Designing clothes for the visually impaired

Balini Naidoo.
Balini Naidoo.
Image: Supplied.

Balini Naidoo (28) believes that being a fashion designer is not only about creating clothes that are trendy but is an opportunity for her to address social challenges that are close to her heart.

This is why she started her ground-breaking fashion line called Balini, which she named after herself. It is unique because while the outfits will appeal to everyone, they have been designed with the visually impaired in mind.

“The clothes I create have a braille identification system to help people who are visually impaired choose their own outfits,” she explained.

Naidoo was a fashion and textile student at the Durban University of Technology in 2014 when she noticed how a distant uncle with failing eyesight battled to choose his clothes without help.

She felt inspired to do something to help people in a similar predicament and by thinking out of the box, was inspired to create her now iconic braille-identification fashion label.

After completing her diploma, she enrolled for a BTech in Fashion and Textile and only started working on her research and creating her fashion line in 2018.

“As part of my studies, I started working very closely with the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society, which helped me to read, understand and translate braille,” she said.

The braille identification system, provides information on the colour and size of the clothing item, as well as details on how to care for it. Her garments are also reversible.

In the same year, she had an opportunity to attend Design Indaba, at which she was chosen as one of the emerging designers to showcase her creation.

“I received positive feedback because visually impaired people had not before had clothes that were specially designed for them,” she said.

Design Indaba unbuttoned new opportunities and Naidoo’s brand has been extensively showcased.

However, Balini said her journey was not always easy. She has dyslexia which made her academic career challenging.

“It was difficult for me to get my lecturers to understand my research topic for my BTech. Conceptualising it was difficult but at the end of the day, I graduated cum laude,” she said. 

-This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele.

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