Less than 1% of furniture from leading brands are created by black designers

  • Design
  • Thursday, 23 Jul 2020

A young interior designer at work. Photo: AFP

Black architects and interior designers are experiencing new visibility as racial justice movements have swelled across the world. However, a recent study suggests that only a fragment of them collaborate with international furniture brands like Vitra and Fontana Arte.

For this new report, Ethiopian-American industrial designer Jomo Tariku had a look at the collections from 150 of the world's most renowned furniture brands listed on Swiss products site Architonic over the past year.

According to the survey, only 14 branded collaborations out of 4,417 were created by black designers, roughly equating to one-third of one per cent (0.32%).

The majority of the brands that Tariku focused on had not collaborated with a single black designer. Meanwhile, French modern furniture company Ligne Roset had collaborated with only one black designer in 182 collaborations and Knoll only one black designer in 160 collaborations.

Bernhardt Furniture Company and Moroso are the furniture brands that have worked the most with black designers, although they have both only listed two collaborations each with a black designer.

Tariku has also pointed out that some designers will have been counted multiple times as they collaborate on several occasions with the same brand or with multiple different brands. The Ethiopian-American industrial designer still describes his research as a "decent sample" of the furniture design industry.

"My research put numbers to what most black designers have been saying; that we are not represented in the design world," Tariku told Dezeen.

This past May, New York-based designer and architect Stephen Burks discussed the industry's lack of representation and diversity with Boston-based curator and author Glenn Adamson during Dezeen's Virtual Design Festival.

The African-American designer has been the subject of numerous articles since 2000, when Italian furniture brand Cappellini put his first designs into production. He has since collaborated with the likes of Cappellini, Herman Miller, Idee, Missoni, Moroso, Vitra and Zanotta.

"There were only two or three American designers working in Europe when I first started. Not only was I American, but Europe very quickly reminded me that I was African American," he told Adamson of his early experiences with European brands. – AFP Relaxnews

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