Durban's Doyenne of Design
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.