Happy 2018!! I'm proudly celebrating the new year with the launch of a new section on the blog called, Curated Products. This section will highlight dope artisans who make amazing products for the home by featuring their brand and capturing their brilliance. We're kicking off the year with creator Nasozi Kakembo, owner of the home decor line xNasozi (the "x" is pronounced "by" and stands for the symbol in dimensions) founded in April 2011.
When I first encountered the xNasozi decor line I was visiting the community-revered and popular street fair BAM Dance Africa. It was shutdown time for vendors as I was passing by Nasozi's table, right as she was starting to pack up. Her unique pieces for the home were gorgeous and really stood out. One of her beautifully handmade African Wax Print lamp shades caught my eye. I purchased it immediately and I'm so happy I did - it was the perfect piece. My lamp has lived in almost every room of our brownstone. I absolutely love it! Decor that is made with purpose and good intention brings such wonderful energy to your home. The time and care dedicated to the artistry of the xNasozi line is undeniable, which makes owning a piece so worthwhile. It's why I'm extremely honored to have xNasozi as our first feature.
Fall in love with this home decor line and the creator, just like I have, below:
What motivated you to start your home decor line?
I was born in the DC area to an American mom and Ugandan dad. They met in Germany. My mom worked in various design, diplomatic, and managerial capacities, and traveled the world all the time. My dad ran (and still runs) his own medical clinic in inner city Baltimore, in a systemically undeserved community. Since I was a kid, they've always been self-employed or had stake in their employment, and without saying, we've always been international.
I fell in love with architecture as a kid, and my favorite pastime was going to model home open houses with my mom. I would then study the floor plans and draft all the ways I wanted to decorate them and arrange the furniture. I went to undergrad for a bunch of things, eventually graduating in art history and Spanish. I moved to NY three weeks after graduation and worked in architecture firms before returning to grad school for urban planning. I love urban planning, but it didn't address my compulsion to design, so I eventually started xNasozi (xN for short) two years into a social justice philanthropy career. I was on a business trip to Dakar when everything came together in 2011. I sketched my ideas for a pillow collection on the plane on the way back to NY, and signed up for my first street festival that July in BK.
I ran my business from BK for 6 years, while traveling to various countries in Africa to source materials and build up my network. I also owe so much to my fellow entrepreneurs and small businesses owners throughout NYC, ranging from newly-emigrated market vendors, to well-established mom-and-pop owners, all of whom inspire me, and many who I continue to work with today. They, in effect, were my mentors, and living and working in NY was critical to the foundation and growth of my business. I recently relocated my entire life (well, most of it) to the DC area where I was born, but my business pretty much still runs the same way that it has for the past couple of years. I designed the business in a way that it wouldn't depend on a single person or single location. After all, xN is a global brand.
What inspires you?
Above all, my heritage inspires me - both the Ugandan and Black-American side - and that is the basis of all of my design work, visual, written, and otherwise. Second, I am inspired by how people live, and in particular how families live with less, not because they are lacking, necessarily, but living with less as a deliberate lifestyle choice. One of the most beautiful things that living in NY taught me is that there is virtue in economizing space and things. For one thing, most NYers don't have the space to hold on to miscellaneous items, so that automatically informs what the homes there look like. We also tend to be more transient, and when you move a lot, you purge a lot, and don't want to haul around a whole heap of baggage each time. Eventually, you find yourself with less things that weigh you down. So where heritage meets design and functionality is what inspires me. Street art, dance, and architecture inspire me as well.
What are the exciting things happening next for xNasozi?
I am really excited to produce the textiles for my next collection at the Kokrobitey Institute in Ghana. My aunt founded this design and academic organization more than 25 years ago, and my mother was on the founding board. It's nice to come full circle in a sense, because I remember as a kid when they were having all of their planning meetings, and when my aunt ultimately left the US for Ghana. I didn't completely understand or appreciate what was going on at the time, but now that I'm older and also in the design field, it has opened my eyes to the legacy and opportunity they have created. We will be producing original batik designs and will also prototype several new product ideas I'm currently developing. The best part is that the design is all based on sustainability principles and social good, which ties directly into my urban planning background.