Interview: African Parables by Yinka Ilori

May 29th, 2015

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Yinka Ilori has received rising recognition for his work in furniture up-cycling under his Yinka Ilori brand. And rightly so. He approaches his art in a specific way – with strong focus on both sustainability and culture.

On one hand, Yinka ‘rehabilitates’ furniture, many times splitting them apart to put them back together again in creative ways. The potential for waste reduction here is significant! On the other hand, he uses the opportunity of reupholstering his furniture to tell stories and parables about Nigeria. Again, the potential for African cultural education here is significant!

And this is why we love him and have eagerly been watching the brand. Fortunately, Yinka was available to give us an inside look at what the Yinka Ilori brand is about, how he came to start it, what inspires the brand’s distinct design, and his future plans.

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What is Yinka Ilori about? Yinka Ilori is about using Nigerian parables in a conscious and thought provoking way that challenges peoples’ ideologies about their perceptions of what is acceptable or unacceptable.

Through my furniture, I bring Nigerian powerful verbal traditions into a playful conversation with contemporary design and art, sharing parables and words of wisdom about hope, sexuality, politics or social class, which are elements that are very close to my heart and to a lot of people.

One message I want my brand to portray is for people to have the ability to have freedom of Speech which can be expressed anyway they like.

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Tell us the story of how you came to be interested in furniture design. At college, I studied Fine Art but was not too sure if I wanted to study it at University. So I decided to study a BTEC in Art and Design which gave me the opportunity to explore different areas in Art and Design.

Over the course of the year, it was evidently clear that I had a real interest in furniture-making because all of my final major projects always ended up being a chair or something product design led.

Towards the end of year, we had a summer show which was organised by the Sir John Cass Foundation in London. On the opening night of the summer show, I saw that I had received a nominated for the Sir John Cass award, which meant a lot to me as it made me believe that I was doing something right.

So that’s when I decided to study it as BA in Product Design and Furniture.

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Your design and style is quite distinct. What inspires this signature look? What inspires my signature look is my interest in how color and objects are integrated in people’s everyday lives. This is something I have been studying and observing for a very long time.

Being able to travel to different countries around the world has evoked different feelings and inspirations which can be seen in my new collection launching in September. I am really looking forward to this new collection of work because it is something that I’ve wanted to present to people for a long time, so I hope it’s well received.

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What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a creative…and as a business man? …The biggest challenge that I face as a creative and a business man is being able to do everything on my own, which is very difficult! I am constantly  running around doing PR, interviews, projects, making, delivering, emailing etc. its a lot of work but I love it!

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What are your plans for the Yinka Ilori brand? We would love a hint! There are two collaborations this year with two major fashion designers which will be launching end of August so please look out for this!! There are also plans of doing some work in Nigeria so please keep an eye out for that too. All will be revealed slowly towards the end of the year.

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You can buy Yinka Ilori chairs by contacting Yinka directly here.

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