, jour­nal­ist and gos­sip colum­nist Earl Wil­son once fa­mously said that, ac­cord­ing to fem­i­nists, 60 % of a coun­try’s wealth is in the hands of women and they’re let­ting men hold the other 40 % be­cause their hand­bags are full. Stereo­typ­i­cal per­haps, but for many women, hand­bags and purses are in­deed like friends – you can never have too many.

This is the real­ity of Becca Blair, the Dur­ban-based de­signer whose epony­mous range of hand­bags has been steadily grow­ing a large and loyal fol­low­ing across South Africa, and has firmly set its sights on a global au­di­ence. Loved by lo­cal celebri­ties like ac­tress and model Min­nie Dlamini, Becca Blair’s fab­u­lous bags have been fea­tured in mul­ti­ple in­ter­na­tional mag­a­zines – in­clud­ing British Vogue, Glam­our and Tatler – and or­ders are reg­u­larly shipped to var­i­ous lo­cal bou­tiques as well as to the United King­dom, Ger­many, South Korea and the USA.

Yet de­spite her pas­sion for hand­bags, the petite, bub­bly Blair did not start her ca­reer in fash­ion. When it came to mak­ing a ca­reer de­ci­sion, head con­quered heart – much to the dis­ap­point­ment of her high-school art teacher who had great as­pi­ra­tions for Blair as a fine artist. With the life of an artist be­ing such an un­cer­tain one, Blair opted to pur­sue graphic de­sign through the Dur­ban Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, a ca­reer path that would vir­tu­ally guar­an­tee a ca­reer and an in­come.

Shortly af­ter com­plet­ing her de­gree in 2011, Blair se­cured a po­si­tion as creative brand man­ager while work­ing on her true pas­sion in the evenings. How­ever, the brand only launched in June of 2012 af­ter Blair spot­ted a bag-maker work­ing in the back of an em­broi­dery fac­tory, spend­ing his time mak­ing school bags and nappy bags.

An avid fab­ric col­lec­tor, Blair de­signed a ba­sic shop­per bag for the bag-maker, and pro­vided him with some pow­der blue vinyl and a ze­bra-print can­vas from her col­lec­tion. He made the bag to her spec­i­fi­ca­tions, and the first Becca Blair De­sign came to life. It was the light-bulb mo­ment all creatives dream about. Blair put her graphic de­sign skills to use in building a web­site, and roped in her father – “a great teacher of Pho­to­shop and pho­tog­ra­phy” – to cre­ate the image she had long en­vi­sioned for her brand. Slowly but surely, one re­fer­ral at a time, Becca Blair De­signs started grow­ing. And then Lon­don came call­ing.

Blair packed up her life and re­lo­cated to what she de­scribes as her “home away from home”, work­ing as a graphic de­signer for a skin­care com­pany in the British cap­i­tal. How­ever, be­fore she knew it, she was not only the pack­ag­ing de­signer, but also the cleaner, tele­phone sales agent, box packer and, as she de­scribes it, “gen­eral slave”. She stayed in Lon­don for two years, bat­tling with the ques­tion of whether she wanted to be in Lon­don, or whether she wanted to be at home in Dur­ban and be her own boss.

The rest is his­tory. Upon re­turn­ing from Lon­don, Blair jumped right back into her pas­sion for bags, and has grown the brand no­tably. She has learnt from her early years and re­duced the num­ber of styles on of­fer sig­nif­i­cantly, tweak­ing the de­signs slightly to stay on trend, and tak­ing cus­tomer feed­back se­ri­ously to cre­ate items her loyal fans adore. Blair still has full creative con­trol of the busi­ness, but has added her friend, Kate, to the team to balance out the re­quire­ments on the busi­ness side.

Fu­elled by pas­sion and a be­lief that dreams can come true, Blair will un­doubt­edly reach her goal of go­ing global and, specif­i­cally, re­turn­ing to Lon­don a tri­umphant de­signer of glam­orous bags and purses. She also plans to spend six months of the year in Aus­tralia, and the other six months at home in Dur­ban – mak­ing sure her home­town mar­ket still gets a taste of the Becca Blair flair. With so much sin­gle-minded de­ter­mi­na­tion, suc­cess is in­evitable.

For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit www.becca-blair.com.

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