Cape Town – She is blind and has no legs, but that hasn’t stopped a woman from Delft from having her own clothing manufacturing business.
Caroline van Rooi, 47, was born in Mitchells Plain and moved to Delft when she married. She lost her sight 10 years ago and both legs due to diabetes.
“After my health problems, I thought I had nothing to offer and felt useless because I was dependent on everyone. But now, even though I can’t see, I have a picture in my mind of what I’d like things to look like and I train people accordingly. It’s my system and it works for me and my business. I have a passion and I put that into action.”
She started her clothing manufacturing business, Red Pilot, four years ago with only one machinist.
Over time she started getting her own materials and received a donation of machines.
“I’ve been a machinist all my life. I’ll explain to my staff how I’d like a clothing item to look, and they’ll create the garment. My knowledge of fashion is also based on designs I remember from when I could still see,” she said.
Unemployed people from the community received jobs at Red Pilot, and Rooi feels proud that she is able to make a difference in her community by creating employment.
Her business mentor from the SAB Foundation, Ockert Fransch, said: “I couldn’t understand how a blind double amputee was able to run a clothing manufacturing business. I quickly saw that she was oblivious to these disadvantages.
“She had extensive experience in clothing manufacturing when she became blind.”
Fransch said that all the details of Rooi’s designs were imprinted in her mind and brain.
“Her mind, coupled with her enthusiasm to succeed, is her greatest asset. She relies extensively on her sense of touch to feel and design patterns,” he said.
Rooi said that she would feel the finished garment once it was put on a mannequin.
“My husband also helps explain to me the materials and the colours when I buy them.
“I feel that my challenges of overcoming pity have made my marriage a lot stronger,” she said.
Ockert said that Rooi surrounded herself with a capable and trustworthy team to augment any shortcomings.
Her attitude was a fantastic motivation to the disabled and abled.