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Art Meets Design… BoConcept links Nigerian, Scandinavian crafts

29 April 2015   |   12:37 am
Tell us about BoConcept? BoConcept is amongst the world’s leading furniture companies with 260 stores in 60 countries. We opened in Nigeria end of last year and the idea was really to try to bring some contemporary urban furniture to Nigeria.

BoConcept Nigeria MD, Charlotte Obidairo PHOTO: FEMI KUTI

Established in 1952, BoConcept, an international furniture brand, sets itself apart with its sleek design and the functionality of its beautiful products. To showcase it’s latest designs as well as establish a link between Nigerian art and Scandinavian furniture design, the outfit, which offers customized, coordinated and functional design pieces for home or office, will on May 3, open a special exhibition at their Lagos office. Tagged Art Meets Design, the month-long event, which will have Danish set designer furniture on display, will also feature works by artist Peju Alatise and photographer Yetunde Babaeko. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, the Managing Director of BoConcept Nigeria Charlotte Obidairo, a Nigerian by marriage spoke on the up coming exhibition and their plans to bring contemporary urban furniture to Nigeria.

Tell us about BoConcept? BoConcept is amongst the world’s leading furniture companies with 260 stores in 60 countries. We opened in Nigeria end of last year and the idea was really to try to bring some contemporary urban furniture to Nigeria.

When I moved back to Nigeria, furnishing my own home was always a challenge; I felt there was not a lot of choice for the urban-minded consumer.

I’m Danish, but a Nigerian by marriage; I grew up with Danish design, which is known all over the world. Our household was obviously full of Danish designs; that’s one of the things I was missing when I was travelling around. So, returning to Nigeria I felt, ‘why not introduce quality designs with functionality because that’s really what I felt was missing here. You have pieces in your home but there’s nothing sincerely pleasure looking at it.

I spend a lot of time in my home and I try to make sure that the furniture we had around us is really beautiful and functional at the same time. So, that’s the idea of bringing BoConcept to Nigeria. BoConcept is in 130 countries, so it’s quite big. They have one outlet in Nairobi that is doing well, so I thought it was about time the brad comes to Nigeria. If they can do it in Kenya, we can definitely do it here in Nigeria.

What has been the experience so far? It’s been very, very positive. When we first opened the door, the first customer that walked through the doors said, ‘I will buy these three setups… this one, this one and that one,’ and I had to say, ‘you can’t; that means I don’t have anything to sell going forward.’ So, it’s been pretty overwhelming; the reception has been overwhelming. I’m happy to see people liking what they see here.

There’s clearly a big demand for set designer furniture and there’s an appreciation as well.

What informed your decision to stage this exhibition? People, who come here to shop, inspired this exhibition.Sometimes, they tell you, ‘I can’t see it how your furniture will work with my art.’

So, what we wanted to do with the exhibition is to create experience for people to see that you can mix the two. For instance, you can mix the Danish Scandinavian furniture with Ankara fabric that Peju Alatise is going to put up and the photography that Yetunde Babaeko has made. We want to mix the two so that people can see it and our showroom lent itself to that; it’s been set up as a living room.

So, when we put the images up on the wall, people can se that the Nigerian Ankara will go well with the furniture because of the colours. We want to show the connectivity between Nigerian art and Scandinavian furniture design.

Aside your products, the exhibition will feature works by Nigeria’s Peju Alatise and Yetunde Babaeko, how did you arrive at the two? When I work with people, there needs to be a passion; I’m passionate about BoConcept.

I felt these two particular ladies have a drive and a passion; they want to say something with their art and we want to say something with our furniture; I believe furniture is a statement. So, these two came up because they are very vibrant. Yetunde’s photography is extremely creative and Peju, through her art, speaks on social issues.

So, they spoke to me and believe they will speak to a lot of Nigerians. This is a one month long exhibition and we want to play around with other artists. Hopefully, we will get other artists who want to showcase their works here. So, definitely, we will have more of this.

Is this a one-off exhibition or do you intend to have more with other Nigerian artists? We are not limiting it to them; the plan is that others will come and we will have other types of exhibition.

We want to start with these two because we felt, at this point in time, particularly the colour scheme that we are running right now in BoConcept, works very well with their art. We have a lot of black and white now in the furniture industry and we have some of those vibrant colours that works very well with some of the pieces that Peju has produced recently.

So, we felt they were very good match for what we wanted to achieve and the kind of message we wanted to send out to the people.

What’s the message behind the theme, Art Meets Design? Art is really about talent, while design is a lot about skill. So, it’s about creativity meeting skill; the designers are very technical, while the artists are emotional. Most importantly, we are focusing on functionality; we are aiming at furniture you do not want to get out of. So, that’s what we want to achieve. It’s going to be exciting obviously. The idea is that we will open up for people to come and sit on our furniture and look at the paintings; it’s like having an exhibition in your home.

Who and who are you expecting? We obviously have our clientele, so we are selecting a lot of them to attend the event. We are expecting business people, art collectors, artists and others.

We’ve had a lot of interest from corporations that want to use the opportunity to give their high net worth individuals something to look at. But after the opening, we are going to open up for the general public because we want to give the experience to everybody; anybody can come from May 4 to May 30 and visit the exhibition.

What’s your interest in the arts? I do appreciate art a lot; I do. I will say I like things that are a bit mysterious, not things that are interpreted already. I enjoy trying to figure out what motivated the artists. I greatly appreciate what goes into the art; it’s something that speaks to you.

How has it been coming back to Nigeria? I love Nigeria; I cannot help it. We’ve lived in many countries in Africa; I lived in Africa for about 15 years, but Nigeria is home. I love the dynamics here; I very much enjoy the stage we are right now in terms of growth and development. I’m particularly impressed with the energy and creativity of young people here.

I very much like the fact that you have to be on your toes to be here; it suits my personal profile. Yes, there are challenges here, but it depends on how you see it. It’s either you see it as a challenge or an opportunity to go and learn. There are many, many things I don’t know, which was why we hired mostly locals to work with us; I’m the only foreigner here.

Do you have plans to expand beyond Lagos? We’ve been getting a lot of requests from particularly Abuja. I will not tell the venue yet, but we are going to set up a shop in Abuja before the end of the year.

What’s your assessment of the furniture industry in Nigeria? From the very first time I came here 15 years ago till date, there’s been a lot of development.

I have many Nigerian pieces in my home as well; the chairs, the carving and many those pieces that I think a lot of effort have gone into creating them. That was traditionally what I saw when I came here, but I think now, the industry has evolved.

Many Nigerians have gone to learn abroad and they are bringing in their experience in training the staff on how to care for quality furniture. There’s a lot for effort going into the furniture industry, especially in Lagos and I think there’s a room for everybody.

Taste is very broad and the more we can give people what they like as supposed to what is available, the better. It’s very broad now but I guess that’s part of the development.