Here at 91, we have been aware of the lack of representation in the interiors world for a few years. As an interiors magazine, we have been working hard to ensure that our content is diverse and inclusive; we could always do better though and the recent Black Lives Matter protests have been a reminder that all of us have to continue to not only listen and learn, but to act. Of course we can attend protests or show support and solidarity on social media, but actually, we can take action right within our own homes. If you look around your home, perhaps you have decorated with items from lots of lovely independent brands, but how many of those are purchased from black-owned businesses, or run by people of varying ethnicities? There are so many beautiful brands that you may have been missing out on because of under-representation and this needs to change. Taking the time to diversify your Instagram feed can be a good place to start as so many of us discover new brands and go on to purchase from them via what we see when we are scrolling. Instagrammer at @life_of_isatu and interior lover Isatu Chadborn is here to share a few gorgeous brands run by talented black business owners, whose products we are coveting and we are sure you will too…
I have always enjoyed making our home look and feel good, but I hadn’t realise until recently how hugely passionate I had become about turning our home and garden into a beautiful space for myself and my family until I started documenting the changes we were making to our home on Instagram. Immersing myself in the world of Instagram has played a huge role in helping me to share my love for interior design, but in doing so, I couldn’t help but notice the apparent lack of diversity in the interior and homeware world. Posts from press days in particular stood out and I wondered why I was unable to see anyone who represented me attending these events. I found it quite upsetting and would question why this was happening, but then wondered if perhaps I was just being too sensitive?
More recently though, I realised it wasn’t my sensitivity that was the problem, but that the lack of representation really was plain to see. The issue has been highlighted extensively in the fashion industry in recent times, but not so much in interiors, even though these worlds are closely linked. It made me look at my own home and what I filled it with, highlighting clearly that considering inclusivity and seeking out diverse brands and artists when sourcing products and art for our homes is something that shouldn’t be ignored. We cannot allow an entire industry to ignore the talent and entrepreneurship that black and other non-white communities bring to the (perfectly styled!) table. Over the past month, I have found much joy in taking the time to discover black-owned brands and artists, so here I share just a selection of these with you and here from the founders themselves…
We are Nomads
This online store run by Jane Badu is full of colour, pattern and stories of travel. With carefully sourced homeware alongside collections designed by Jane, each uniquely crafted piece is full of life and tells a great story.
Jane: “I’m an interior designer and travel lover who started the shop after a trip to Morocco. I fell in love with Moroccan craft during my trip. I wanted to create collections inspired by my travels and celebrate African craft. Since I started the shop in October 2018, I have collected products from Morocco, Japan, Swaziland and Ethiopia. I love handcrafted products and want to inspire people to buy homewares which have a story and are not mass-produced.”
GOODEE is a certified B Corp marketplace based in the US, the brainchild of twin brothers Byron and Dexter Peart, who set out to create a socially and environmentally conscious brand that brings together the values of good design, good people, and good purpose.
Byron and Dexter: “We conceived of GOODEE over two years ago as we felt that there needed to be a place for the many extremely skilled and, in some cases, underrepresented ethical makers around the world to connect with an equally committed conscious consumer. As people of colour ourselves, who had previously built a sustainability-minded accessories brand (WANT Les Essentiels) for more than a decade, we recognised early on how little our voices and creativity were being woven into the sustainability conversation, and were determined to make a significant change in the design landscape. We are motivated to share the stories of the creators, the artisans, and the entrepreneurs who inspire us in an effort to shine a light on the moving stories behind our products and amplify diverse voices with unique perspectives. What we feel makes our offering unique at GOODEE is that we operate from the belief that having strong design commitment (innovation, durability, and timelessness) plays a mutually important role within a company’s sustainability practices.”
Afton By Palm
Bonnisa Moore’s brand Afton by Palm is dedicated to design with minimalist styling. Her handcrafted goods have been created with the environment in mind, with each piece being made with femininity and earthy tones as a focal point.
Bonnisa: “I am a mama maker from Buckinghamshire, with a love for neutral and earthy tones, from fashion design to decor adornments. After falling in love with the versatility of clay, I took the plunge and made the nerve-wracking jump to turning my hobby into a business. Two years later I have shaped a brand that I am proud to say is conscious of our planet by leading with a slow living ethos and produces handmade products that encapsulate femininity.”
Florida-based artist Melissa Koby sells her digital illustrations online via Etsy. You can commission a custom-made piece of her beautiful artwork, although this is currently closed, but check back for availability.
Melissa: “I am a self-taught artist and overall creative person. I started painting with watercolour at the age of four, but over the years have explored different mediums. My most recent path has been to illustrate digitally. My inspiration comes from women. I speak on behalf of us, but I hope to connect with every person, no matter how they identify, through my work. I focus on using fine lines and negative spaces to depict positive imagery. Whether or not my illustrations depict women, plants, or scenes in nature, it is meant to encourage, create a sense of peace, and remind you that there is always hope.”
Where lifestyle meets leisure, culture meets curation. Best friends & now business partners, Morgan Ashley and Vanessa Coore Vernon, sell beautiful one of a kind, handpicked pieces through their website Souk Bō’hēmian. They also run Bō’hēmian Eats featuring beautiful eateries around the world and have published a photo book Brown Bō’hēmians.
Morgan: “In all that Souk Bō’hēmian does, our goal is to introduce new and different cultures to our community. We believe in nurturing immersive genuine connections with people who believe in the beauty of experiences. We invite you to stroll through our virtual Souk. Wander in our minimal palettes and global aesthetics, as you would a bazaar in North Africa or your favourite local market. Each piece we choose is rooted in sharing accessibility to style, comfort, and beauty, in order to cultivate moments of self-care and thoughtfulness. Through the spirit of #ConnectingCreatives, we partner with local and global artisans to bring you inspirational ready to wear pieces, home goods, and handmade accessories to curate every aspect of your life.”
House of Kato
No house is complete without some greenery, and House of Kato is an online shop selling a beautiful array of luscious houseplants, available for delivery across London, with a small selection available for UK-wide delivery, too. Run by Haula and Daniel, a London based couple of Ugandan and British heritage, they founded their business following a trip to the City of Gardens in Marrakech in 2019. On returning to the UK, they wanted to recreate the magic by turning homes into urban gardens, allowing us to escape our busy city lives.
Haula: “We chose KATO as the name for our business to symbolise what we see as the twin like relationship between us and the natural environment; different but uniquely connected. (KATO is a Ugandan name that is given to the youngest of twins.) I also really wanted to bring a piece of my African / Ugandan identity to our business. I’m a young black woman running a business in an industry where I don’t see much representation. Growing up in Uganda, most weekends were spent on the family farm and we grew 80% of our food so starting a plant business really made sense. I’m very nurturing and enjoy working with plants. Yes it’s plants, but for me horticulture is art. We use flowers and plants to decorate our homes, (I love interior design) so yes, ART. Ours is an artistic and minimalist brand.”
The Pairabirds is the art studio of illustrator Tabitha Bianca Brown. Her style is a hybrid of 70’s soul funk, noir and minimalism.
Tabatha: “My name is Tabitha Brown and I am an illustrator in Illinois, USA. One of my key goals is to create art of women and girls that look like me. It can be difficult to find artwork featuring black women and girls being happy, hip, and vibrant. I decided that if I cannot find that type of art, I would create it myself. My illustrations are what I call, “Digital Collages.” I used scanned vintage papers and digital drawing (via Adobe Illustrator) and combine them in Photoshop to create vibrant illustrations.”
Here are some other lovely black-owned brands we urge you to check out:
L’Appartment by the Yard – indoor plants, based in Peckham, London.
Prick – Cactus shop in Hackney, London
Bespoke Binny – African-inspired home textiles. Online.
Grain and Knot – hand-crafted wooden spoons, brushes, vases etc. Online.
Post 21 – An online marketplace stocking modern, design-led goods by black-owned brands.
Line and Honey – art and textile goods. Online.