When Harvard Business School alum Nana Quagraine wanted to create an ecommerce marketplace that featured Africa’s most talented emerging designers, she looked at the highest peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, pairing it with the number 54—the same number of countries that make up the continent of Africa. The result was 54kibo, the only website of its kind boasting the best in contemporary design and home decor.
“We have thoughtfully and deliberately combed through countless creations and products from designers to share the most beautiful selection of high-quality, African contemporary design pieces.” said Quagraine.
Quagraine looked throughout the continent as well as the African diaspora to bring items to the US market. There’s the Obama Hope Pillow by Shine Shine—the label founded by South Africans Tracy Rushmere and Heidi Chisholm. Another South African designer, Candice Lawrence, reconfigured handcrafted Ndebele necklaces into beautiful lampshades. There are also the Nguka Salad Plates, which double as a “tribute to traditional Senegalese women and women’s portraiture.”
“We are excited to introduce new collections from several African designers to the U.S. market, as well as launch notable product additions to our range of home lighting solutions, pillows, wall art, furniture, rugs, kids’ items, and lifestyle accessories.” said Quagraine.
The aim of 54kibo is to bring African designers to a new market of consumers, ranging from interior design professionals to the at-home decorator. The products on 54kibo show the true breadth of African design, going beyond the misconception that African design is predominantly tribal. It’s fresh, it’s new, and of course—functional. Design professionals even get a 20 percent discount. With over 30 designers to choose from, there is sure to be something for everyone, from cheeky pillows to colorful handbags, to hand woven vessels that add a special something to your living room, to chic hammered brass earrings.
“We’ve doubled the number of designers from from 15 to 30-plus in just under a year,” detailed Quagraine. “Many designers reach out to us because they appreciate our aesthetic and trust that their products will be in good company and presented well.”