A chat with SA’s queen of printmaking
Skinny laMinx’s Heather Moore talks balance, authenticity and the benefits of creative freedom.
Arguably, every South African knows the name Skinny laMinx. Owner, Heather’s textile design brand (named after her Siamese cat!) is a gorgeous Cape Town success story of a small female-owned and run business that’s grown to be coveted by fans and customers around the world. Her patterned tea towels, retro cool tea trays and Colour Pop Pillows are a love letter to playful prints and unapologetically bold colour and would brighten the gloomiest of days, or moods. In the spirit of Women’s Month this August, we sat down with this exemplary female designer to chat about life, work and finding the time to “make stuff”.
How different was the vision for Skinny laMinx when you started out, compared to how it has evolved?
The vision still is that I just want to make stuff, I just want to go to my studio and make things. And in a lot of ways that still drives what we do. Anyone who has a small creative-led brand will tell you the same thing, that there’s never any time to actually make the stuff. So, it’s vital to have a team that is organised and good at planning so that I can continue to generate things.
That’s where Making Friday comes in; every week I spend a full day in the studio and make stuff that’s not specifically work-related, it’s just about keeping that creative flow going. I find that I generate content that I put onto my studio walls and into sketchbooks, and as time goes by, it gets incorporated into what’s being made for Skinny laMinx. It’s almost a stealthy way of generating design, without having to validate the process. And, as a bonus, it generates content for social media that tells the story of the process behind a creative brand.
How have you developed your business using online and social media?
The whole business was built on blogs… back then it was Blogger. Twitter was next, and then I joined Etsy to sell online. Without the internet, I don’t think we’d have a business at all. So, it’s very much a brand that is borne of social media.
The business is twelve years old, but it was only eight years ago that we opened our brick-and-mortar version of the Skinny laMinx shop. That whole first part was purely online sales and weekend markets.
When it’s all been done before, how do you innovate in the social media landscape?
There’s so much out there about how to create a great online presence, and much of it is sound advice, but authenticity is the thing that’s hard to learn via any course.
So, who’s getting it right then?
The person who comes to mind is Capetonian Michael Chandler, who manages to be enormously creatively generative in the things he makes and he translates that creativity into his Instagram presence too. It’s amazing! I don’t know how he gets so much done and does all those IG stories too! It must simply be something he loves to do, which is why it is so enjoyable to watch.
You’ve been using your brand to do unexpected things like teaching, tell us about that.
Angela Ritchie, a Canadian woman who runs Ace Camps, mailed one day to ask if I’d like to teach block-printing in India, and I jumped at the chance! It’s been a great opportunity to travel and learn things and it’s been good for the brand, too. I’ve taught in India three times and Lisbon twice, and I was in Swaziland with Ace Camps too. The people who come to the camps are from all over the world.
Have you been able to use those trips to do research for your designs?
Yes. With the India trip I’ve had the opportunity to produce hand-blocked dupatta scarves of my own design. It’s been a great way to expand my own boundaries… and my design boundaries as well.
In terms of the famous work-life balance, have you achieved it, particularly as a female entrepreneur?
My life does get unbalanced. I don’t have kids. I do have a husband and he’s an artist, and we made a choice not to have children (they are really expensive!) which allows us quite a lot of financial freedom to explore the things we’re interested in. But as far as the work-life balance idea goes, one of our main brand values is that we aim to enjoy our days at work. Our team works really hard, but it’s fun and it doesn’t feel like something that’s super different from life. It’s kind of like the shopkeeper who lives upstairs from the shop and his work is integrated with the life that he leads.