Design Team: From student concept to dynamic business

Entering a Design Team store offers a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns that shouts out: This is truly South African. There are items for the home in the form of placemats, aprons, tablecloths and more, files covered in the beautiful hand printed material, and then on the fashion front, scarves and headbands. The prints are quirky, the patterns bold and the colours of the fabric and the prints complement each other in a vibrant way.

The inspiration behind the Design Team is Amanda Haupt and Lise Butler, two graduates from the Tshwane University of Technology’s Textile Design and Technology Department. With their formal studies behind them a business concept, conceived as a final project, came to fruition. On the Design Team website this daring pair of textile designers says: “We pride ourselves in having trained a team of previously unskilled workers to now print accurate repeat prints using a freehand silkscreen technique. Our small team of sewers involved with the cut, make and trim of finished products have also been able to expand their skills from basic scatter cushion sewing to the creation of garments from scratch. With a current permanent staff of 40, Design Team has grown from a student concept to a well-established, dynamic business.”

The designers say that they enjoy mixing traditional textile elements with local iconography, resulting in a new design style that has international design appeal without losing its local relevance and sentiment. “We value honest design and an unpretentious approach to branding and business management.”

On the business side of things, the Design Team operates from a sound business approach and philosophy that is stated on their website (www.designteamfabrics.co.za):

“Our business is based on simple business principles and relies greatly on team work. We do not believe in top heavy managerial structures, but rather implement a group leader system allowing us channels of communication and evaluation and the ability to rapidly adapt to change. Individual responsibility and sense of urgency is vital to the success of the whole Team. Design Team values efficiency, friendliness, thoroughness, dedication, perseverance, honesty, ownership and a willingness to learn amongst staff and management.

“Design Team's industry profile relies not only on the quality of our products but also on the efficiency and respectful manner in which we conduct our business. Respect is earned through consistency in behaviour, continuous service excellence and achievement. Everyone makes mistakes – how we correct them sets us apart.

“Our business path has been one of incredibly steep learning curves. We have made many mistakes but have been confident enough to learn from these errors. Analytical observation, a keen sense of interest, a hunger for learning and a belief that very few things are unobtainable, leads us to the next phase in building a Design Team legacy.”

We look forward to watching this legacy develop and applaud this dynamic duo for making beautiful objects that are also commercially viable.