Yinka Ilori is a London-based Nigerian-British furniture designer who specialises in repurposing (or upcycling) unwanted furniture. In a vivid reimagining of the Nigerian parables that surrounded his early life, Ilori’s designs are colourful, bold, quirky, and always tell a story.
We chatted to the designer about his style, storytelling, and the importance of channeling his heritage in his work.
Describe your signature style
My signature style is storytelling through unwanted furniture, incorporating my British and Nigerian heritage in everyday objects that sometimes we as people take for granted. Old furnitures are powerful objects that hold special memories and sentimental narratives that we need to respect.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
I draw inspiration from my culture, my upbringing, personal experiences and people around me. Personal experiences always allow me to tell the best stories because they are heartfelt. Nobody can tell your story better than you.
What is the importance of channeling Nigerian parables in your work?
The importance of these parables is that they shaped my life, and I wanted to share this source of greatness with people around the world.
What are some of the themes encapsulated in your work?
The themes that encapsulate my work range from hope, sexuality, love togetherness, and equality. Sometimes I like to combine a mixture of themes in one – that’s the beauty of storytelling.
How do you end up visualising an oral medium like the parable?
What I do is start off with a parable and select key words from the parable which become the most powerful and most prominent feature that tells the story of the chair.
I’m fascinated by stories found in old furniture and being able to tell new stories on top of an existing chair’s stories. It makes my job a dream no matter what day of the week it is.
Which project to date gives you the greatest sense of achievement?
It has to be ‘If Chairs Could Talk’. It was a very personal project and it was nice to share it with the public. It gave them an insight into my upbringing and journey. This project gave me the confidence to tell stories even when they make me vulnerable, it definitely opened a lot of doors for me and I’m grateful for that.
On your recent visit to South Africa, what design trends/significant elements did you pick up on? How do they relate to the strong Nigerian influence in your work?
I didn’t see any design trends because I didn’t go out much but one thing I noticed was how people in SA use colour confidently, very similar to how Nigerians use colour, boldly showing the richness of their culture.
Images courtesy of Design Indaba
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ELLE Intern Aimee is often captured by the power of words to create whole words outside of our own. She is an avid writer and a self-confessed bibliophile who dreams of having a sprawling, carefully curated library of her favourite books in her home one day. Joburg born, but Capetonian bred, Aimee wants nothing more than to travel anywhere and everywhere, documenting her experiences all the way.
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