Ones to watch
Kenyan, handmade, artisanal and sustainably produced, Kahoko are designer rugs with a difference. The brand’s Hong Kong–based creative partner Kate Jones met Kahoko founder Laura Coppen through a mutual photographer friend. First came a Hong Kong exhibition with New York–based artist August Krogan-Roley, who designed several rugs, then Jones began selling the brand through her artisanal-goods store, get.give. “We found that we shared the same values and aspiration for sustainable craft and bringing it into the digital age,” explains Jones, “and when Laura asked me to come on board as a creative partner it felt like the natural next step.” Coppen, who used to live in Kenya, says that the brand concept — heavy textures, earthy neutrals, blacks and abstracted graphic patterns — was created together with the artisans. Now hues include yellows and reds, all naturally dyed, giving new edge to the styles. “I looked at the accessible local resources and skills to ensure this was enhanced versus changed. It seemed logical to have a concept that captured both what was possible in Kenya and what was desired by our customer,” says Coppen. “This is our overall goal, to empower artisans and the future generation of makers.” “People like the Gilgil weavers are important, as they provide the community with the ability to take control of the quality of their lives, almost like a sort of social bubble that can operate outside of the political barriers that people are commonly faced with,” Jones adds. The duo foresee modest expansion with a focus on sustainable lifestyles for the community. Thanks to new collaborations with artists, brands and hotels such as Ryse in Seoul, Kahoko’s design thinking is being pushed, which “keeps all aspects of the business fresh”. Workshops include ones in the Rift Valley about three hours outside Nairobi. “There’s a lot of change happening with foreign investment and new infrastructure, but also a lot of natural resources being stripped away,” says Jones. African design might go through trend cycles, but a brand like this aims to be here to stay. What’s been a great evolution is that customers are increasingly appreciating the value of slow goods, adds Coppen. Since it takes more than six weeks to get a Kahoko rug custom made, clients appreciate they’re buying “an item that’s one of a kind, with a rich story attached to it”.
FROM TOP: A KAHOKO RUG IN SITU; KENYA-BASED ARTISANS; KAHOKO FOUNDER LAURA COPPEN (RIGHT) WITH CREATIVE PARTNER KATE JONES