Vintage lights outshine competition
At a time when most lighting companies were chasing light-emitting diode (LED) light sources, Hoi P’loy started a new trend by introducing ‘old-fashioned’ incandescent lights into the South African market.
years ago, Ploy Phiromnam woke up with the realisation that she dreaded working as a fashion trader at a company with a grim company culture. She quit her job without giving much thought to what she was going to do, simply knowing that she had to break free from the toxic environment. Then she and her husband, Guy van der Walt, started talking about alternatives.
The couple realised that they shared a passion for certain old-fashioned values, especially when it came to the way in which people were treated. They decided that these values would be the foundation of any new business they started. They also explored ideas of “beautiful things” that were difficult to source in South Africa. The result was the birth of the vintage lighting company Hoi P’loy.
You are originally from Thailand. How did you end up in South Africa?
Guy finished a three-month contract as a 3D animator and decided to surprise his dad, who was travelling around Thailand at the time. The plan was to return after two weeks, but Guy kept changing his return dates and finally ended up staying for nine months. Hoi P’loy was co-founded by wife and husband team,
When travelling overseas we both enjoy connecting with people and cultures from the country, as it creates a much richer travel experience. And that is how our paths crossed.
After nine months spent between Bangkok and islands around Thailand, Guy started feeling homesick and went back to Cape Town. I went to visit him, but ended up staying permanently.
What did you do after settling in Cape Town?
In Thailand, I imported and exported leading fashion brands, travelling primarily between Bangkok and Hong Kong. After settling in South Africa, I got a job at a trading company, but found it extremely frustrating due to the cultural work differences. Where I come from, people are very driven and place a high premium on service. In SA, people seemed much more lackadaisical. I could not cope with this.
Why did you decide to start a lighting company?
Having lived in cities like London, Bangkok, Chicago, New York, Tokyo and Ghent Hoi P’loy initially imported vintage incandescent lights but now also design and manufacture locally. exposed Guy and me to a global revival of vintage products. We made a list of beautiful things we struggled to or could not source locally. A few products were identified, but incandescent lights really got our hearts racing. We also thought of products that could complement the lights and decided on fabric cable cords and light fittings.
Why Hoi P’loy?
and The name is a play on my name and the ancient Greek expression hoi polloi meaning the many or the masses. Our idea was to create a vintage lighting product that would be classy but still accessible to many young people. Later, we discovered that most of our friends thought it suggested the elite of society.
Was it smooth sailing from the start?
After two weeks of research on lighting equipment and incandescent lights, I felt so overwhelmed that I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I located overseas factories that could supply us with the products I was looking for, but was totally unprepared for the red tape surrounding the import of these products.
Ploy Phiromnam Guy van der Walt.