The Wire: Hi Don, how are you and what have you been up to today?
Don Design: Hi Nadine, I actually just got to the Beam office, just finished a couple of meetings.
You say that, but it sounds like you’re on the beach relaxing! What does a day in the life of Don Design entail?
Haha, well thank you! It all starts at around 7am, I’d say a little prayer and reflect and focus on what’s to come. Then I head to the gym and from there I’ll attend some meetings, check in on my label at La Familia and end up at the office working on how we can enhance AKA’s brand. I spend a lot of my time watching youtube performances, it really inspires me and sparks up ideas of what we can do next. Every single thing that we do, even when we’re chilling is always “Have you seen this, have you seen that”, it’s completely part of who we are. It doesn’t even feel like we’re working.
So there’s no line between work and life, it’s a matter of just loving what you do.
You know what I mean?!
Very Rare has become synonymous with Don Design, what sets you apart from everyone else?
Very rare is a taste level. My friends and I understand a certain lifestyle: where you live, what you wear, who you talk to, what your aspirations are. I try to find the highest level in taste in everything I do.
Your rare touch is seen on so many things – AKA’s videos, IIIRWRLD, Bonang’s book cover, your label Monday to Monday to name a few. Please add to the current list:
I’m working on the most amazing women’s streetwear collection, which will drop mid-Spring. I have great ideas for the lookbook, which will take aesthetics to another level!
Yeah, Don Design is not a Sport Scene kinda guy!
No, I’m not a Sport Scene kinda guy! I know the exact clientele I have in mind for my collection, and I won’t produce a lot. High demand, very little supply, but like nothing you’ve ever seen. When you see the clothes and the price, you’ll understand the effort that went into it. It will be authentic South African with a global twist.
Who in the industry has the ultimate style game?
Ah my, I can’t believe you just asked me that! If I have to say, Moozlie. I love the way she takes risks and the confidence with which she wears anything. She can rock the dopest street wear brands like Palace and Thrasher, and really kill it.
I mean it’s not everyone that can make a skate brand look classy!
You know what I mean! That is why I had to have her in my campaign.
So we can call her your style muse?
Yeah. I even want her to be part of my next collection. But coming back to women with style game, Bonang also knows how to rock it, I mean those Celine glasses of hers… And then Tony Gum. Her look is so 2027.
Whilst I have you calling out the best of the bests, which is your favourite album to come out of SA this year so far?
No doubt Anatii and AKA’s album. I’m not even being bias, but man, when these two come together they gel perfectly – Anatii’s production and AKA’s beats!
So much love for those two, it’s really different to other Hip Hop we’re hearing at the moment.
Yes, hence why Beats1 and the likes want to interview them. They can relate to the sound and the standard, while getting an authentic South African look and feel.
Which track would be the soundtrack to the way you feel right now?
Ty Dolla $ign’s my vibe! He’s on a lot of new records and what I like the most is that he’s always singing in third person but talking about himself. How’s that for confidence? That’s what I am about right now. I’m feeling like the stars are aligning and I’m doing all these amazing things.
Like you guys are looking at yourselves and your achievements?
Yeah, we’re looking at how we’re killing it! And you know, on this topic I was listening to Trevor Noah on Metro FM the other day referring to how we as South Africans are. When we buy a car and your friends congratulate you, we go “yeah I’m trying, I’m trying.” Trevor says no, “you’re not trying, you’re actually doing it”. That’s the attitude that will help us.
We need to have more confidence in the way we do things. If you’re not confident in what you’re doing, it shows you’re not sure, so how can anybody else be sure? Confidence makes a star shine.
What in your opinion is “being talented”?
Being talented is being able to do all the things that you want to do effortlessly and naturally. It should be in you. It’s not a character you assume at a certain point.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I like to think of myself as a global citizen and look up to people like Trevor Noah, Elon Musk and Charlize Theron, they’re all doing what they’re doing at the highest of levels, not only in South Africa, but in the world. Nelson Mandela, Brenda Fassi, Miriam Makeba. I mean, I tweeted a clip of this the other day, where Miriam Makeba played herself on The Cosby Show during SA’s most oppressed period! To take yourself to that level at that time! WOW.
We’re talking TIME-magazine-cover-talented. Which magazine are we most likely to see you on first in the very near future?
The FADER. The stars are aligning, and I have patience.
If you can pick three things in a fire, what would it be?
My Macbook, my iPhone and a little toy that my dad got me in New York in like 1995 that I’ve realised has a lot of sentimental value to me. It’s probably worth nothing, but it means everything to me.
What advise would you give young creatives or aspiring youth?
It’s very important to be yourself and believe in the dreams you have. There is no better satisfaction than doing the things that you love. Follow your heart, it’s where your passion lies.
Describe your mindset in a couple of words:
So Don, you’re the creative, why don’t you pick a headline for this interview?
Ah, whatever it is, it must be very rare!
Check out his pop-up next weekend at Lost Property in Cape Town. Details coming soon…
Follow Don @Don_Design