Meet Yinka Ilori, a designer who is taking up-cycling to a new level, transforming old chairs into must-have furniture. WGSN Senior Editor Carlene Thomas-Bailey reports.
In our culture , let’s face it, we are obsessed with the ‘new’. Very rarely do we see the appeal of things that are damaged and broken beyond repair. We think, let’s buy a new one, the latest version, the most up-to-date one available.
However, furniture designer Yinka Ilori is turning that idea on its head with his furniture company.
Taking old, often discarded and broken chairs, Yinka transforms them in his east London studio, into exciting, vibrant, colourful pieces of furniture that can jazz up even the most dull, grey room.
Having studied Product Design and Furniture at the London Metropolitan University, it was a class exercise at university that would inspire his business model. During his studies he was encouraged to use the Italian designer Martino Gamper (who garnered international fame through his project 100 Chairs, where he transformed 100 old and broken chairs, reviving them to new chairs in just 100 days) as inspiration. Then his class task was to source two old objects and use them both to create one new object that had a new story, function and identity. That project gave him the idea to fuse his British and Nigerian heritage, and his love of the old with the new to create his signature chairs.
So he started upcycling, finding old chairs with weak structures wherever he could, keeping a keen eye out while on the bus and sometimes jumping off the bus, and getting back on with the chair. “ I love that the chairs have flaws, they come with their own character. When I redesign them I try to keep some of the original elements and then add the new,” says Yinka.
His early upcycled products couldn’t be called collections: “At first I was just testing the waters, I started with three chairs, rather than a collection,” Yinka explains. His skills have developed and the latest full collection called ‘If Chairs could talk’ is now available to buy at The Shop At Bluebird in London. Each chair combines upholstered craftsmanship, luxury Dutch wax African print fabrics imported from the Netherlands and comes with a story woven into it. Yinka takes his inspiration from the African parables he was taught as a child.
“ I tell stories through the chairs. Each product is me trying to breathe all the stories, colours, sounds and languages of Africa through the chair, while celebrating the history and character it had before.”
Photography credit: Veerle Evens
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