WORDS Dorothy van’t Riet PHOTO Supplied
Interior designer and industry stalwart Dorothy van’t Riet finds inspiration and hope in South Africa’s talented, passionate young designers.
I had a genuinely mind-blowing epiphany recently, while attending a series of design talks presented by young designers in the industry. Engaging with these young designers made me feel like I was embracing my inner child. I was truly inspired by the creative energy of our cutting-edge, contemporary creatives, and the ways in which they are revolutionising the industry by harnessing technology to access their market and create inclusive, online, social- media communities.
One of the key aspects that stood out for me was their focus on collaboration, networking and knowledge- sharing. They believe in building up and growing one another, rather than focusing on individual success. It is about community and upskilling others; about sharing and collaborating. This approach not only benefits them but also strengthens the entire design community.
The entrepreneurial spirit and smart thinking of our youth left a lasting impression on me. They have a drive for innovation, and are laser-focused on the future of our country. I saw how people in the community evolve into mentors for new members, creating a cycle of learning and growth. This open, engaged and solution-oriented society is truly inspiring. I admire their fearless approach of leveraging technology to drive change and enhance their designs for clients, allowing them to have an immersive, realistic experience. By merging digital elements with physical ones, they create exciting design experiences that blur the line between reality and the virtual world.
I’m reminded that “Designers will not be replaced by technology; they will be replaced by other designers, who use technology. So embrace technology – or get left behind by those who do.”
Listening to their stories, I was moved by their resilience, energy, passion and ability to adapt to the world around them – not only for their own success but also for their communities. The storytelling resonated with me deeply.
In the past, many of our designers tended to favour international inspiration over local. It is refreshing to see how today’s creators – and their clients – are embracing the energy and magnificence of local products in terms of quality, design and durability. As designers, we are creating South African work that is so good, it simply cannot be ignored.
The youth exhibit a fearless, bold approach that I love, and they bring a burst of vibrant, contagious energy – a breathtaking expectation of the unexpected – to the design world. Their use of unconventional materials, and their daring mixing of patterns, textures and styles, are exhilarating. I marvelled at the way in which they blend elements from the past with contemporary concepts. They embrace colour and experiment with unexpected palettes that evoke a whole spectrum of emotions. What sets them apart is their inherent understanding that design is about the experience they offer within the spaces they create, not just about the aesthetics or beauty. They prioritise self-expression and personalisation, carefully curating spaces that embrace individuality and celebrate diversity.
I applaud our young designers and their creativity. Their passion is evident in all they do. They are breathing new life into the design world, and their commitment to creating spaces that are not only beautiful but also functional and sustainable is the most inspiring of all.
As I look forward to the next chapter in my own design journey, and to embracing a more playful approach to my work, I am grateful for the excitement they have ignited. It is a thrilling time for our industry – and the enthusiasm and creativity that young designers bring to the table is truly immense.