Creative designs drive SA exports

4 April 2008

South African design exports – ranging from recycled bottle top mats to bathplug chain chandeliers – are being snapped up from Mumbai to Hong Kong and are increasingly contributing to local job creation and wealth generation, says Elle Decoration magazine.

According to Department of Trade and Industry estimates, South Africa’s craft sub-sector alone contributes about R2-billion or 0.14% to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually, providing jobs and income for around 38 000 people through at least 7 000 small enterprises.

“Crafts could contribute R5-billion to the country’s GDP and 20 000 more jobs by 2015 if supported by more targeted interventions,” Elle Decoration said in a statement last month.

Announcing the winners of the South African leg of the 2007 Elle Decoration International Design Awards (EDIDA), Elle Decoration editor Karen Roos said: “It’s outdated to view South Africa as a mere commodity exporter. There’s huge interest in our innovative and functional designs, from Amsterdam to New York.”

The local EDIDA winners will compete with designers from 22 other countries for the opportunity to strut their stuff at the 48th Milan Furniture Fair in April.

Roos, who headed up the EDIDA South Africa judging panel, said all the 2007 winners’ products were “well produced, of high quality, with global appeal.” A sampling of the South African winners also reveals numerous export success stories.

Export success stories

SA Designer of the Year
The SA Designer of the Year, Tonic Design Studio in Johannesburg, supplies furniture to designers and retailers in Europe, the US and Africa, as well as handling numerous large-scale projects locally and abroad, plus retail and restaurant design.

TeamTwo co-director Sian Eliot, whose company won the 2006 and 2007 EDIDA lighting awards, says their Faraway Tree design has been ordered en masse by the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, with inquiries by interior decorators from Stockholm to Bombay. There has been huge Far East interest after their products were showcased in an international Hong Kong catalogue after the 2006 EDIDA award.

TeamTwo has also exported products via the upscale Amaridian Gallery in New York, British lighting outlet Cameron Peters, and Spanish distributor Swalaline, which specialises in distributing Southern African pieces to Europe.

Helon Melon, which won the bedding category for metallic embroidered linen, has supplied Selfridges in the UK and sells to boutique stores from Kuwait to the US. Foreign customers, mainly German, e-mail founder Helen Gibbs every year to order their linen for collection in Cape Town on their annual holiday.

After years of selling small quantities to foreign outlets, she hopes to open a fully representative franchise outlet later this year in Guildford, England that will stock all her designs generated over the past 13 years.

The fabric sector winner, Afro, has products like scatter cushions and tote bags selling from Cape Town to Salzburg.

Heath Nash, who won the flooring section for his mats made from recycled cooldrink bottle tops, showed at London Design Week and supplies numerous international outlets like Isandi in Norway.

Seating prizewinners Greg and Roche Dry report strong export sales for their hanging swing seat, inspired by a trip to the park with their daughter. The swings and the rest of their product range – from furniture to lamps – are selling briskly in the US and elsewhere, following coverage in international magazines like Surface, favourable blog mentions and exposure at Amaridian Gallery in New York.

Tableware and accessories
Tableware and accessories winner Frauke Stegmann focuses on small, custom-designed contracts and her work will shortly be included in a new book showcasing the world’s top young designers. Her products have been exposed to overseas buyers through several channels: New Africa in Denmark, Anthropologie in New York, Super Design Market and Handled with Care at 100% Design London and 100% Designers at 100% Design Tokyo.

Maira Koutsoudakis of Life Interiors+Architecture+Design tends to design pieces for her luxury eco-resort and boutique hospitality projects, after which they become part of her stable of products. Many are exported to Paris, London, Tokyo and Berlin and also to the Seychelles, where she has a resort store.

Her “Wodaabe” vessels and “Pod” lights, both former EDIDA winners, are not only popular in South Africa but also Europe and the US. The “Himbasin” that won her the 2007 EDIDA bathroom award, with its shallow, water-efficient dune-like shape in solid hand-beaten copper, was conceptualized for her latest project, Serra Cafema, an eco-friendly luxury lodge in the Namibian desert.

Tattoo, launched only last year at Decorex by set designers and builders in the film industry Claire Letoret and Tracey Collis, reports plenty of overseas enquiries about the anthropomorphic Luigi multi-purpose storage unit that snapped up the EDIDA kitchen prize. While no export deals have yet been concluded, queries have come from Australia, the US, France and Dubai.

EDIDA South Africa 2007 winners



SAinfo reporter

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