The impact of projects like this is huge. Support from big business buying from smaller manufacturers and makers like us not only helps us upgrade our businesses, our techniques and machinery, it also helps us involve more people. Just this one project has helped three other people who didn’t work here before,’ says Mpho Vackier, the creative director and founder of TheUrbanative, a South African furniture and lighting design brand.

Along with some of the most recognised designer makers in SA, and including three fellow creative directors and founding designers, Mash T Design Studio’s Thabiso Mjo, Lulasclan’s Bonolo Chepape and Modern Gesture’s Candice Lawrence, Vackier recently completed a collaborative design project with the South African team behind the global beer brand SOL.

Facilitated by Clout/SA, a purpose-driven creative agency and business-to-business market maker that facilitates opportunities for collaboration between designer-makers and corporate clients, the project saw the designers create new pieces as well as adapt existing designs towards a collection that showcases an undeniably South African design approach, while also celebrating SOL’s positive and optimistic brand identity.

“Live from the Sunny Side” is SOL’s campaign. That light-heartedness and the energy of the brand made for a wonderful match with our South African designers, who have that very bold and optimistic approach to their design,’ says Clout/SA executive Tracy Lynch, who curated the collection, which has seen SOL buy a total of 5 000 pieces from the designers. The designs will form part of the brand’s various local activations, from in-store installations through to pop-up installations at music festivals.

Beyond selling a beverage, ‘We exist to shine a light on those who inspire others,’ says SOL brand manager Warrick Wyngaard, explaining that the challenge the brand took on was finding a way to do that in a way that supported designers and their businesses meaningfully, and not merely as a superficial marketing exercise.

Wyngaard was introduced to the kinds of collaboration Clout/SA facilitates back in 2022, when he came across the agency’s presentation at 100% Design South Africa, where Clout/SA showcased various collaborations between its clients and emerging as well as established designers. Upon seeing the installation, Wyngaard had an ‘aha moment’ and the idea of a collaboration with Clout/SA was born.

‘Our brief to Clout/SA was simple, and not at all prescriptive when it comes to creativity. There’s so much talent here, and we’re very conscious of the importance of giving designers the freedom to be creative, because they are the experts in that specific field. So, we asked Clout/SA to bring our “Live from the Sunny Side” campaign to life through functional design pieces. Tracy’s curation did so in amazing fashion, so much so that when we saw the range for the first time, everything was immediately approved,’ he adds.

Each of the selected designers not only found resonance between their collections and the character of the SOL brand, but also found new ways of looking at their collections as well as opportunities for new products through the collaboration.

‘Having this opportunity to design for SOL was overly exciting. It was also an opportunity for me to challenge myself out of the fields that I’m so comfortable with. I was asked to produce new products which I’ve never done before. For Modern Gesture, we’ve created a neutral range, but SOL helped us look at it in a new way, adding pops of colour, and it looks stunning,’ says Modern Gesture’s Candice Lawrence.

She adds that the ‘the energy that that SOL has brought into Modern Gesture has been great … and it’s also helped us to be openminded about all the other things that we could do in the future.’

Cape Town-based and Rustenburg-raised multidisciplinary textile and pattern designer Bonolo Chepape produced a series of patterned cushions for the collection, with bold-coloured geometric designs that celebrate her concept of home.

Says Chepape, ‘When Tracy from Clout/SA approached me about this project, I felt like it was the right fit to capture and tell the story of home through the patterns that I’ve created. SOL is a lively, optimistic brand, and all about having fun out in the sun, so I asked myself, how could I put that in a piece that can really speak to people, but also be open for the viewer to make home whatever it is for them, whether it’s a place, a moment in time or a memory?’

Over the past few years, Clout/SA has facilitated numerous collaborations between South African designers and various corporate clients, from the ongoing Nando’s Design Programme to collaborations with the Branson Foundation, as well as the redesign of Flame Studios at Joburg’s Constitutional Hill precinct. Two of the most recent projects include spearheading a process that saw furniture from Cape Town-based brand Dark Horse sold by retailer @home, as well as the redesign of the Emazulwini Restaurant at Makers Landing at the V&A Waterfront, which has since been listed in Condé Nast Traveler’s ‘The best new restaurants in the world: 2023 Hot List’.

‘While South African designers have a unique design aesthetic, it is an aesthetic that can be celebrated globally, and be reflected in collaborations with brands that share our passion for South African design. This curated collection for SOL would be at home anywhere in the world, while undeniably showcasing a contemporary and uniquely South African design approach,’ says Lynch.

For Mash T Design Studio’s Thabisa Mjo, who has also participated in previous collaborations facilitated by Clout/SA, the impact of such projects on her business and the industry at large cannot be overstated. ‘I cannot emphasise enough the impact that big businesses have when they take a chance on us as small businesses operating in the creative industries. The ripple effects are really something that is underestimated. It also sends a message of confidence to other big businesses, that if this brand is confident and happy enough to associate themselves with the creative industry in South Africa, that they might be missing something if they don’t do the same,’ says Mjo.

‘I really do wish that there were more companies like Clout/SA facilitating these opportunities for other creative industries, like the fashion industry, for example. It would really grow our country’s creative economy,’ adds Vackier.

This is no one-off for SOL, Wyngaard explains. ‘It’s a long-term strategy. This idea that drives us, of shining a light on those who inspire others, will inform everything that we do, be it our approach to music, shining the light on up-and-coming artists, or designers. And for us, it is something we’re committed to doing authentically, and to make sure to carry that authenticity through to every design and every part of the process.’

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