Since beginning in 2007, AphroChic has released five collections of home decor, all inspired by the cultures of the African Diaspora. Today we are embarking on our sixth and most ambitious collection – New Heirlooms. The new collection of handmade African art, candles, lighting and textiles is a bold statement, grounded in an afro-futurism that looks forward, not to sci-fi and superpowers, but to a time when equal humanity is met with equal value and equal access. With New Heirlooms, we have taken our unique perspective on modern design and culture in home decor and designed a collection that looks forward to a time where representation is a reflex, not a trend, and diversity is a habit rather than an act. In anticipation of that moment, New Heirlooms offers inheritable pieces that will stay with families for generations to come.
The early history of African American families did not allow for the luxury of heirlooms. Though more than a few families did find things to pass on through the generations, rarely were they objects of luxury, and even more rarely were they pieces that spoke to a unique culture and history. Today, those circumstances have changed, with far more families of color possessing the means not only to create heirlooms, but collections for future generations to enjoy. Yet in a society where so much is ‘built-to-break,’ it becomes difficult to find contemporary pieces that will stand the test of time. Meanwhile, massive income inequality continues to make inheritance a far less common occurrence for African American families than for others, and decor objects that speak to an African Diaspora heritage remain few and far between.
In that spirit, this collection was developed to offer luxury, handmade objects that are culturally infused and designed to stand the test of time. Through collaborations with a series of artists and artisans, we gave life to designs inspired by the history and culture of the diaspora. Our new Ailey Wallpaper line celebrates the beauty of black women in motion and the legacy of the many luminaries of dance that the diaspora has produced. Consisting of four patterns, the collection was designed in partnership with Kim Johnson Studios and will be offered through a collaboration with Chasing Paper. We worked with Maman Afrique Boutique in Columbia, South Carolina to create a new designer series of handmade juju hats in modern colors and patterns. The collection also features warm scented candles made in partnership with Harlem’s The 125 Collection. And in our deepest foray into luxury items to date, AphroChic is offering its first lighting collection, featuring pieces entirely handmade in Morocco, a collaboration with the lighting brand, Dounia Home.
When we first started AphroChic it was in response to the lack of diverse representation that we saw and still see in the design industry. We didn’t see the voices of African Americans represented, and the absence impressed on us the importance of design and narrative, not simply for creating comfort in the home, but as a means of documenting a culture and expressing a world view. In seeking to correct this lack of representation, which should not be confused with a lack of presence, AphroChic has continually worked to design rooms that tell a unique cultural story, and to provide our customers with products that will help them do the same. With New Heirlooms we have taken another important step towards that goal, offering luxury, artisan products that truly represent an African American heritage. The timing could not be more perfect as calls for greater representation are coming from every field, including the world of design.
This collection is us. More than just products, it speaks to concepts and structures that affect our family and countless others in various communities. More importantly it is a collection that looks honestly at our present and is unflinchingly optimistic about our future. As descendants of enslaved people, African American communities have not traditionally had a multitude of heirlooms to pass on. We see that changing, even with all the chaos of our present moment. We see a better, more inclusive, more open future ahead, and we have responded to it by creating objects specifically intended to be the heirlooms of the future. Combining traditional techniques with contemporary style, we are offering handcrafted pieces that are made in Morocco and right here in New York, that speak to our heritage. It’s time for high-end, luxury design that represents Black life, and we are proud to have created these pieces to celebrate that.