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ELLE Collective: Balini Naidoo

Striking the perfect balance between style and function, Balini Naidoo designs clothing using a braille identification system for the visually impaired.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Balini Naidoo a fashion designer with a BTech in Fashion. I graduated Cum Laude at Durban University of Techonology in 2017. It was my love for fashion that led me onto the path of studying fashion design and, through it, I have achieved numerous goals. I was chosen as one of the Top 10 designers for the Society of Dyers and Colourists 2015 competition. In 2016 I was placed in the top 25 in the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Awards. In 2018, I was chosen to show case my BTech concept at the Design Indaba Emerging Creative class of 2018. 

Inspiration breeds innovation! This is why I am currently collaborating with a local west coast business, Saldanha Clothing, in giving back to my community through training and development, while working on further developing my concept.

What is your happiest creative memory from your childhood?

My childhood was filled with colouring, drawing, painting and drawing inspiration while playing outside. I was never one to sit still or read books. My happiest moments was with a sketch pad or a colouring book and pencils. 

Thobelani Mdletshe

What inspired you to design clothes for visually impaired individuals?

Having a family member who is visually impaired has made me aware of the many struggles that are faced by the unsighted. Some difficulties include daily clothing identification and clothing choices made without assistance. 

I started researching how I can design a braille identification system for clothing to assist blind people in becoming more self-reliant and independent when choosing clothes

My designs, which come in muted colours, help people identify what they're putting on using the braille identification system, which is printed on clothing. This also makes it easier for people who are visually impared to have some independence, for example, when choosing what to wear on a daily basis.

Thobelani Mdletshe

What is the most challenging aspect when designing for the visually impaired?

The most challenging aspect when desiging for the visually impaired is the ability to step in their shoes, not only as a designer but as an individual; understanding, for instance, tasks they find difficult to do, what materials makes them feel comfortable, choosing the right phrasing for braille, etc. This is why I spend quite some time with the KZN Blind and Deaf Society to really connect with the individuals as well as the collective group of the people am trying to help through my concept and range.

Take us through your design process and include where you draw inspiration from?

My design process starts of by understanding who I am designing for and their needs and wants. I love being outside while I'm getting ideas as most of my inspiration comes from architecture. I would then make changes constantly until I am satisfied  with the final product.

What advice would you give your 13-year-old self?

Have a positive mind-set. Always think big and never give up on your dream no matter what position you are in. Hard work and determination will help you reach your dreams in shaping the Africa we see tomorrow.

Thobelani Mdletshe
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