Copper Dust: Designing the African Narrative
Vanessa Agyemang, the founder of interior design studio Copper Dust, talks to us about how her Ghanaian heritage has influenced her and why she felt it was necessary to fill a gap in the market for African-inspired decor pieces. We also touched on her hopes for the future
1. When did you open your interior design studio and why?
I started Copper Dust in 2015 as I noticed there was a gap in the market for African-inspired goods. Whilst shopping with a friend, I just couldn't find anything that was authentic. The journey began with handmade lampshades!
2. Did you always know that you wanted to be an interior designer?
I've always been very creative but wasn't sure how that would translate into a job. I guess you don’t know until you try, so I did and here I am!
3. When did you launch your product range?
4. What is your cultural background?
I come from Ghana. My family are based in Accra, but we are originally from Kumasi.
5. How do you think it has influenced your brand and generally how you view the world?
I've always had a strong connection to my heritage. When I was a kid, my family and I spent every summer in Ghana, some of my fondest memories were made on these trips. As I got older I maintained the once-a-year visit. It was because of my love for Ghana that I started the brand, I felt the African narrative was not being celebrated, people abroad only had one view of Africa, the richness of the continent was simply not being shared. My heritage has definitely shaped my view of how I think about the world.
6. Do you think you are filling a gap in the market with your products? If so, what is that gap?
I definitely think a niche is being filled. Especially in the wake of the pandemic, people want affordable luxury in their home, they want items that will grow with their home and are ethically sourced. The story of Africa is finally changing and I’m just so glad Copper Dust could be a part of it.
7. Is your home an extension of your identity? And what happens if you can’t find items on the market that represent that?
Your home should definitely represent who you are whether you are renting or own your home, it should feel like you. You can always find items, it may be difficult but not impossible, we always suggest starting on Pinterest, you will be surprised where it will take you. Instagram is a great marketplace to find items, it will also lead you to brands that are similar to what you're looking for.
8. What is your favourite part about your job?
I love having the power of transformation, seeing clients’ faces when their vision comes to life - the look on their face is priceless.
9. What would you say has been the most challenging part?
Growing pains and finances. When your business begins to evolve and you need to go to the next level, it can be difficult to navigate how to get there, all while running the day-to-day of the business.
10. Have you had any experiences with clients that have especially stood out to you?
In 2020 at the height of the pandemic, we did a full home transformation and the client lived abroad. At the time I didn't see the magnitude of the project. Now in hindsight, the client's understanding, patience and communication were essential to get the job done, and we are so grateful for that experience.
11. If you were to expand your current product portfolio, what would you add?
One word - furniture.
12.What has been your favourite interior design job?
Our first interior project will always hold a special place in my heart, the client's vision was aligned with ours. It was a fun project full of customisations, we ended up becoming really good friends which is always a bonus.
13. What does the future look like for Copper Dust?
Two years ago I began thinking about other ways Copper Dust could share the narrative of Africa. Partnerships and collaborations not just in Africa but in the UK felt like the natural next step. At Copper Dust, we believe in the philosophy of trade, not aid, rather than gifting charity, why not support businesses on the continent, which in turn lead to helping communities support themselves. Copper Dust began to evolve into a lifestyle brand. We also believe in slow design. Good quality craftsmanship takes time and should not be rushed, it takes into account ethical design, creating timeless, classic pieces. We carefully select our partners who share our values, so we have teamed up with a number of brands including Nokware - a skincare brand that is not only fairtrade but supports female-led cooperatives in Ghana. Crete & Co is also based in Ghana, which uses the natural raw material of concrete to create beautiful handcrafted home decor pieces. We aim to expand our partnerships throughout Africa, to create a platform that is truly ethical and sustainable.
14. How will you get there?
We are currently in the middle of a rebrand, and putting together a roadmap to see us through to the next 5 years. By looking at every aspect of the business you can prioritise what is important. For us at the moment that means interiors. Interior Design gives us the opportunity to put all these amazing independent brands into people’s homes. They are individual touches they would not ordinarily find on the high street, and that is why clients love working with us.
Check out the Copper Dust website:https://www.copperdustlondon.com
Find them on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/copperdustldn/