Zana is a creative brand based in Woodstock founded by Robyn and Sue Britz. Now, 2 years later, the Zana team is 7 women strong and they’re all passionate about colours, patterns and typography, which they print onto fabric and sew into bags, pouches and cushions. Their beautiful products and inspiring website caught our attention, so we went to Zana for a studio visit and a chat with Robyn about the business, their space and their creative process.
Please introduce the team behind Zana. Who does what and how does each person add to the dynamics in the studio?
We are a team of 7 ladies in our studio. Sue and I are the founders of Zana. I am the creative manager of the team and looks after the technical side of things. Sue is a definite jack of all trades. She sews up prototypes, orders supplies and manages orders being made by our production team. Melissa is an interior designer. She works with wholesale clients, does social media and works with clients on interior projects. Nikki is our designer. She does our beautiful mailers and works with us on product development, our blog and various other tasks. Then Yokai, Tendai and Sarudzai work on the floor, cutting, sewing, packaging orders.
What is your background?
I studied a BA in Creative Brand Communication speciliasing in Multi Media Design at Vega. I have always loved creating, drawing, crafting and making as well as computers and technology. After I finished studying I did a bit of freelance web development and worked on Zana. Things took off and now we have a full time thing.
When and why did you decide to start Zana? What inspired this idea?
Sue has a background and many years of experience in the print industry. When I was in my final year of studying she approached me with the idea of designing something to print on textiles. I took the leap, we started with scatter cushions and I listed them online for sale and it kind of grew from there. Our skill sets worked together really well to form Zana.
How did you find and choose the space that hosts your shop and studio? What about the area and space appealed to you?
When we started we worked from home but after a few months we needed more space. We looked around town, on Long Street etc and just couldn’t find anything we liked. Alot of the places were typical office spaces with seperate rooms and carpeting. I had a dream of high celiengs and open plan in a trendy area. When we came to look at this building, we loved it. I don’t think that we will be here forever, but for now it suits us just fine. I love the open plan nature, the fact that we are on the ground floor so people can look in or come in and browse.
How did you transform the empty space into Zana’s beautiful shop and studio? What were some of the most significant changes you made?
It was really a blank canvas when we moved in and with the help of Melissa (our now resident interior designer) we designed the space. I had a strong sence of what I wanted when we moved in which guided the whole project. I wanted hanging plants, raw wood, white furniture and pops of colour. Which is exactly what we have now! One of the most significant changes we made was installing the pendant lights above the desks. It really finishes the studio off and I love them! Most of our display and storage units are custom made to suit our needs, this makes for the easiest work flow and display.
Would you say that the environment around you influences your designs and your approach? In what ways?
Yes definitely! I think we are all inspired by the space and as soon as we get bored with it, we change it up. We have moved the studio around quite a few times and when we finish a DIY project we often put it up in the studio to admire for a few weeks. This gives us a fresh perspective. The open plan layout of our studio allows for collaboration and out of the blue brainstorming sessions.
What else inspires and influences you, and how are these visible in Zana’s aesthetic?
We are very inspired by the city of Cape Town and all its small creative gems. We also keep an eye on international trends and try to find a place where the two can meet. We love to create light hearted, fun and graphic textile goods with a touch of whimsy. A pop of colour is our staple go-to.
Take us through a day at Zana. Any interesting habits to keep the team motivated and inspired?
Mixing it up keeps us all motivated. When it all gets too crazy we take a break with Instagram, work on a DIY or just get away from the computer. We go for coffee at the Biscuit Mill, talk about The Bachelorette (a guilty pleasure) or style and shoot something fun in the studio. Besides this we do the usual answering emails, dealing with technical problems, designing new products, working on social media.
Tell us about your process. How do you go about turning your ideas into fabrics and your fabrics into products?
Normally I start out scribbling in one of my numerous sketch-pads. I love to capture shapes using either a giant permanent marker or water colour paints. I gather inspiration from so many places and let my brain explode on the page, often drawing really unusual geometric shapes. Once we decided on which designs to go ahead with, we get printing colours right with swatches from our printers. We pair patterns up and decide what products we can make with them. Nikki, Melissa and I come up with possible product ideas and Sue will sew up a prototype. We normally share it on Instagram to get feedback, quailty test it and then it’s up for sale.
What are the 3 most important objects in the studio?
First the fabric cutting table definitely. Have you ever tried to cut or roll fabric without one? Nightmare! The sewing machine, which sews everything up for orders. Thirdly the router because the internet lives there – I don’t think I need to explain why that is important.
How would you describe your products to someone who’s never seen them?
I would say that they are textile goods packed with bright colour, pattern and graphic details. We are obsessed with typography and we have a bunch of cute wordy his and hers sets. We make cushions, bags, textiles by the running meter and other fabric goods.
Visit the Zana studio and shop inside the Salt Circle Building at 9 Kent Street, Woodstock, Cape Town.