Design Team has been one of my favorite South African designers for years so when the opportunity arose to visit their new factory, my heart skipped a beat. Lise, co-founder and designer passionately showed me around her magic factory and I was astonished to find that all the fabrics are hand-printed — no big industrial printers or scary machines in sight.
Design Team believes that handprinting is one of their key strengths — they can customize items, improve or change designs without the fear that the 'big machine' needs feeding to be profitable. I now realize why their designs are unique and almost soulful, these girls have something good going, they are proud of their work and they take care of their people.
They have a wonderful policy of recruiting mostly unskilled labor and training them to become experts in their field, such an important task in a country like South Africa where unemployment is high and education and skills are desperately needed.
Design Team was founded by Amanda Haupt and Lise Butler who met at college. For their final year project they decided to investigate the possibility/viability of a textile manufacturing business in South Africa where the traditional textile industry was dying. They say that — 'Sustainability of the business has resulted from a conscious decision to combine creativity with commercial viability when it comes to designing and the ability to successfully manage in-house production'. They were determined to create a unique and striking collection, with no plans of ever giving in to the "evil mass production monster" as they call it. Nine years later and these girls have stolen the country's heart and they are making their way across the pond too. Visiting this factory gave me even more appreciation for this brand, their humble beginnings and the unbelievably beautiful work the produce.
Images: Liezel Strauss