31 MAY - 2 JUNE 2021

DUBAI WORLD TRADE CENTRE

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MEET BARBELINE: FEATURED DESIGNER AT INDEX 2021

03 Jan. 2021

For London based designer Barbeline Lusandu, the decision to venture into the Middle East as a first-time exhibitor at INDEX Dubai 2021, is a game changing opportunity for the woman whose business motto is Welcome to the Wild.

TO BOLDLY GO...

Bold by nature – and by design - University of the Arts London pattern design alumni, Barbeline Lusandu, lives and breathes the spirit of adventure through both her work and business vision.

Founded in 2015, Barbeline quickly established her as one of the new breed of forward-thinking creative personalities, with a passion for colour paired with an innate perspective on what works in today’s highly competitive interiors market.

Prior to launching her East London studio, Lusandu kicked off her design career in 2012, producing quirky impactful patterned children’s wear with an emphasis on fun but remaining true to the clean Scandi aesthetic. This expanded into a collection of equally bold home accessories and, before long, she was fully immersed in the world of interior design.

For 2021, she is venturing into uncharted territory with the decision to expand into the thriving Middle East market. As a first-time exhibitor at INDEX Dubai, the region’s go-to global connection point for designers, buyers and distributors and interior design brands, products and services for over 30 years, Lusandu’s presence at the renowned industry showcase is a high-profile launchpad into the region.

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How did you first get into designing prints for fabric?

In 2014 I became a mum, and that was the starting point for my children’s clothing line. It was also the catalyst for other ideas, as I realised that my design aesthetic could be applied to more than just kids’ wear; and so I started to think about how my love of bold prints and vibrant colour combinations could work in different ways. I’m definitely a rule breaker, so I wanted to encourage other people to break their own design rules and add life and colour to their homes to make them fun, exciting and - above all - happy places to live in.

What inspired you to move into homeware prints?

Seeing my designs brought to life as clothing sparked the idea to take my personal aesthetic in a different, but complementary, direction. I had such amazing feedback for the kids’ clothing and, from day one, clients were demanding more designs; but not everyone is brave enough to wear bold bright prints every day. This sowed the seeds for diversification into wallpaper textiles and furnishings, which was a natural evolution for the brand.

What was your first homeware textile design?

My first print was based on the classic motif of an EnglishTudor rose followed by palms; but the one that really cemented my confidence in my design ability was the flamingo peonies, which has been a bestseller for the last five years.

Where are your design inspirations from?

I was born in Central Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a child, I would spend time with my family exploring the surrounding countryside, and I really loved being immersed in nature. We would see lots of wild animals on safari and I felt a strong connection, which evolved into a desire to include them somehow in my life. So, when I started to design, they naturally influenced my work; not only wild animals but some of our family pets as well.

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What part comes first when you’re designing, for example, colour, concept, etc.?

The patterns come to me first, with the chosen animal or other motif, the underlying inspiration. After that, I decide on the palette of background colours, which, naturally, are always my signature bright and super bold style.

As a designer with global reach, how important is exhibiting at events as part of your marketing strategy to access new territories?

It’s extremely important as my designs in themselves cross cultural boundaries and my work has a global outlook. I want people to feel the passion and love that I pour into my art and designs, and to break the rules and bring more colour and boldness into their lives; whether it’s as simple as an eye-catching single sofa cushion or my wallpaper on a statement wall. In the same way that my work has evolved into homeware prints, my decision to exhibit at INDEX Dubai is also an evolutionary step for Barbeline. The Middle East has a long-standing reputation for interior design boldness and I’m excited to be a participant at this high-profile annual event, which is a magnet for the global design community.

How does meeting people face-to-face to see and touch your designs influence your sales, especially in this new Covid-19 impacted world? 

My business model is digital, with my collections all available online. In the current global scenario, this has been critical to driving sales, and the client feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. However, in the design world, the importance of trade and/or consumer exhibitions and events cannot be underestimated. We are a senses-driven industry, and being able to not only see and touch design pieces but to interact one-on-one with other designers, potential buyers and distributors is fundamental to business growth. Events like INDEX Dubai are, and always will be, an essential calendar fixture.

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You’re expanding into new territories with your debut at INDEX Dubai 2021; what is the appeal of the Middle East market?

From what I’ve seen so far, the Middle East is a vibrant, dynamic region where design isn’t bound by convention. People are unafraid to try something different and have a keen discerning eye for boldness, twinned with a love of all things luxury. I love this brave approach to interior design and I believe that my art will be a perfect fit. It’s also a destination where connections are extremely important and where face to face meetings are the catalyst for long term business relationships. INDEX Dubai brings together the key players in the region; so it is an invaluable opportunity to be immersed in the market and meet the right decision makers.

What will you be presenting INDEX Dubai 2021?

My focus will be on showcasing a cross-section of my collection spanning soft furnishings, upholstered sofas, textiles, homeware and tableware. My Barbeline Archive Collection, which is a limited edition of fabric and wallpaper designs, isn’t just colorful, it’s also immerse and thought-provoking art for the home. I think visitors will love the bold personality of my occasional chairs, for example, where ergonomic simplicity is offset by the vivid, talking point of  unique impactful upholstery. Or, enjoy tea from the finest bone china with my emotive floral meets animal print cup and saucer set. I like to surprise and delight, so a cushion cover takes you on a visual journey into the forest, or a jade ostrich peony patterned fabric invites you to touch its delicate velvety softness. Barbeline will definitely be hard to miss on the show floor; expect an explosion of colour that takes you deep into a multi-hued rainforest!

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What are you most looking forward to at the show?

I’m excited to get my feet on the ground in the Middle East and to be able to network face-to-face with a qualified community of interior designers, architects, wholesalers, buyers, distributors and hospitality industry design specialists. To take that a step further, I’m looking forward to forging new industry connections that I hope will develop into mutually beneficial relationships – and friendships. This is the entry point for my brand in the Middle East, and I want to make the most of my participation at INDEX Dubai 2021, and that includes being part of the workshops, design talks and other networking opportunities.

 

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What would you recommend to any young designer planning to debut at international trade shows in 2021?

Although the pandemic put a temporary hold on face-to-face events, the trade show format is irreplaceable. Shows like INDEX Dubai are fantastic for young designers, or anyone looking to break into a new market. The decision makers that attend are there for a specific purpose, are on the lookout for exciting, new products, and it’s the ideal setting to be able to make high-value business connections. When you first go into business as a designer it can be daunting, so another great reason to exhibit is the support you get from the show organisers, which can be anything from targeted matchmaking sessions and networking receptions to product showcases, awards and marketing opportunities.

Meet Barbeline Lusandu from Barbeline at INDEX Dubai, 31 May – 3 June 2021.

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