Designer Spotlight : Nyumbani

Nyumbani design is a Tanzanian-based jewellery brand inspired by the beauty and colours of the Swahili coast. The label believes in creating simple yet distinctively desirable pieces of wearable art that are handcrafted and shaped by skilled artisans throughout Tanzania using locally sourced wood. Each piece is sculpted by hand from different sections of wood, making each piece slightly different and unique in colour, ensuring that no two pieces are the same.

Founded by a fashion production and development specialist from the Cayman Islands in 2012, the label is a colourful amalgamation of her homes in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and East-Africa. Graduating with a first-class honors degree from the University of the West of England, Bristol in 2005, Kerry Glanfield gained invaluable experience working for high-end fashion designers in London.

Here Kerry talks to House of Coco about her plans for the future and more…

When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?

I moved to Dar es Salaam in 2010 and began working within the retail industry collaborating with local artists and designers in Tanzania. Over time I noticed that while wooden sculptures were commonplace in Tanzania there was an absence in the market for crafting indigenous woods in a more contemporary fashion.

Sensing there was an opportunity to experiment with a material I hadn’t explored before, I sampled and developed a few pieces with local wood artisans to create wearable pieces of art that I would want to wear. I was excited about how well the designs were received in both Tanzania and abroad. As a result I began experimenting with a variety of indigenous trees considering shape, colour and texture. From there, the business grew organically and in 2012, I launched my label.

Zunguka Gold plated bangle & Bembea Ring Dipped in Gold

What’s your background?

After graduating with a Fashion and Textiles design degree in Bristol, I went onto work for high-end fashion brands in London specializing in production and development. Before I embarked on my big move to Tanzania, I was working for London-based German designer Markus Lupfer. It was a very exciting time to be involved with a company that grew so quickly.

During the two years I worked there, the brand continued to go from strength to strength and sold in boutiques and department stores across the world. I gained invaluable experience working with smaller companies as they allowed me to be a part of all aspects of the business as well as understanding the importance of creating high quality commercial design at affordable price points.

How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?

I am currently working with a number of local artisans from Tanzania, who carve each jewellery design by hand. The company also provides rotating work placement opportunities for local interns or graduates who are interested in fashion, design, or about starting their own business locally.

If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?

If I could start again, I may have seized the opportunity earlier to establish the brand in the European market by taking part in trade shows that attract more international buyers. To date we have mostly gained international recognition through social media and word of mouth.

Kingwa bangle SS14

What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?

One of the hardest challenges has been to increase the production capacity as well as controlling the time production takes without lessening the quality of the finished product. Tanzania, as a developing country, has a limited (but growing) skilled workforce. I try to support the local artisans I work with to seek out opportunities and provide equipment that will help them to build on their skills.

Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?

A perpetual water baby, my childhood was spent in the Cayman Islands on the beach.

I am fortunate enough to live by the sea in Dar es Salaam and as a result I have my own Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP). When I need a time-out, I will often go out on the water to relax and clear my mind.

2015 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?

We are always trying to think of new ways to work with wood as our canvas – whether it is through shape, embellishment or structure. I love the concept of creating beauty through uniting contrasting raw materials. We are always sampling new designs and in January this year we launched a luxury range incorporating natural crystals cultivated in Tanzania.

Tatu Pamoja & Nne Pamoja Bangles Midnight Gold

To date, what has been the highlight since launching?

Gaining international recognition for the brand. In 2014 Nyumbani design expanded to sell in 10 countries worldwide and was featured in internationally recognized magazines and blogs.

Through our dedication to sustainable design, we were sold through TOM’s one for one marketplace. Like the TOM’s one for one model, we have been proud to partner with Trees for the Future for the last two years, an environmental project that has assisted in the plantation of over 4000 multi-purpose trees in Tanzania for every jewellery piece sold.

In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?

To build on the brand’s presence in the international marketplace we are hoping to take part in a European trade show later this year. We would also love the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded designers and boutiques creating individual pieces or capsule collections to expose the brand to a wider audience.

Gawiwa bangle SS15

Where can people find out more?

Social media has always been a great source for us to communicate directly to our customers. People who would like to know more can follow us on Instagram and Facebook and view all our ranges online at www.nyumbanidesign.com

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