We just released the press release to announce that our digital gallery is now open! We believe that step-by-step communication is important to build the brand and get the words out. Here is the detail:
No matter where you are, you can always shine. – Mpho Muendane
These photographs were shot in one of the biggest shopping malls in Africa, Mall of Africa, in Midrand located in the midway between South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, and Johannesburg. Even if you are in the concrete jungle in the developed urban area, you can still live in dignity and pride regardless of your environment: You can live an abundant life however the world changes and wherever you are in the world. By showing the photography of two models in beautiful textiles, we are sharing our views on living in abundance. (Photos by Mpho Muendane, Creative Director, Maki & Mpho)
南アフリカの首都プレトリアとヨハネスブルグのちょうど中間地点に位置する都市、ミッドランドにあるアフリカ最大級の商業施設、Mall of Africaの一角を舞台に撮影。開発の進んだ都会のコンクリートジャングルにいても、外部環境に惑わされず、品位とプライドを持ち続けることができる。世界がどう変化しようと、世界のどこにいようと、豊かな人生を歩むことができる。テキスタイルアートを纏った2人のモデルの写真作品を通じて、そういった意志のある人生観を表現しています。（Maki & Mphoクリエイティブディレクター、ムポ・ムエンダネ撮影）
One and only David Adjaye, amazing architect of our time…
We’ve had an amazing opportunity to visit the NYC office of Adjaye Associates and to meet up with its director David Adjaye yesterday.
David is one of the most successful architects and he’s worked on multiple projects around the world including the most recent one – the National Museum of the African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
Lately he and his firm are doing more and more project in the African continent. According to Vogue interview, “[h]e’s done a beachfront house for former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Ghana, and the Alara Concept Store in Lagos, Nigeria. He’s currently working on a slavery museum in Cape Coast, Ghana; a state-of-the-art children’s cancer hospital and teaching center in Kigali, Rwanda, the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa; a World Bank headquarters in Dakar; and a high-rise apartment building in a former “no-go zone” of Johannesburg.”
David is a Ghanian-British who was born in Tanzania, but in terms of the scope of his work and his mind, he is truly global. That’s why we look up to him.
We had a great conversation, got lots of advice, and will be in the loop for his upcoming projects…
Do you know Ogojiii? It is a Pan-African magazine that shares stories about African innovation in design, enterprise, and current affairs and newly launched in South Africa and Kenya last year.
When I found out about this magazine, I was hyped. This is what I’m talking about. It’s basically Monocle or Wired of Africa. The magazine itself is cool and aesthetically well-thought, but the contents are also exciting and fresh that give you new discoveries here and there. And it is inherently global.
The magazine launched at the World Economic Forum Africa in Cape Town in 2015, and it was the idea proposed by an accomplished Danish entrepreneur / designer Jens Martin Skibsted and invested by African investors according to Bizcommunity. I also found that Bestseller Foundation, the private philosophic organization established by the family behind the Bestseller (a Danish fashion brand company that owns brands like Vero Moda or Only), bought 25% (and the investment of $120K) of Ogojiii’s stake in November 2015. While it started as a Danish idea, the vision, contents, teams are truly African and it aims to bring together people who look for creative design approach in the African context.
What’s really important here is that “design” is obviously not just about aesthetics and objects. Design thinking offers you new perspectives, ideas, and solutions and the world is starting to see that design thinking in the African context gives us a lot of cutting-edge insights for all of us, global dwellers, to live a better life both spiritually and practically.
Can’t wait to make our contributions to Ogojiii and beyond to further promote the dialogues around African design.
この雑誌は、昨年、ケープタウンで開催された世界経済会議のアフリカミーティングでロンチとなったもので、Bizcommunityによると、最初のアイディアはデンマークの著名な起業家兼デザイナーのJens Martin Skibstedが提唱したものですが、アフリカの投資家によって実現化されてものだそうです。少し調べると、Bestseller社（Vero ModaやOnlyなどのブランドを保有するデンマークのファッション会社）のファミリー財団であるBestseller Foundataionが、2015年11月に25%である$120Kを出資しているようです。デンマーク人のアイディアとはいえ、ビジョン、中身、チームはアフリカであり、アフリカの文脈におけるクリエイティブデザインのアプローチに関心がある人々の場を目指しているようです。
Trying to get into my designer’s head… Impossible! (Wait, what? Cuba?)
From Amsterdam to “New Amsterdam” and from England to New England, here we are, we’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean to come to the East Coast US, and I am right now briefly in Boston to follow-up discussions with my business partner Mpho who’s finishing up new design for our upcoming textile products (while literally singing out loud) and to make new business connections in Boston/NYC while coordinating with South Africa/Kenya via Whatsapp/Emails and getting some documentations done for upcoming meetings my potential sponsors and investors in Japan.
しBoston is a really important city for Maki & Mpho for many reasons. Boston is where I first met Mpho, we discussed our initial business concept, launched our first collection, and got featured in the major newspaper, The Boston Globe. I still remember vividly how we sat down at the coffee shop at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge. While there have been some interruptions and pivoting in the course of the development of our business, the core value and commitment remain the same.
I still remember vividly how we sat down at the coffee shop at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge, and naturally came up with the core belief and value of the brand: Our core belief is that your individuality is your culture; therefore, we value and celebrate individuality.
Celebrating individuality is not about being individualistic or self-centered. It is rather opposite. It is about nurturing empathy, respecting others, and working together toward the common goal to make a better society while co-existing with the natural environment.
Maybe the environment where we can celebrate individuality in that sense is what we would call a truly diverse society. And this is the kind of diversity that we want to communicate through the means of the contemporary African design and storytelling. Why do most people always want to paint Africa with a single color? Why do we still have so much tension around differences in racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds?
We believe that design and art not just heal such tensions, but can also create economic values by suggesting different relationships and creating trust.
We all know that capitalism is not about money but about trust!!! (No, we don’t trust Trump!)
Contemporary African art is equally cool as Bjork!
While I was in Amsterdam, I had an opportunity to attend the panel moderated by the founding director of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (154 Art Fair), Touria El Glaoui, followed by a brief chat with her, and I was luckily invited to check out the 154 Art Fair that has been happening over the weekend at Somerset House in London.
Citing from the website, this is what the London event is about.
1:54 London 2016 will showcase about 40 exhibitors, presenting over 130 African and African diasporan artists across the East, South and West Wings of Somerset House. 1:54 London 2016 will be accompanied by an educational and artistic programme, FORUM, curated by Koyo Kouoh and will include lectures, film screenings and panel discussions with international curators, artists and art professionals.
So as you can see in the description, it is not just a marketplace for galleries and art buyers. It is also about the discussions where intellectuals from multiple disciplines gather and talk about various roles African creators play in the global context. I attended a number of panel discussions, and I have been quite overwhelmed with the depth and width of the discussion, which I would never ever imagine to have in near future elsewhere especially in Japan.
While I have lots of perspectives and ideas to share, one thing that was reassuring to me was that African design (or art for that matter) is NOT about what you see, the outcome, or the objects. It is rather about what you talk about (dialogues and storytelling), the process that includes observations, choice of materials, making, and communicating, and the relationships between the originator and the audience.
This is really relevant to our business as I have even described in my previous blog post why we are trying to sell something before creating a product. As much as aesthetics are important in our brand, we really resist the idea of offering something “cute” because this does not give us sustainability. Targeting the market segment that gets drawn to cuteness has a short attention span. This means that we need to keep feeding them with new stuff at a fast pace. We need to make our best effort to educate the customers…
アムステルダム滞在中に、1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (154 Art Fair）の、創始者であるTouria El Glaouiと話す機会があり、ちょうど今週末、ロンドンのカルチャー発信スポット、サマセットハウス開催されている154 Art Fairに招待してもらったので、注目していたプラットフォームであったので、参加しています。
1:54 London 2016においては、サマセットハウスの東、南、西館を使って、40の出展者が130以上のアフリカ人、アフリカのディアスポラコミュニティーのアーティストを発信します。1:54 London 2016は、Koyo Kouoh（カメルーン系セネガル人アートディレクター）がディレクションした教育的かつ芸術的なプログラムであるFORUMも同時開催されます。FORUMでは、国際的なキュレーター、アーティスト、および関連の専門家を交えて、レクチャー、ショートムービーのスクリーニング、パネルディスカッションが行われます。
Our key long-term mission is to create a new global market for African creators who tell stories from the African perspective mainly using surface (textile) and product design.
One can argue that entering the global design market, for example, NYC or London means that you are in the red ocean. But I would argue that promoting and selling contemporary African design is about venturing into a blue ocean because it is about sharing a new type of cultural experience.
As I go travel around the world for the past 20 years since I first traveled to the U.S., I have been noticing how Japanese food products have been expanding to the overseas’ market, and how companies have been making efforts to educate consumers as they promote their products. Consumer education takes efforts and time, but definitely, an important aspect to venturing into a blue ocean!
The Alchemist is a good place but is less integrated…
I generally don’t stay in a hotel in Nairobi, but I stayed in one during TICAD Nairobi as Mpho and I needed a place to stay near KICC where the TICAD VI was held. And we actually did stay in a hotel in CBD where is considered not the safest place in Nairobi (don’t tell anyone!). Actually, the hotel itself was decent (value-for-money), and staff was quite friendly while I am quite certain no Japanese businessmen or diplomats had ever stayed there because of the location.
Obviously, we did all we needed to do to make sure we are safe (which is basically not walking around at night) and we were safe and all. But being in the sketchy neighborhood for several days made me think of new business ideas to create a safer neighborhood.
I am in no way professional in this area, but I believe that the keys to increasing safety in a neighborhood are increasing diversity and decreasing anonymity. In other words, an integrated community may create a more peaceful and secure neighborhood. Instead of gentrifying an area by renovating and creating buildings, we need to design a space around people who already exist there to nurture interaction among themselves.
I wonder if we can create a space, ideally, a multi-purpose creative open space that houses hotel/restaurant/coffee shop/event space/workshop space in the middle of CBD where there are already constant traffic, but no one really stays. I know few places similar to what I have in my mind is popping around the world. They are mostly accommodations but the space is open to the local community. What if Maki & Mpho can create a space like that where we can share our brand stories using multiple media while making the community safer!
As I was thinking about how we can create a space that is not just for richer locals and foreign tourists, I thought of the Hostel Village in Yokohama’s rather ghetto-like space where former day laborers on welfare are gathering. An entrepreneur, Mr. Okabe, created a hostel to bring in young people and budget tourists to the area and changed the atmosphere and environment. Together with a group of friends, I used to go there to test some projects together with Mr. Okabe to bring in more diverse people.
This idea has to be explored with my Kenyan partners…
Pure bliss! An amazing lady who can rock the world!
Table For Two (TFT) is a non-profit organization that simultaneously addresses malnutrition developing countries by offering school meals and obesity in developed countries by offering healthy meals. Every time someone purchases TFT supervised healthy meal a portion of the profit is contributed to serve a school meal for kids.
TFT was an idea initiated at the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Conference in 2006 in Tronto and has been expanded since then accelerated by the team led by Masa Kogure. I personally know many people who have contributed to the expansion of the TFT including Mr. Kogure while I also got involved briefly back then around 2008, and I have always been thinking about creating a model applying key aspects of the TFT model. There are three key aspects that I think that the TFT model is uniquely brilliant.
1. Framing the global challenge in a way that everyone can easily relate to.
Buy one give one model itself is not a unique model now with some American companies like TOM’s shoes or Warby Parker being quite successful. What I like about the model is that TFT addresses issues both in the developed and developing economies. While we are not a non-profit organization that directly addresses social issues, we are offering solutions to the problem where creative talents in the developing economies (like South Africa or Kenya) and craftsmen in industrialized economies (like Japan) can combine each of their strength to offer new innovative products for the global audience. Emerging creative talents in the developing economies are lacking infrastructures to realize their creativity into tangible items while craftsmen in industrialized economies have little capability hire young people to modernize their crafts for the modern and global audience. Thus, the marriage of two can work very well. 2. Branding and marketing communication that create cool and fun vibes.
Another brilliance is branding. The success may be due to one brilliant PR manager who I have personally known to learn her work; however, I also believe that their branding and marketing communication strategies are really embedded in their operational strategy. They’ve not only been working together with the firm like Dentsu, but they have also been successfully engaging with mass media and celebrities to create fun and exciting movement that everyone wants to join. This was especially quite innovative at the time where NPO activities were considered rather as obligations or responsibilities: something that people need to do.
For us, branding is extremely important, especially because the word “Africa” or “African” can evoke certain negative to some people. We do not want “support” instead, we want “LOVE.” We must make people fall in love with our brand. We must make people fall in love with (our) African design. We must make people fall in love with Africa’s diverse culture and stories through our brand. 3. Aiming to expand globally from the get-go by partnering with international organizations and large corporations.
Last but now least, what I love about the TFT model is that their scope has always been global. They were born global. They were not just thinking about advocating people in Japan. The name of the organization has been TFT “International” from the get-go, and I have learned that this name was reflective of TFT management’s aspiration to go global. They’ve also leveraged platforms like the World Economic Forum while aggressively involving national governments and large companies like Toyota. And they now operate in 20+ countries with various local networks of supporters while their head office members remain relatively small.
And we aspire to do the same. That’s why I take part in business competitions across the countries and get buy-in from multiple governments including Japan and South Africa. That’s why we participate in TICAD in Nairobi while presenting our work at the cultural embassy in Amsterdam.
And that’s why we are really excited about this very platform to communicate why we do what we do! (And hope you have good questions and learnings!!!!)
Table For Two（TFT）、ご存知の方も多いと思います。TFTは途上国の栄養不足を給食によって、先進国の肥満の問題を低カロリーな食事によって、同時に解決しようと活動している非営利団体です。TFT監修の健康な食事を購入することで、その利益の一部を1食分の子供の給食に回すというモデルがコアになっている活動です。
When you are selling products, generally speaking, you first have to figure out who you are selling to, what products you are selling, how to make them, how much it costs/how long it takes to make them, and how/where/when to sell them at how much.
But that’s obviously from the perspective of the seller.
From the customer’s perspective, there’s only one thing that matters: WHY. The buyer only asks one question: Why do I have to care enough about this product to keep it as mine in exchange for my hard-earned money (or for the limited budget, in b2b cases)?
So that’s why we are focusing on the WHY. Why in the context of our business, it is about really understanding the needs/wants, sharing stories of making things, and engaging people to nurture mutual trust. So by the time we have products, it becomes irresistible… And customers can tell you how much they would pay for it: The perceived value.
You think it is just a dreamer’s ideal? Well, maybe not. Look at all those crowdfunding projects that are succeeding. We started a new project with a business client in South Africa just by telling stories. So I guess this is starting to work…
I am taking this approach because we are not about making trends. We care about the longevity of the business. I am taking this approach because I used to work for consumer goods companies that accumulate years and years worth of stocks that are impossible to sell out (or even to give away!). If customers can’t find the reason to own it, they don’t take it even if an item is FREE of charge!
Let me bring you back to the context of the African business. I don’t (want to) believe Africa will become the next China – the manufacturer of the world, the next source of CHEAP labor. I am presenting the opportunistic views but consumption behavior will change. When people stop buying lots of cheap goods and start buying less valuable goods, Africa should be ready to offering high value rather than low price. N’est-ce pas?
She can inspire millions of youth in the continent.
The biggest reason why we need globally competitive “attractive” brands created by Africans is simple: To inspire young people in the African continent to be confident, proud, motivated, and ready to take ownership of their own economic development and cultural diplomacy.
Of course, creating jobs and educating youth are important, but before everything, what’s also important for those young people is PURPOSE.
Your purpose in life. Vision and motivation to be a part of a society and the rest of the world. THE MEANING OF LIFE.
Urban-dwelling and mobile-savvy youth in Africans (or in any emerging economies) in this globalized world are not different than global millennials (plus gen. Y&Z) in any other cities like Tokyo or San Francisco. They want to align their values to how they live (and work). They are motivated in doing something that they can honestly feel proud.
I met quite a few African entrepreneurs and creators in Nairobi, Kigali, Addis Ababa, and Johannesburg while meeting many more Africans and African diaspora outside the continent. They know how the majority of people outside the continent perceive “Africa.” They are tired of how Africa and Africans have always been discussed in the context of sad, tragic, tribal, development, poverty, challenge, corruption, war, diseases, you-name-it stories… These stories are demotivating and discouraging.
That’s why more Africans (including former lawyers, business professionals, or international development practitioners) venture into fashion/creative businesses. Some examples include South Africa’s Kisua (African fashion online consisting capsule collections by designers across the continent) founded by former finance guy Samuel Mensah, Lagos-based creative agency Style House Files founded by former lawyer Omoyemi Akerele, and Nairobi-based Vivo founded by former international development expertise Wandia Gichuru… just to name a few.
We build a globally competitive brand that more Africans (starting from South Africans) can be proud of their own culture and we create a globally competitive company that everyone would LOVE to work for.
だからこそ、新しいイメージを発信できる可能性が高い、ファッションやデザイン系のベンチャーに、弁護士やビジネス、国際協力の分野などの異業種からチャレンジするアフリカ人達も増えています。ほんの一部の紹介ですが、例えば南アフリカのKisua (African fashion online consisting capsule collections by designers across the continent founded by former finance guy Samuel Mensah)、ラゴスのクリエイティブエージェンシーであるStyle House Files (founded by former lawyer Omoyemi Akerele)、以前このブログでも紹介したナイロビのVivo (founded by former international development expertise Wandia Gichuru）などがあります。