Since its beginnings as a small, mail-order business in 1943, IKEA has established itself as the world’s leading furniture retailer with 276 stores in 25 countries. Famous for its practical, minimalist furniture designs, IKEA reaches a large audience ranging from students, young families and everyone in between. Each year, the design team behind the franchises’ individual collections places great importance in creating a unique style that captures the spirit of Scandinavian modernism and the colours and feel of other cultures, but the 2019 collections hold a particularly beautiful collaboration in store for us: mesmerizing creations by ten top African designers.
Working alongside Design Indaba, IKEA picked ten designers from across Africa to work with the companies’ in-house designers on a collection that will bring us a step closer to the rich colours and artistic flair of Africa. The South African artist Laduma Ngxokolo was initially unsure as to how he would find the right approach to contributing his African DNA to the Swedish aesthetic, but upon meeting IKEA’s in-house designers, he found a beautiful way to highlight the brand’s minimalist style through his bold patterns.
The initial concept for the collection was a tribute to modern urban rituals shared across geographical locations and cultural lines, but it soon morphed into a celebration of traditional materials and craftsmanship, in this case, shining a light on various African artisanal techniques. Senegalese artist Selly Raby Kane found inspiration in the ritual of braiding, translating the technique into a woven basket she created in collaboration with IKEA designer Iina Vuorivirta. Design team Hend Riad and Mariam Hazem from Egypt, on the other hand, were drawn to the texture and sheen of chip packaging and used these to create metallic threads for which they developed a weaving technique. They honed these techniques to go on and create spectacular pillows and tote bags for the upcoming Överallt collection.
One of the obstacles the collection is facing, is the fact that IKEA currently only has two stores in Africa, in Cairo (Egypt) and Casablanca (Morroco) to be exact. This means, fans, family and friends of the designers will not have the means to purchase any of the designs directly. Fortunately, however, IKEA’s head of design, Marcus Engman, is already thinking of ways to make these pieces accessible to the African public through third-party vendors such as Amazon, or an open-source platform through which customers could design the items themselves using flat-packed materials and patterns sent out by the franchise, thus creating the transcontinental union this collection sets out to be.