Speaking to DUT (Durban University of Technology) alumna, fashion designer Balini Naidoo, who started her own brand of braille designs. The dynamic lass, who is based in Saldanha Bay, completed her Bachelor of Technology Degree in Fashion and Textile Design at DUT and graduated in 2017 with Cum Laude.
Naidoo’s love for fashion led her onto the path of studying fashion design, and through it she has achieved numerous goals. Her idea of braille designs came from having a family member who is visually impaired, making her aware of the many struggles that the unsighted faced. She said that some of these difficulties include daily clothing identification and clothing choices made with assistance.
According to the South African National Council for the Blind, the prevalence of sight disability in South Africa is the highest of all disabilities with about 32 percent of people living with the disability. Women make up 57 percent of the total number of blind or partially sighted people, while 23 percent of visually impaired people fall between the ages of 15 and 36 years.
“I started researching how I can design a system for the blind to assist them in becoming more self-reliant and independent when choosing clothes. My designs, which come in muted colours, help visually impaired identify the colour, size, wash care instructions and style description of a garment, which is printed onto it. This also makes it easier for people who are visually impaired to have some independence, for example, when choosing what to wear on a daily basis,” she said.
She stated that her range of clothing gives visually impaired people the dignity of choosing their own fashion sense and what they feel comfortable and good in. Also, Naidoo added that a percentage of all her profit of her braille clothing is donated to the Cape Town Blind Society.
Naidoo’s creativity got her vast recognition for her designing skills. She was chosen as one of the Top 10 designers for the Society of Dyers and Colourists 2015 competition. In 2016 she was placed in the top 25 Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Awards. Naidoo was chosen to showcase her BTech concept at the Design Indaba Emerging Creatives class of 2018. “I am also a Goalkeeper for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation 2019,” she said proudly.
Another exciting chapter for her was the opening of her own business in April 2019 called Balini Pty Ltd. The core product at her business is the braille clothing with the braille identification system. However, she stressed that this does not limit the company from exploring any other market with regards to the fashion industry.
“By designing and manufacture of our innovative braille clothing using our unique braille identification system. The braille identification system is also available for sale to retailers under trademark,” she said.
Speaking further on her concept of braille designs, she said that her braille identification system describes the garment in terms of size, colour, wash care and style description. “This is printed at the back neck or hemline of each of the garments. These braille clothing labels will assist the visually impaired to identify and match their clothing and to have a mental vision of their clothing items,” she added.
Naidoo was asked what is forthcoming from her, in terms of what she still hopes to achieve fashion-wise, she said that she wants to become the market leader for innovative clothing and to train and create job opportunities for the community in which her business operates.
“My future aspirations are to also encourage more designers to think out of the box and use design to address some of Africa’s challenges,” she said.
Naidoo’s advice to those wanting to follow in her footsteps, especially students studying at DUT, is to have a genuine passion for fashion and the understanding that it’s not an easy course. “One needs to realise that this course has to be the number one priority throughout the duration of the studies, meaning that your social life will take a back seat. Be original, and use your skills and creative minds to address some of our countries challenges. To keep thinking out of the box, to be unique and try gaining inspiration from your surrounding and tell a story,” she said.
To find out more on her Braille designs, email: email@example.com
Pictured: Balini Naidoo