In August 2019, at the 100% Design South Africa showcase, we hosted our inaugural Clout Industry Days powered by Nando’s, where both emerging and established designers across several disciplines, textile, lighting and furniture, were invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts and the Nando’s design team. Four winners were chosen and all four are now currently included in the Nando’s business development programme, with additional individual mentorship opportunities based on the potential of their specific pieces.
Khosi Leteba’s Lesotho inspired Bodulo colllection was one of the winning pitches, and this year, in collaboration with Wiid Design Studio founder Laurie Wiid van Heerden, and with the help of Nando’s design programme director and Clout editor-in-chief Tracy Lee Lynch, two pieces from the collection were manufactured, initially in preparation for the collection’s debut along with 20 other pieces of original South African design at Milan Design Week, which has now been postponed due to the coronavirus.
“I was born and raised in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. But I am of Sotho origin, that is where my grandparents are from. I often visit my family in Lesotho and when I started designing the collection, I was inspired by the Basotho culture,” says Leteba.
The Bodulo collection features a pattern that celebrates different elements of the Basotho lifestyle, and the curved shapes of the furniture hint at the shape of their traditional homes. “I first translated the architecture of their dwellings in the form of the pieces, then I designed the pattern to tell the story of the Basotho people, their culture and agriculture, through different visual elements, like the Bosotho hat which is called mogoro, the horse which is a mode of transport for the Basotho people, and the landscape Because Lesotho is known as the kingdom in the sky. I also included crops in the design, because agriculture is how many make their living,” he adds.
The design blew the panel of judges away at Clout Industry Days, but it became increasingly clear that the design would be a challenging one to manufacture. “When Khosi presented, it was one of those moments that everybody in the room just kind of, you know, had the same response…gooseflesh. It was amazing. The pieces are powerful, and they are complex. They tell a strong story about Khosi’s love of Lesotho and his heritage, but to bring them to life is a completely different process,” explains Tracy.
“For them to become three dimensional objects that function in a restaurant space takes quite a different kind of commitment. So we acknowledged the fact that collaboration would be the way forward. One of the designers we’ve worked very closely with over the years is Laurie Wiid, and he seemed like the appropriate person to reach out to, to see whether he would collaborate with Khosi to bring his vision to life.”
Since launching his studio in 2013, Laurie Wiid has built one of the leading studios in South Africa, with manufacturing capabilities. His pioneering work with cork furniture has won him numerous awards and his one-off cork pieces have become highly sought-after collectible design pieces. For Khosi, the collaboration was a particularly special one.
“Laurie was one of one of my role models back in varsity. And this was a really good collaboration for me, especially because it actually allowed me to explore different materials. I’ve learnt a lot in terms of the design process as well, about things you have to consider about the manufacturing process when designing. That was something that I really didn’t pay attention to. In South Africa, we also have limitations when it comes to manufacturing, so this process also taught me a lot about coming up with different alternatives in terms of making furniture pieces,” says Khosi
Two benches from the collections were made, one in cork, and another in the plywood. “The process started where we received the 3D files, which we then refined to make them viable for our core material, cork. We worked on the thickness and added different curves and different feet. Then the communication started, so that Khosi could approve our interpretation, because obviously it is his concept. The second bench is the plywood version, which was a little bit more technical, and a little bit more of a straightforward translation of his concept,” says Laurie Wiid.
Khosi’s Bodulo collection is of course just one of many collaborations that have come up in preparation for the Milan showcase. Included in the showcase are other collaborations between the other winning ideas from Clout Industry Days pitch session, as well as collaborations to bring winning patterns from Nando’s Hot Young Designer Talent Search 2018 to life. We will share these, as well as the different business support programmes that have been developed to support the growth of design businesses, right here on the Clout website over the next few weeks and months.
“I think what’s also been important is that our immersive programme is not only about drawing out new talents and showcasing the amazing work of the designers, it’s also about business mentoring. Young designers need to understand how complex moving into the business world of design is. That it’s not just about being a sort of rockstar who is celebrated for your creativity. It’s also about the nitty gritty of making the business work. We need young people to be able to build their own businesses so they can start empowering themselves and in so doing empower others and create job opportunities. This is really at the heart of a lot of the work that we’re doing. Yes, there is the sharing of the beautiful stories, the heritage, and amazing designs, but this is also about building businesses that are self-sustaining, that can result in amazing opportunities to create employment and bring dignity to the lives of South Africans,” says Tracy.