Making It Super Simple

A search for a more independent Africa…

Airhead II

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Towards the end of my South African visa my focus seemed to improve. By then it was too late. Much earlier I should have made more effort to find a seamstress to whom I can outsource a lot of sewing. I was too much an airhead to realize it was one of the first things I had to do. The search appears not an easy one.

Because I’ll be about 5855 miles away from where I need a job done I need a seamstress with whom I can communicate easily via the internet. You know … someone who for instance gives adequate answers to questions via e-mail. It’s no use setting up a meeting with someone who is incapable of that. In all my first contacts with seamstresses I tried to make that very clear.

When a friend had given me the phone number of a woman who makes clothing for the brand of a friend of his, I texted her, asking for her e-mail address. She immediately called me to ask when and where we could meet. I got her to text me her e-mail address. Shortly after receiving it I got another call from her – she seemed very eager – and explained I would send her an e-mail in the evening because then I would have access to internet. Of course that is no reason to assume she was expecting a message from me. More time than an airhead can measure, had passed without a reply when I texted her again. Again she called me. This time I explained she didn’t need to give me her e-mail address again because my message was already send. Though I frequently checked my inbox the idea of looking for another seamstress probably kept floating in the air for too long.

Posting a request on Facebook led to one other phone number. It didn’t give me much hope because it came with the story that the seamstress must be very poor; her little boy tries to earn some money by selling stickers on the beachfront. But asking never hurt anyone so I texted that I was looking for a seamstress with whom I can easily communicate from overseas and asked for an e-mail address. Instead of answering my question or arranging a way in which I could reach her via the internet she just asked for a meeting, twice. After the third time I’d let her know what I wanted the contact stopped.

Surely a better way to go about it would be to look on the worldwide web for a seamstress who advertises herself there. Gumtree gave me two. Both got the same message wherein my situation and details about the clothing I need made were described. It also contained a link to pictures of all the clothes in my collection and two questions, one of  which for an indication of their prices for making them. The one who, judging by her writing, probably spoke very poor English just replied that she was very happy with the opportunity. If she really was that, then why didn’t she answer any of my questions? The other wrote an answer and that she needed twenty-four hours to come up with a quote. She also asked me a lot of questions. The answers to them she could have already read. I wrote her to please read my message so I wouldn’t have to repeat myself. A few days later she let me know that her price is R55 per garment. I gave her my phone number and asked if she really wanted the same amount for a catsuit as for a simple skirt. Her reply that she asks R55 for a circle skirt led to my impression she still hadn’t read my initial message properly. After all, there is no circle skirt among the things I need made. In the meantime a chance to have her do a trial assignment before my departure shrank and died.

The tiny bit of energy I had, should have gone to going to places where I could find people doing something that is similar or related to Making It Super Simple. Instead of staying at home most of the time I should have broadened my network with people in the same branch who have lots of knowledge of the market in the Durban area. ‘Should have’ doesn’t count for anything, I know. Or does it count as a lesson for my next time around?

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May 18, 2017 at 20:09

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Airhead I

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An airhead! Such an airhead is what I am! As I told you it’s high time for me to work hard; a lot of progress needs to be made soon … should have been made already; that was the plan for my time in Durban. The only steps made are the fact that I now have a big pile of fabric, a properly functioning sewing machine and the beginning of a stock of clothes to sell in my other hometown. A friend is so kind to store them. Oh, and I sold a dress to a friend who looks absolutely stunning in it. Okay, I was only there for three months and, as I also told you, I had some bad luck but the most progress I made is that I now know what a huge airhead I am.

Last year I mainly did vokol. – I watched a lot of crime series. – If I gave that fact some thought I came up with excuses like working different nights and thus not having a rhythm must make me tired, maybe my age is chipping in too, and some sort of depression. I thought going to a sunny place where I can have a daily routine could pull me out of the trap I had caught myself in. I was looking forward to coming into serious action. But I didn’t.

What I did do was feel tired, still, or even more. In March it finally became very evident to me. Every morning when waking up I felt my heart pounding. During the days an urge to cry often joined that feeling. This wasn’t just a negative mentality but a strong physical fatigue. I needed help.

Hoping for a simple solution to a simple problem I went to a doctor. “It’s probably a lack of B12 or iron or something”, I thought. My blood was tested on several things. They were all healthy. Because I didn’t know what the financial consequences of a visit to a specialist, as the doctor suggested, would be I decided to first give the supplements recommended to me a try. Ever since I seem to be doing just slightly better. Those supplements seem to help me a little and I suspect what I got to know more about my problem by knowing what it’s not does too. Still an urge to cry often wells up in me, for instance when I get extra tired on a short walk to the supermarket.

In conclusion I wasn’t as focussed as I should have been and I am ashamed of that. If you think it’s stupid of me to not fill this blog with only copy about how wonderful Making It Super Simple is, just blame it on the fact that I’m an airhead. Hopefully the wonderfulness of the clothing collection speaks for itself. It speaks to me, saying I should work harder. That’s right!


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May 18, 2017 at 06:31

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Fashion in thought

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A favourite pastime of mine to numb my mind is watching crime series. Often the protagonist seems to have a strong belief in his or her own self-righteousness that annoys me but the simplistic divide of good and bad is mind-numbing enough to keep watching. After all I’m used to stories that aim to provide a catharsis by letting the bad guy get caught to be punished. The reality I grew up in tries to do the same. I’ve heard a lot of discussions in which the size of a punishment was being questioned but the premise of the necessity of one never seemed to be.

A few years ago I saw Klaartje Quirijns’ documentary about the search for Joseph Kony. It showed efforts of white men in offices who were trying to get Kony in front of the international court in The Hague. It also showed the Ugandan society Kony came from. The people on the Ugandan streets shared a point of view that struck me. They just wanted him to come back so they could forgive him and everybody could get on with their lives.

A few weeks ago a friend reminded me of an African custom to deal with someone who has acted harmfully by telling that person about all the good he or she had done. As much as I hate Ubuntu for its lack of creativity and gratitude I love it for its lack of revenge.

A few days ago I read what Max du Preez wrote in his autobiography Pale native: “I remember being upset when the black youths who had killed the young American exchange student Amy Biehl, like a dog in the street, just because she had a pale skin, received amnesty. But I was wrong. Amy’s parents came to South Africa and engaged with those angry youngsters. Today those same killers, Ntobeko Peni and Easy Nofemela, are doing wonderful work in the community in the name of the Amy Biehl Foundation. That’s what forgiveness and reconciliation are really about.”

Obviously, when it comes to the treatment of criminals, cultures differ enormously. It is just one example of many differences. “But what is this line of thinking doing in a blog about a clothing brand?” you may ask. The answer is as simple as Making It Super Simple. By combining African prints and western shapes with each other the brand wants to symbolize how the two cultures can strengthen one and other in unification.


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May 17, 2017 at 08:39

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All beginnings are difficult

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(March 21 2017)

In February, a month after sending two parcels with materials to Durban, I arrived there myself. This time I would stay in South Africa for the duration of only one visa. My financial status didn’t allow me to leave The Netherlands in November as I had liked because the previous time I escaped from winter someone decided not to pay all of the little all inclusive rent we had agreed on, to steal my cat’s money for emergencies and to eventually leave my home about three-thousand euros in debt to me. By working nights in bars and living an as sober as possible life I saved enough money for a sober but warm trip.

The last year two people had spoken to me about the I Heart Market as the perfect place to sell the clothing I make. That led to the idea of spending most of this time around making stock to sell at the market towards the end of my stay. How realistic that plan is remains to be seen. While some patterns still needed to be drawn I knew I had to work hard to make it all happen. Having to wait weeks for the postal service to bring my materials within reach didn’t help. Neither does having to wait weeks for my sewing machine to be serviced. On top of that I only got one assignment so far from the agency that gave me at least one job a week in my regular line of work last year so I’ll have less money to invest than I had hoped for.

With my machine still in the shop the feeling grows that I really need to make a lot of hours in bars and spend as little as possible once back in The Netherlands to be able to take more time next northern winter on the continent with the best prospects for Making It Super Simple.


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April 24, 2017 at 14:15

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And the beginning continues

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Having bought as much fabric as I could add to my backpack I headed for my home in Durban. The route I chose went via Malawi, the country that had been the inspiration for Making It Super Simple. Eversince Rita looked after me with great care when I was ill at the resort she runs, almost seven years ago, I wanted to go back to thank her with a bottle of good cognac. As soon as she saw me she asked “How is the dog bite?” I received the warmest possible welcome, including two beers. After finishing the second bottle I found it high time to pitch my tent. Rita kept offering me a room for the price of camping. “Are you sure you don’t want a room? There’s going to be a lot of rain.” “Ag, that will be romantic”, I said determined not to feel in debt to her a second time. I had just started on my tent when Hazel, nowadays in charge of the kitchen, came up to me and pressured me into at least having a look at the room. “We don’t have any other guests now and it will be no extra trouble for us.” I was led to a beautiful big elevated room with a porch and a view on the lake. I felt blessed! Luckily the ladies liked my designs so in return for the room Hazel gets a dress.

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April 11, 2017 at 06:32

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A Beginning

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Good friend Harry thinks it’s typical for me to have sudden periods of hard work. After a long period of the opposite I hope to prove him right. I, a thirty-seven-year-old in search of a way to sustain myself in the ever nearer future, have been hosting this idea long enough now; it is time to turn it into a reality.

During the almost six years that have passed since the idea came to me I let it simmer. I designed it. I called it Making It Super Simple. I doubted it. Now there is a clothing collection and I should find a way to place it in the market as a proper business.

At the beginning of the chain in a clothing company stands of course the puchase of the commodity, in this case African wax fabric. – By choosing  an African commodity I hope to contribute to the African economy. – Therefor I went on excursion in Tanzania. My purpose was to find a good wholesaler. I visited Dar Es Salaam and Mbeya. In the latter I saw a few nice shops of which I liked one in particular. Behind the counter three chicken were lounging on the floor and every wall was covered with piles and piles of fabric with prints that seemed to want every colour and every two-dimensional shape represented. The qualities went from the local bad to the good quality from DRC to the best in the shop from China. The shop was not a wholesale but had a splendid assortment of consumer goods. If it would be operational on the worldwide web I would recommend it to anybody outside Africa who wants to make clothing or a home decoration for personal use for its wide range of beautiful and affordable pieces of fabric. It’s not and it won’t be.

At the wholesale in Dar I didn’t need a translater. The Indians running the place sell the best wax fabric from India in pieces of twelve yards for less than double the price of the six yard pieces of the lesser quality I saw in Mbeya but I don’t think they offered as wide a range of the decent quality produced in the west of the continent.

Being smart about a business is to invest wisely. Surely buying the best quality for a very good price is wise, especially when the designs command strength, which mine do. Eventhough I would like everybody in the process leading up to my purchase of the commodity to be African, I chose the fabric that is produced in India. I do trust some designs in textile from the African west coast and I would love to offer a variety of styles. Offering some of the nicest prints in a lesser quality for a lower price could be a good idea. If only the numbers would add up. As it is I’m starting the business on my own so far, with my own limited resources. Having to build up a customer base I have to build up trust and the higher the quality of the fabric the lower the risk of an unsatisfied client.

Note to self: further research is needed.


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March 25, 2017 at 17:48

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Writer’s blog/ck

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Writing a descent blog takes something to write about… to begin with. For a long time now I’ve been wondering what’s next to write about. Should I bring the story of the catsuit which was left hanging by a lady who seemed very happy when she tried it on but seemed to leave sadly asking herself what others might think of it and tell you that the same catsuit became the property of a happy lady who is now harvesting lots of smiles and compliments? Should I tell you that I doubled my clothing collection… as you can see in the shop? Should I report about my Etsy-experience now I’m trying to find out how that medium can help me and about the countless amount of beads that women all over the world appearently are stringing? Should I mention my trip to Gambia at the end of this year so I can ask you where to find a producer of good wax fabrics and for other tips? Should I already write about new ideas that just started to play in my mind without anything concrete to show for them? Should I continue to nag about my existence as an idea versus the destracting reality of the world my hostess lives in? And if I did… then what?

Writing a descent blog takes writing skills… knowing where to begin and how to end. Admittedly, I’m the type of entity that mainly wants to show the clothes that constitute me. So not only am I still wondering what’s next to write about; also I’m wondering hów it will be written about. For sure I can tell you that it’s time for some changes… and of course show you a picture.

Bloom in the dressing room after a performance

Bloom in the dressing room after a performance

Written by Making It Super Simple

September 18, 2014 at 13:52

Posted in Diary