There are only 21 working days in May until the proverbial curtain closes on entries for the country’s hottest competition for young designers. Budding creatives have little time left to submit their designs in the hope of becoming one of 10 finalists, or even, the overall winner of the fourth-ever Nando’s Hot Young Designer (HYD) talent search. Entries close at midnight on 31 May 2022.
Fired up by Nando’s, HYD is managed by creative agency Clout/SA, a business-to-business market-maker for South African design, and takes place every two years. The end goal is to list the winning condiment unit on The Portal to Africa – Nando’s online marketplace where interior designers working on Nando’s restaurants around the world can shop for original pieces of furniture and lighting that are designed and manufactured in South Africa.
“The biennial Nando’s HYD competition is a highlight of the design sector’s calendar. Every two years we meet and get to know 10 finalists, and these 10 finalists are mentored by Clout/SA, and then linked to opportunities such as seeing their designs prototyped. Many of these designs go on to become best-sellers on the Nando’s Portal to Africa, driving revenue to the designers’ start-up businesses, and helping grow this exciting sector through inclusive access to opportunities and a global market. This is about changing lives by making sure we utilise the platform we have to shine a light on creativity and opportunity!” enthuses Clout/SA Director Tracy Lynch.
Past years called for lighting solutions, patterns and benches; and these prior competition rounds have seen their respective finalists and winners propelled into the limelight and mentored in all things related to creating a sustainable business. Thabisa Mjo (with her Tutu 2.0 pendant fitting) and Samantha Foaden (with her beaded Buhle Bulb) jointly in 2016; Agrippa Mncedisi Hlophe (with his vibrant, flowing pattern treatment) in 2018; and Katlego Tshuma (with his Sangu Bench inspired by the organic forms found in traditional African grass mats) in 2020 are previous winners that have gone on to evolve and grow within the discipline.
“Now I look at products through a production-process lens, versus just an aesthetic lens; and now I understand that a product that is easier to make is superior to a product that is just aesthetically pleasing,” says Katlego Tshuma, the most recent winner of the Nando’s HYD talent search. Tshuma took top honours in 2020 for his Sangu Bench, a seating solution inspired by woven grass mats.
Two years previously, in 2018, Agrippa Mncedisi Hlophe – with his vibrant, flowing pattern treatment – was the competition’s most celebrated up-and-coming designer. While he advises that his design process has not changed dramatically since then, his design knowledge has certainly evolved. “I still draw inspiration from my heritage, Zulu beadwork and South African design trends… All the collaborations I’ve done so far have helped me develop the design principals that embrace my individual identity,” he says.
“After co-winning the HYD competition in 2016,” reveals Samantha Foaden, whose winning design was her beaded Buhle Bulb, “I moved to Hong Kong to further my career in Interior Design, while continuing to manufacture the award-winning light fixture in my home town of Durban.” Getting to experience everything that was African-inspired design via Nando’s (“It’s way more than just good chicken!”) was Foaden’s best part about her participation in the talent search. “Put all doubt aside and just go for it,” is her advice for young designers contemplating a 2022 entry.
Co-winner Thabisa Mjo, whose landmark Tutu 2.0 lamp rocketed her to success, has recently done it again with an incredible new project focusing on telephone-wire weaving. “My latest collection is called Alfred’s Lights, and is a line of striking telephone wire pendants,” says Mjo, of the project she has worked on together with Elizabeth Joubert of interior design studio, Tin Lab, and renowned master weaver, Alfred Ntuli. Mjo, who is the founder of Mash. T Design, has always been adamant that hers is a practice of African storytelling. “As my business has expanded, I’ve sought out collaborations with artisans who use techniques that are quintessentially South African. For me,” she enthuses, “arts and crafts, and anything handmade, represent luxury – and my aim is to merge these traditional production methods with forward-thinking design.”
And it all began with entering the first-ever Nando’s HYD talent search in 2016. Her success, and that of fellow winners, are excellent case studies in the need for initiatives just like this to launch the careers of hot young South African designers.
Up-and-coming designers are challenged to bring their own “sauce” by entering vibrant, yet functional, conversation pieces that are as spicy as Nando’s signature selection of tasty condiments. To enter, visit https://clout-sadesign.co.za/ for the online entry form and entry details.
To find out more about Clout/SA, follow @clout_sadesign #clout_sadesign on social media.