The Resident catches up with Bespoke Binny Homeware founder Natalie Manima to talk over her love of African prints, Ghanaian mud cloth and her collaboration with the British Library
Combining her profession as a therapist and her love for bright, bold homeware, north London resident and founder of Bespoke Binny, Natalie Manima, is now throwing earthy mud cloth into the mix, a perfect fusion of tantalising texture and warming tones for the cold winter months.
Mud cloth originates from Mali, Africa and is traditionally known as ‘bògòlanfini’ or ‘bogolan’. The native men weave the cloth on narrow looms before the women dye it in a mixture made from mashed and boiled leaves from the n’gallama tree. Once the cloth is dry it’s painted with a special mud paint sourced from the riverbed which has been fermented in a clay jar for up to a year beforehand.
It’s a central part of Malian culture and is exported worldwide for use in fashion and interiors due to its unique properties. Though it originated in Mali, many African countries now produce mud cloth locally, but it can be extremely hard to source the real thing from outside of the continent.
Manima explains: ‘While I have always used a lot of African prints in my designs, this is the first time I’ve used mud cloth. It’s a very thick material that’s painted by hand. I have family in Ghana so was able to source the material directly from the local artisans who make it there.
When choosing my fabrics I am always looking out for those that are cheerful, those that will brighten your mood and just those that will evoke a positive feeling in people
‘It has this wonderful thick texture, like a soft woven version of jute almost. It is very difficult to get hold of and is normally very expensive; I was lucky to already have a local connection in Ghana.’
It’s hard to believe looking at the skilled detailing that goes into each of her designs, but Manima says that she actually fell into creating her own homeware and lifestyle brand, stating: ‘By training I am a therapist, and I still do that part time alongside running Bespoke Binny.
‘I got into making homeware as a hobby; I had no intention of turning it into anything more. I just wanted to learn how to sew so started with some evening classes and really enjoyed it.
‘I then began making things for myself here and there, things for my home because that’s always been more my thing rather than clothes. My friends started telling me I should sell what I was making, which I thought was a ridiculous idea at the time!
‘After some time, I started going to a few craft fairs to sell my designs and they did surprisingly well. That’s when I finally thought, maybe there is something that could come from this.’
Ironically, Manima never saw herself as a business woman, though she now runs one and enjoys every minute of it. The skilled designer explains: ‘At a certain point I had to stop thinking of it as my little pet project and take it seriously as a business.’
Her new found skills didn’t diminish her passion for cognitive behavioural therapy however, as she stills find her work helping others to overcome their struggles invigorating. While most of us would crack under the pressure of juggling two careers, Manima relishes it. It’s almost as if one fuels the other, as vibrant colour and playful patterns are uplifting, designed to put a smile on your face.
Of this, she says: ‘When choosing my fabrics I am always looking out for those that are cheerful, those that will brighten your mood and just those that will evoke a positive feeling in people.’
Despite the big move towards colour in the home, big name home brands are still dominated by neutral, minimalist tones, something that Manima hopes will change in the future. She has bright blue and orange sofas at home, which symbolically scream a big no to tired, muted tones. You may not be a Manima level colour centrist, but having one standout piece in each room is essential for steering clear of the clinical look.
The British Library soon caught on to Manima’s colour fever and introduced her lamp shades and cushions to their gift store range as part of their West Africa exhibition, which ties in perfectly with Manima’s own colourful heritage.
You can bag one of Bespoke Binny’s daring designs at craft fairs around north London and from their website. Even if you are not bold enough to go full throttle with the bright hues, Manima’s mud cloth designs are a must have, perfect for those who want to keep it eco friendly, refreshingly stylish and locally bespoke at the same time.
Find out more at bespokebinny.com