This is not an understatement, African things make life colourful. Starting from our melanin to our cultural attires, we love popping colours and who doesn’t radiate in colours?
So you can understand our utmost pleasure at Bellafricana when we met the founder of the African Things. She is a creative mind with a company that promotes African designs and culture in our everyday lifestyle called African Things.
This exclusive interview is brought to you on Checkout Africa in a partnership that has been forged between Bellafricana and Checkout Africa to further promote the uniqueness of Africa.
The founder of African Things is a graduate of the University of Nottingham with a BEng (Hons) in Product Design and Manufacture. Her name is Tosin Lawal. Let’s meet her…
Q & A
• Please introduce yourself and your background.
I, Tosin Lawson, am a graduate of the University of Nottingham with a BEng (Hons) in Product Design and Manufacture. Coming up with new designs, whether it’s a new logo or a new product is what I live for. Every time I am out with friends or family, I am constantly observing my surroundings and getting new inspiration for new designs and solutions especially to empower Africans. My aim is to produce creative designs that contribute to make the world an easier and more enjoyable place. With my background in Product design I am able to be more creative and find new ways to improve the current designs that we have available; see some of my product designs on tossysibi.wix.com/tlawson-designs.
• Please tell us about your work. How did African things start?
The reason I started African Things was to promote African designs and culture in everyday lifestyle. After schooling abroad and seeing how foreigners saw Africans; as poor and backward, I was very inspired when I returned home and saw that Nigerian fashion design especially in the area of accessories was beginning to boom. But I felt I could push the business further to international standards and include lifestyle items such as plates, household furniture and home accessories.
• Where did the idea for African things come from? Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?
We take our inspiration from “Africa of the old”. Our African culture is rich in tradition, colour and excitement, but due to westernisation young people are rapidly losing touch with Africa, especially in their lifestyles. We want to modernize Africa, specifically the way the western world sees us. With African Things customers can feel connect with their roots by using our products such as backpacks, jewellery and more in their everyday lives without feeling embarrassed to say it’s African.
• Can you remember one of the first things you crafted? What makes it memorable?
A pair of Ankara earrings, I remember I took an Ankara making class and one of the first things I made was an Ankara earring. I was so proud of how they came out; they were neat and looked professionally done. Wore them none stop for a week.
• What are the challenges you face in business?
Quality control and logistics are the major challenges for African Things. Production in Nigeria has not been up to international standards but we are looking in to international production companies to outsource production and hopefully in a few years to develop a relationship where those companies may establish partner factories in Nigeria. In doing so they would also bring their skills and experiences to the youth of the country.
• What is your most popular item ?
• To what extent do you draw upon your Nigerian heritage for your work?
African heritage is at the root of our designs. The whole aim of African Things is to promote the African culture not just Nigeria’s culture. We have taken inspiration from Ghana, South African Even Kenya. We hope to someday sell across Africa and have our products unite the countries in Africa.
• What are your goals for the future, both work wise and life?
My most important goal is to be happy and make a positive impact in the world. To know that my life made a difference to somebody’s life is my ultimate goal.
• What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I love movies and the beach.
• For someone who wishes to take up this kind of career, what kind of advice would you give them? Also, if you could give one piece of advice to youths who want to start their own company, what would it be?
Stay positive; don’t just make excuses make solutions.
• And finally, I would like to give you this opportunity to share two to four images of your work and tell us a little about each.
This was one of the first bags I ever designed. I was so proud of how it came out in the end. It was the stepping stone to future things. It was a mono-strap bag that could also carry a laptop.
The name ‘Dela bag’ was inspired by Nelson Mandela as it was finally produced around the time he died. The Dela bag was the bag that made people finally take me seriously. It was amazingly well done and looked expensive even though it did not ever cost more than N10,000. Right now it even cost N7,000. This bag taught me so much about business and myself and continues to motivate me to push the limits of my creativity.
Here goes another Nigerian talent doing great things. Well done Tosin, I am so excited to meet vibrant artisans like you that have a vision and are chasing that vision. I pray by Gods grace you will be successful in all your doings. Can’t wait to open your shop on Bellafricana marketplace.
Thanks Tosin for participating in Bellafricana’s Exclusive Interviews!
Wish you the very best in your business and look forward to partnering with you soon.