In my last three post’s I’ve been taking you through my experience at this year’s Design Indaba conference and unfortunately this is the last post on the experience.
Let me give you a minute to take it in and recover from the shock…
Are you okay, have you accepted it?
You have? Good. Okay where was I…
During the conference, as I was admiring the designs nominated for THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OBJECT IN SOUTH AFRICA , I was lucky enough to stumble upon Thabo Makhetha Collective stand in the same area. The collective, a luxury African inspired concept store run by the amazing fashion designer Thabo Makhetha, that curates and brings together the works of other African designers such as ONEOFEACH, IMISO, Ruff Tung and the subject for this post, jewellery design firm Afrigarde.
Afrigarde, the brainchild of Maria Uys, really wowed me with two items that were on display, a chair and a loop light. If you read my post last year, WHEN FASHION MEETS DECOR: LOUIS VUITTON TA MILAN DESIGN WEEK 2017 , you know that I love it when fashion designers cross over to the wonderful world of interiors.
So here’s a look at not only this brilliant jewellery firm, who use felt to create hand made wearable art, but also the amazing products they created when they ventured into the wonderful world of decor.
The concept of Afrigarde’s felt range wearable art/jewellery aims to question cultural biases and our perception of what is “Foreign” or “Alien”. It is inspired by traditional Ndebele Surface adornment, such as the colourful geometric wall murals, as well as beaded jewellery and Neck rings that married Ndebele women wear.
“Initially I was inspired by the concept of “alien”. What seems strange or foreign to me might be normal to someone else, and this is often based on cultural biases. This led me to research specifically the Ndebele tribe of Southern Africa, who project their unique style onto practically every surface that creates part of their daily lives – from the geometric, colourful murals they paint on the walls of their houses and ceramics, to the body adornment that initiates wear as they go through various stages of their life. The rings and hoops that married Ndebele women wear around their necks might seem strange and foreign to people from other cultures, but in this same way the wearing of a white wedding dress and veil as westernised women do might seem just as strange or “alien” to them.”
In 2015 she was part of Design Indaba’s Emerging designers (click here to see my 2018 favourites) and was determined to make more products from felt and I’m glad that she ventured into decor.
“After working on the Afri-Garde range for a year, I now feel much more comfortable and capable with wool and handmade felt. This natural, sustainable material is versatile and strong, and there are various felt making techniques which can be used for numerous products. I have many new ideas for projects which I will be working on.”
Here was the first of her new ventures trying out the capabilities of her felt designs:
1. LOOP LIGHT: Maria Uys + Larita Engelbrecht
This light, that speaks a universal language of design and science, was created after Maria collaborated with artist Larita Engelbrecht for the 2015 Elle Decoration Solve Design competition and it definitely won’t be a surprise when I tell you that they won.
“The Loop Light is a lightweight, portable and safe battery powered mood light. The malleability of the medium allows the shape of the light to be manipulated. It can be wall-mounted or hung, and is ideal for creating an imaginative atmosphere in a garden or a dim indoor space.”
The loop light was the item that initially grabbed my attention and led me to the Thabo Makhetha Collective stand at Design Indaba. When I saw it, it wasn’t turned on and I couldn’t figure out what it was;
“This…it’s actually a light. Seriously it is. Let me turn it on so you can see”
When I tell you I heard an angelic choir sing as she turned it on, that would be an understatement. What initially looked merely as just like a piece of interesting art now became a FUNCTIONAL piece of art, and that to me is the epitome of design.
Just when I thought felt couldn’t be used any better, I was shown another of her collaborative decor designs, the Umqhele dining chair, and in the spirit of full disclosure I have to admit that it is definitely my favourite.
2. THE UMQHELE CHAIR: Afrigarde + Umogo
This unique Dining chair, the result of the collaboration between Afrigarde and furniture design firm Umongo, is an exquisite piece of design made of African mahogany, felt, steel and leather measuring 450mmx450mmx1000mm. What I love most about it is its uniquely African aesthetic, fusing craftsmanship with art.
“Exaggerated and rounded, the legs have an almost animated quality, giving the chair expression, while the geometric Ndebele inspired backrest is a thing of beauty.”
I would love to style a dining area with the Umqhele but in the spirit of the Ndebele where I’d want to have a set with all the different vibrant colours represented in the culture that Afrigarde seeks inspiration from. So fingers crossed Afrigarde and Umongoo will hear me out and create the chairs in various colours.
So what do you think of designers venturing into other forms of design? Do you love it like I do or do you believe everyone should stick to their own lane? And what’s your take on these two items by Maria Uys? I’d love to know what you think so be sure to leave a COMMENT BELOW and while you’re there be sure to SUBSCRIBE so that you don’t miss out on any upcoming posts.
So there you have it folks, my last post on my experience at the world’s largest design conference, Design Indaba. Hope you enjoyed walking down memory lane with me and if you missed the other three posts be sure to check them out here (THE SPEAKERS, THE EMERGING DESIGNERS and THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OBJECT IN SOUTH AFRICA)
Till next time be sure to Be Inspired…Be you!