“I design authentic African furniture with a global appeal” – Mpho Vackier

Images: Supplied
Images: Supplied

What is your fond childhood memory?

When I was growing up, my mom worked for herself as a seamstress so I grew up being surrounded by a love of creating things. My fondest memory is sitting at my mother's feet with my ‘play-play’ sewing machine as she sewed. I thought I would study fashion design because of The Bold and the Beautiful – remember the competing fashion houses/

Why furniture and interior design?

I think coming from an engineering background inspired that. The technical aspect of both interior and furniture design in terms of the materials you as well as the technical ability required to do both appealed to my left brain, whilst the ability to be a problem solver and have the end-user not just interact with what you create, but live in the spaces and use the products you have designed on a daily basis is one of my favourite things about what I do. 

What inspires your designs?

 I see my design pieces as a celebration of African culture by reinterpreting these graphic cultural signs into the resulting product designs, they become more than just furniture but a way to communicate and celebrate the richness of African culture across generations, nationalities and ages. We’re starting conversations to learn more about each other. I love to think of the pieces I design as a celebration of culture and classic design. Our introductory range is inspired by cultural Ndebele lines and forms especially inspired by the artistic works of Mme’ Esther Mahlangu, whose work is a celebration of culture in itself.   

What drives you and your need to succeed?

 I’m driven by the desire to create sophisticated and authentic, functional furniture that is inspired by global cultural patterns and motifs. I love to think of my furniture as a celebration of global culture and modern classic design, resulting in pieces that have a story and are relatable to the modern customer.

How did you make sure there is something that sets you apart from other brands?

My view of the world will always be uniquely shaped by my background, history and influences, whilst I am inspired by ethnic cultural graphics and motifs with as well as classical Mid-century furniture silhouettes.  I love the visual tension created by contrasting elements/ materials/ideas and the result thereof.  

I think being an urbanative to me means being grounded and inspired by my African culture whilst participating and being involved in the modern world, this is translated through my designs through the constant exploration how graphic cultural signifiers can be applied and reinterpreted to inspire new and modern product designs that are relatable and relevant to modern society. 

What have been your highlights to date?

·       Being chosen as part of the Design Indaba Class of 2017 Emerging Creatives, having Calvin Klein, John Travolta and 50 Cent interact and sit on the lounge chairs I designed for a business conference in Florida, in the US.

·       Having Top Billing shoot at my home and interview me about my interior design business and furniture business, collaborating with amazing creative.  

·       Being featured in my favourite design magazines and more recently being able to exhibit at this year's 100% Design South Africa 09 - 13 August at the Gallagher Convention. 

What are the challenges as a successful business woman?

Running a start-up comes with its own challenges because at the beginning you are the business, you have to wear so many hats, including being a wife and mother.  Balancing everything is tricky but I find surrounding yourself with the right team is key.  I also feel you constantly have to silence that inner critic and focus on what needs to be done, it is not easy but I make a decision every day to focus on the positive and not forget to remain conscious and aware of each moment. 

Where are you hoping to take your brand?

I would love for The Urbanative to be synonymous with contemporary African design that’s a sophisticated and modern take on African inspired products and furniture. I would also like to take my brand global.

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