South African product designers have upped their game to the point that the world is giving African design special attention and our products have become collectible. Whether they push the limits of materiality or challenge notions of form and function, we rate these five local design studios the cream of the crop.
Having revolutionised the graphic printing industry for those with specialised design needs, Lemon’s range of wallpapers and printed surfaces has grown to include a small, beautiful collection of premium furniture that’s all about fusing function with luxury.
The brand has just opened its second showroom in Cape Town’s Sea Point to showcase the expanding product collection, and international brands &Tradition and Menu, in a way that fosters client engagement and interaction with the products. The showroom combines furniture, accessories, art and graphics in a modern, luxurious space with a definite retro feel.
2. WIID DESIGN
Including furniture, lighting and tableware, Laurie Wiid van Heerden’s studio in Cape Town is responsible for a returning interest in under-appreciated materials like terracotta and cork. Some of his most notable works include benches in concrete, solid wood, terrazzo and steel, as well as his more recent exploration of cork in stools, tables and accessories.
His latest offering, the Terrazzo and Cork Furniture Collection, explores the limits of these two natural materials, pushing their expression to new heights in an outdoor-ready, contemporary range of pieces that includes two tables and a chair.
3. STUDIO 19
Headed by Mia Widlake, this Joburg studio has grown in leaps and bounds from the range of homeware and smalls they began with to the full-service interior architectural design studio and product offering they now have. They work with honest materials, simple forms and a recognisably monotone palette, which has recently softened to include natural hues and finishes.
For the design-minded, they have answered the call for locally made, impossible-to-find items like rectangular resin basins and brass-plated mixers, while e their Skeleton plate set will always be a cult-favourite for its quirky ode to human anatomy.
4. CLARISSE DESIGN
Durban-based Xavier Clarisse became every design lover’s crush when he produced the leafy Delicious Light in leather and stainless steel. Since then, he has given us a number of lighting designs which are supported by a Franco-African infusion, informed by his own identity as a Frenchman living in South Africa. Having attended L’Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts, Xavier’s penchant for sculpture is evident in his expertly detailed lights and sculptures.
His latest, the Linear jewellery collection, is an ode to an African aesthetic expressed in a sculptural form that flips the jewellery model on its head. In addition, the leather and raffia Blade Lights nod to the tropical environment in which he resides.
Celebrated husband and wife duo Katy Taplin and Adriaan Hugo are sought after for their unique, bold and conceptually strong offering of products, including tables, lighting, storage, seating, mirrors and more.
Their recent solo, Practically Everywhere with Southern Guild, was a tramp-art inspired homage to their discordant reality and everyday experiences working from their studio in New Doornfontein with products like Ag Shame and Not My Problem. You’ll often see their work come to life in colour-saturated metals with unusual combinations like steel and concrete, which challenge the norms of both form and proportion.