The Dyad Design Process with Jessika

The Dyad Design Process with Jessika

How would you describe the design philosophy behind Dyad's handmade leather bags?

Finding balance in design (and life). A marriage of form and function and how to make that interesting. I like to combine things that might be unusual, play with contrasts and find  a harmonic balance between form, colour and texture. I’m not interested in making just pretty things, they need to be functional and practical in everyday life. I love the idea of Dyad pieces becoming companions of their wearers for a long time, maybe even get passed on.

Are there specific themes or influences that inspire your designs? Eg. colour inspiration, or art movements (eg. constructivism and suprematism)?

As creatives, I often think of us as sponges that just absorb impressions and images daily,  often it’s hard to pinpoint an idea to a specific  inspiration.  For me it’s an amalgamation of all of those impressions, images and things I feel drawn to like bold colours, graphic shapes, architecture and nature.  I guess constructivism and suprematism resonate with me as well as a lot of artists and designers of the Bauhaus movement. 

People are a great inspiration too! Someone with a unique style or interesting way of living life is always inspiring.

And then working in a workshop everyday is a great inspiration. I get a lot of ideas by just making things or being surrounded by different materials and my team which creates this wonderful energy that just makes you want to make stuff. 

Can you talk us through your creative process from start to finish when designing and making a bag or new collection?

When you design a bag or a wallet the process is very much informed by its purpose e.g. what needs to fit into it, the occasion etc and as I’m drawn to shapes I usually have an idea of what kind of shape I would like to achieve. What follows is a process of problem solving on how to get to that shape, make it interesting and different from what’s already out there.

I usually start with playing around with cardboard and making a mock-up out of cardboard, canvas or off-cut leather. Now it’s all about proportion, checking size & shape, figuring out details like closing system and strap. There’s a lot of tweaking during that process and it can take quite a while.

Once I’m happy and I’m excited about the design, I will make the first sample out of leather. Usually that first one gets quite close to the final product but there are also always little details that need to be changed. Details you only notice once you sit on the sewing machine and try to put the bag together. After that I test it, wear it for a while to see if I notice anything that needs to be changed and show it to a select group of people to get feedback. When I’m happy with everything I get Tinashe, our machinist,  to make the first one to  get his feedback on what has to be improved in terms of production. Once all of us are happy I get the cutting knives made and production can start.

We’ve been asked if Dyad would consider ever enter into home decor leather pieces. Have you given this venture any thought? 

I’m always open to expand and to look for new challenges. The Contour Coasters were an idea during Covid lockdown when I tried to figure out what to make out of the off-cut pieces that I was saving in my studio. I like the idea of branching out in different product categories. I just haven’t had an idea yet of what other homeware products to develop.


How do you maintain creativity while being a business owner, dealing with all the financial admin and running costs, and the general stress of owning a business?

I think that’s probably the most difficult and frustrating part of owning your own business. I wish I could work more on the development of new products and just play around with ideas. Time management is key and I really haven’t mastered that yet. Stress kills any creativity so I try to not forget to feed my creativity by doing things outside of work that bring me joy,  not related to my daily creative practice. Taking breaks and exposing myself to new experiences outside of my routine like taking a trip and traveling are key to staying creative.


Do you ever struggle with doubt or imposter syndrome and how do you deal with it? 

All the time! Everytime I release a new  collection and it’s out there, after months of development, photoshoots etc. I think that was it. I used it all up. This was my last collection. I can’t do it again. Haha. And then a month or so later after taking some rest, something sparks my interest and I think maybe I could make something like that.

It helps that I’m not a very fearful person and very open to trying things out and believing I can make a plan or work something out, that gives me strength in moments of doubt or struggle. I remind myself of the many times I have found a solution and it worked out in the past. 

I also try to foster a community with other creative women who run their own businesses, which helps not to feel alone and like you’re the only person who struggles sometimes.

Have you ever made something that was just a terrible fail? 

Many times. I have many samples that never made it to a finished product or a product I would not feel confident selling. There have also been products that I was really excited about but ended up not being  very popular. That’s part of the process and you can’t always win. It makes you a better designer because you start paying attention to the details that make something a success.


What Dyad piece are you most proud of? 

There are so many. I love the Emele Bag and the Eclipse Mini. Both took quite some time to get right.



What advice do you have for other female business owners? 

Listen to your intuition. It’s our greatest gift and best teacher. As well as slow and steady wins the race. Spend time and pay attention to building a strong foundation rather than chasing quick success or money.

What do you wish more people knew about South Africa’s creative scene?

Its abundance and uniqueness. We have so many incredibly talented people here in all kinds of fields that are doing amazing work not just on a South African level but global scale. We tend to look overseas and think those people/brands are ahead or better, which I don’t think is true at all. We have a lot to offer and shouldn’t sell ourselves short, but that only works with the support from our local community. So before you give your money to one of the bigger international brands, check if someone local doesn’t offer something similar or even better.

Design advice for fellow small businesses? 

Don’t copy something because you perceive it as a successful product from someone else around you. That never works or not for long and it’s not a nice thing to do. Figure out your uniqueness and design pieces that resonate with you deeply. Something that you would love for yourself, that offers something different from what’s on the market or something you would love to see on someone else. That way your customer will connect with your product on a more personal and authentic level and you create longevity  for your brand.


Back to blog