In 2009, during New York Design Week, high-end designers descended on Soho House to participate in the Design Africa Panel discussion. On the menu, Africa, as in the “new Africa” in terms of fashion innovation and style inspiration. There was lots of talk about how and why Africa is the next fashion frontier from a design, textile sourcing and garment production vantage point. Africa offers a diverse and uniquely authentic level of craftsmanship that is extremely high and consistent. The decoding of textile motifs and symbolism in each region is an art form unto itself and serves to differentiate local dress and accessorizing customs within specific communities and villages.
On hand at the discussion was design and innovation studio partners Birsel + Seck featuring their Taboo collection, a line of furniture made in Dakar, Senegal, from 75 percent recycled garbage bags and plastic bottles, all designed and produced by Bibi + Seck and their team of local Senegalese artisans. Out of that a new kind of African luxury was defined. Birsel + Seck eventually collaborated with the high-end Italian design house, Moroso (specifically, Patrizia Moroso and Salam Gaye) to create a colorful line of woven seating designs inspired by and manufactured sustainably in Dakar, Senegal, Bibi Seck’s second home. The project has been so successful that other designers have been commissioned by the Moroso team and now there is an entire line wonderfully named M’Afrique. Some of the designers include African-American design ingénue Stephen Burks and Senegalese interior designer Dominique Petot.
Each piece of the Petot M’Afrique outdoor furniture collection piece is made in Senegal by local artisans utilizing a specialized technique of bending hand-braided plastic wires traditionally used to make fishing nets. Talk about ingenuity.