Post by Aileen Brindle about her blog ‘trends–unpicked’


Whether you are a crafts business, a manufacturer or a designer looking for new inspiration, or an exporter selling to international customers, understanding ever- changing ‘trends’ in your market is important. Although there are great trend shows at trade fairs, numerous trend magazines and lots of inspiration on the internet, after all these years of working ‘on the ground’ especially in Developing Countries we realise that it is difficult to find and understand the information available. Sometimes it can be very ‘conceptual’, expensive, too far away, or often confusing. There is also the problem of having too much information, and knowing what to do with it!

Trends–unpicked was created to help digest and make sense of some of the information available. We hope that we can help by collating images and reports into a series of visual summaries or ‘stories’.  Each story is broken down into headings such as style, shapes and forms, materials, surface pattern, colour etc. hence the name ‘trends– unpicked’.

The Trend Trail- from Show to Show and Season to Season
What’s fascinating about being so immersed in the world of home interiors and crafts, and visiting the trade shows season to season, is the journey which trends take:
the trend trail. What we are seeing now is much more gradual transition, evolution, different interpretations of the same philosophies presented within a different  design concept.
The 4 stories presented by bora.herke stilbüro at Ambiente in Frankfurt earlier this year re-worked and affirmed much of much of what we presented last year on the blog. The story ‘MASH’ was very much repeating the ethos we described in ‘Craft Cultures Exchanged’ unpicked last year, ‘RAW’ has various elements of the Maison et Objet story ‘Archaic Shelter’ adding an industrial twist. REFINED was a new take on our ‘Classic Endurance’ and so on…
This is a positive movement, so we don’t see fashions as fads as we have done previously. We see lasting trends, building, and evolving over time, hopefully a much more sustainable way to work—–
To follow is a summary of the trends show at Ambiente 2011 from bora.herke stilbüro (quote and images from the ambiente website)
‘As ingenious as it is easygoing, Mash combines all that is colourful, jolly and highly expressive. A high-effect colour scheme, unusual combinations, diverse ethnic influences and unique design characterise this jolly trend, which will appeal to the whole family with its emotionally charged aesthetics. The attraction of new technologies and innovative options contrast with the charm of handmade, emotional products’
A trend which avows patina and turns its back on perfection – Raw concerns itself with industrial design. Raw, rough, natural materials are the focal point here. Authentic workwear becomes a discussion-starter for authentic furniture design concepts. Miners’ lamps, miners, car mechanics, workshops and garages are design role models. Visible, welded and metal seams turn into design and decorative features. Design is functional and resilient


With pared down, distinct shapes and carefully considered, functional design, Refined stands for relaxed modernity. The design looks less rigid, is softly rounded off and impresses with its feelgood character rather than its architectural rigidity. Searching for a definition of a new classicism, new furniture designs are increasingly orientated towards a restrained design language

The fifties make a comeback with Cute. Old craft techniques are used in new contexts. The fifties cheerfully and neatly reinterpret the game of contrasts. The freshness regimen gives nostalgic designs, charming details and traditional materials a modern look, which celebrates femininity.

“Salon in Paris” for Aid to Artisans 9-12 March

Post by Reinhard Werner

In March I assisted Aid to Artisans in organizing a buyers event in Paris,

the “Salon in Paris”.

Showcased were a wide range of beautifully crafted products from Egypt, Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin and Haiti.

I was responsible for the identification of 25 buyers from well known companies in Europe (department stores, retailers, wholesalers/importers, mail order and fair-trade companies) who were invited to the temporary 4-day showroom, hosted in an old medieval basement in the centre of Paris.

Products from Egypt included: Woven textiles, ceramics, recycled glass and metal lamps…

The collection also showcased a wide range of handwoven and traditionally dyed textiles from Benin, Mali and Burkina Faso…

Finally, products from Haiti included: Recycled oil drum products, Paper mache products, carved stone, beaded products, horn products and baskets…

For the buyers this was a great opportunity to see a wide range of products and engage in negotiations with the manufacturers and representatives from Aid to Artisans. The atmosphere was much more relaxed and intimate than at a hectic trade fair.

Good contacts were established, first orders placed and some buyers even made concrete plans to visit suppliers in their home countries.

All in all, this was a very successful event and proved that this is an attractive and effective  alternative to regular trade fair participation.

Aid to Artisans plans similar events in future.

Africa Now @ Ambiente 2011

Post by Mark Kwami

In February 2011, the Africa Now! brand presented its 2011 Collection at the Ambiente fair in Frankfurt.

AfricaNow! is a home decor brand created by the USAID funded West African Trade Hub programme. It supports small and medium sized crafts producers in Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon in the development of innovative furniture and home decor products, celebrating the fusion of the rich African crafts heritage and contemporary design.

The 2011 collection featured products from Senegal and Ghana.

Products from Senegal included a colourful range of  recycled paper and metal products, woven nylon fishing rope furniture,  re-used plastic mat-bags and dyed leather products.

Products from Ghana included: carved wooden stools, banana-fibre laminated tables, recycled printing plate tables, hand-made ceramics and baskets.

Besides giving design guidance during the product development and product selection phase, I developed and coordinated the booth design and display concept for the show, emphasizing the fact that a careful selection of products and a professional presentation at such events is crucial.

The fair was a big success and the stand attracted numerous buyers, resulting in full enquiry and order books for the companies represented. Next year, Africa Now! Hopes to expand its collection to include products from at least two additional West African Countries.

In picture above from L to R: Roger Brou (Business & Finance Director at WATH), Elaine Bellezza (Advisor for Home Décor & Fashion Accessories at WATH), Clarisse Djionne (Xarala Senegal) & myself (Numodus)

Special Show on Bark Cloth at Heimtextil 2011

By Mark Kwami

In January 2011, a company I am mentoring in the CBI Export Coaching program, launched a Special Show Bark Cloth at this years Heimtextil fair in Frankfurt.

I acted as a creative consultant for the project and assisted Bark Cloth ® in developing the concept for the exhibition.

Bark Cloth is considered the oldest man made fabric and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Material in 2005. Over the past 10 years, Bark Cloth ® have invested extensively in adding value to this traditional fabric. They have developed techniques to make the fabric more durable and suitable for a wide range of applications. Bark Cloth® have over the years worked with numerous designers and industrial clients who have used the material in different ways.

The Special Show Bark Cloth showcased different applications of Bark Cloth ranging from automotive parts with companies like Mercedes and the car-seat manufacturer Sellner Group, to interior wall-art, wallpaper, curtains, laminated boards, furniture, cushions, lampshades and fashion.

Two of their key clients, a Belgian wall paper manufacturer, Arte International and a German manufacturer of exclusive laminated products for interior applications, DEKODUR showcased samples of their products.

Also on show were designer objects made by designers like Jan Amgard (see seats below), Ann Idstein and Felix Diener (see curtains below).

Glass furniture by Walter Knoll

As a special highlight, Bark Cloth® flew in two of their producers from Uganda, who demonstrated the hand-stitching of the fabric (a key design element of the Bark Cloth fabrics).

Samples of  Bark Cloth were also featured in the major trend shows at Heimtextil 2011. In the main trend show R-E-C-O-N-N-E-C-T they were featured in 3 of the 4 themes. They enjoyed the most exposure under the theme „Wilderness“ – representing natural fabrics that impress with their natural aesthetic and imperfections.

Oliver Heintz & Mary Barongo / Owners of Bark Cloth®

Congratulations, Bark Cloth® !

Development of a Community Craft Market in Zambia

By Solly Levy

I  have just spent the last week in the remote wildlife area of Mfuwe, just outside the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. Besides avoiding the hippos and elephants, not to mention the humble but deadly mosquito, I have been giving workshops and trainings to the local communities. The Luangwa Craft Market Project has been funded by MATEP, a USAID programme and Tribal Textiles, a local textile design and manufacturing company, in an excellent example of private and development partnership.

The project was conceived and planned in 2008 as a three part intervention aimed at poverty alleviation within the local communities by the creation of a Community Craft Market. The idea was to concentrate on some of the existing crafters in the area in a central locale – in this case on the premises of Tribal Textiles, and provide relevant and appropriate inputs via a series of workshops and trainings. Local conditions and raw material availability played a big role in the products developed. Basic small business skills were also taught empowering the crafters to understand their businesses better.

Twelve groups attended the workshops, directly representing around 50 people. The Craft Market is now a functioning entity with the crafters manning their stalls on a daily basis, sales being made and families directly benefiting from the sales thereof.

Barkcloth at Maison et Objet

By Mark Kwami

Another interesting project presented at this January’s Maison et Objet fair was from a company called Barkcloth® from Uganda.

I have been working with Barkcloth® as part of the CBI Export Coaching Programme.

Barkcloth is possibly the oldest textile made by man-kind before the discovery of weaving. It is produced by peeling off the bark of the Mutuba tree and then beating this into a soft fabric. The trees are then carefully wrapped in banana leaves to protect the exposed stem, allowing a new bark to grow. After a period of about one year, the bark can be harvested again.

Barkcloth®, established by Oliver Heintz and Mary Barongo-Heintz, have invested many years of their time to transform this age-old fabric into a sophisticated, exclusive and recognized eco material. They have won several design and innovation awards and UNESCO have declared Barkcloth as a world cultural heritage.
Barkcloth® have trained and acquired eco-certification for hundreds of farmers in Southern Uganda to ensure that the trees are harvested sustainably.

At Maison et Objet, Barkcloth® presented a collection of lamps, light-panels and furniture pieces with barkcloth applications. The highlight was a new wallpaper collection developed together with the Belgian wallpaper manufacturer Arte International.

Barkcloth’s® success will have a significant impact on rural communities in Uganda encouraging them to plant more Mutuba trees.

Film on Barkcloth making courtesy of UNESCO

Colección: Ecuadorian Design Inspirations

By Mark Kwami

After a hectic Spring Fair season, we would like to share a few inspiring observations with you.

From 2007 to 2009 I (Mark) worked on a project in Ecuador to strengthen local design capacity. This involved working with 18 Ecuadorian Designers to develop a range of furniture and home accessories utilizing local materials, skills and the rich cultural heritage of this Andean country.  It was really exciting to see the culmination of this work in a selection of the Colección products being presented at the Maison et Objet fair in Paris for the second time.

The centre of attraction was their Totora furniture. The range is based on the Totora reed which grows in high altitude lakes in the Andean mountains. For centuries, this material has been used to build boats, houses and even entire floating islands. The designer Juan Fernando Hidalgo worked together with one of Ecuador’s top furniture producers La Galeria to develop this exciting seating range. A simple cushioning technique allows each single reed to adapt to the weight and shape of a person sitting or lying on the pieces, offering an intriguing and surprising sensation. A new introduction was the Totoluga Pods, organically shaped modular units which can be arranged to create seating landscapes.

Also on display were the Beluga vases and boxes by the artist and designer Gigi Molina.

(Virtual tour of Lake Titicaca)

From Paris to Frankfurt! Ambiente 12th-16th February 2010 by Aileen Brindle

The madness of the trade fair season continued in February at Ambiente in Frankfurt, Germany.  Ambiente is one of the world’s most important interior and giftware trade fairs. This year the fair presented a new concept and a new structure based around, ‘Dining’, ‘Giving’ and ‘Living’. Each fair featured the latest tabletop, kitchen, homeware, furnishing and giftware products from 4,504 exhibitors from 93 different countries from all around the world. This year over 133,000 international buyers visited the show from Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, France, Spain, UK and Switzerland and a marked increase in visitors came from the USA, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates.

Numodus colleagues Aileen, Mark and Reinhard worked with participants of the CBI Export Coaching Programme having assisted them in range development and selection, in preparation for their trade fair participation. We also worked together with The Ghana Export Promotion Council (GEPC) and Cámara de Comercio de Lima providing information about the structure of the Ambiente fair, the needs of importers in their target market, and current trends in the sector.

Like Maison et Objet, Ambiente presents a number of important trend shows. During the show, working with our visitors from Peru and Ghana, we provided insight into the background of the trend shows, and their importance in terms of direction for suppliers to the EU market.

Extract from Aileen’s Trend Tour!

The trend specialists research, analyse and interpret international developments in all the areas of influence (social, economic, cultural, political, environmental etc) and create ‘concepts’ or ‘themes’ which encapsulate these trends. They do this by defining their themes under specific headings related to particular trend references or philosophies. They select products from the show which best illustrate these specific concepts. Therefore the text in the show usually describes the thinking or philosophy behind the ‘theme’, and the products and the way in which they are compiled, illustrates how this is translated into product and design.

In order to understand how you can use these shows to guide you in your own product development, it is important to realize the thinking/philosophy behind the concept, why this was developed, and how it is translated into product design. This affects the colours we use, the shapes and forms, the textures and techniques, the surface pattern and print, and the overall mood of a product range.’

 More information about this year’s trend shows can be found on the following link:

This year’s trend show was curated by bora.herke stilburo. Here is a brief summary of each of their themes (from the trend guide) plus a few of our snaps!

Genuine and Sincere: ‘An unperturbed individual style full of modernity results from the casual combination of old and new, from personal favourite items and original everyday design in an environment in harmony with nature. This modern vintage look is charged with emotion and of impressive simplicity.’



Present and Everlasting: The desire for longevity is reflected in the contemporary interpretation of traditional values and classical design. High quality is present in every detail but not paraded. Perfect reduction, nobleness and comfort characterize a look full of vitality and self-assurance.’



Crafted and Original: Ethno Styling and colorful pattern mixes characterize a carefree lifestyle in which there’s plenty of room for creativity and improvisation. Whether handicraft or poetic – the charm of the home-made stands for an imperfect, authentic and boundless individual style’.



Progressive and Sensitive: ‘Ultra modernity collides with the avant-garde with futuristic techniques, progressive materials and bold combinations. Sensitive play is made of the contrast between the organic and the constructed. Objects seem immaterial-as if in the process of dissolution. Aesthetics approach the virtual’



 Find out more about our work in the next news post


Going Live! by Aileen Brindle

Welcome to our new website. Thank you for visiting us already. We hope that you have had a good look around and found out more about numodus, ‘where we have come from’ and ‘what we do.’ 

Despite only just launching we have already had a busy year. Last month we visited Maison et Objet in Paris, working with our participants of the CBI Export Coaching Programme. Maison et Objet, the largest designer homeware trade fair is held in Paris each January and September. It provides a great opportunity for design led manufacturers and exporters to enter the French retail market, and design-led market in Europe.


Approximately 2000 exhibitors (1.300 domestic and 700 foreign) on 130.000sqm are visited by 110.000 professional buyers (70.000 domestic and 40.000 international). The next M&O is 3rd – 7th September 2010

Visiting the trend shows at Maison et Objet to view the latest and predicted trends in the market is always an inspiration! The 3 trends shows this season were presented under the heading,’ COHABITATION’ A 3-step itinerary.

All 3 expressions of ‘Cohabitation’ echoed the thinking behind our work of so many years as well as affirmed our new desire to work as a team and in collaboration with others.

Our holistic and integrated approach, our passion to make a difference, our understanding of local needs and contexts, our appreciation of how to make makers and their markets meet, the transferring and sharing of ideas and information, is very much the language of the future according to the current trend gurus. We know that they are right!

From Maison et Objet:

COHABITATION: ‘We must learn how to live with one another, to reconcile the different generations and families with different configurations, cultures from elsewhere, the city and nature in an increasingly urban world. An overloaded world is looking for alternative ways of being together. After the days of ‘everyman for himself’, the new decade is bringing together people’s energies in the spirit of sharing and renewed ties. The home is becoming a space of new urbanity that reconciles differences. The styles are looking at a major change towards very human well-being’

Transcultures by Elizabeth Leriche

‘Imaginary geographies are erasing the borders between near and far. One culture enriches the practices of others to give rise to a transcultural aesthetic of world –objects that tell a unique story. Art and design bring diversity and know-how together. A journey that redefines otherness and the identity of Elsewhere’


La cooperative-by Vincent Gregoire-Nelly Rodi

‘The new configuration of everyday life is inviting us to play it collectively. Societal micro-practices are giving up on the idea of being self-sustaining and are instead privileging attitudes of solidarity and mutual aid. Cooperative, associative, or participative modes of behaviour are putting humanity back at the centre of the system. We are stacking, nesting, constructing a fresh optimistic style through variable geometries. We are sharing our energies in order to create the future.’

Hybrid – by Francois Bernard 

‘The current atmosphere is putting nature at the heart of everyday life and erasing the borders between indoors and outdoors. A cross-pollination is combining the urban, the natural and the technological. In a time of extensive urbanization of the planet, the city and nature are being reconciled in order to soften urban manners. This cohabitation is producing new categories of unusual, well meaning objects that work for a better life for all.’

Take a tour yourself:,video-les-tendances-maison-objet-2010,200319,42112.asp

This week we will be travelling to Ambiente in Frankfurt working with CBI, the Ghana Export Development Council and Camera Comercio de Lima. Mark will also be working with the West African Trade Hub. The great thing about working in a team, is that we really can be in several places at the same time. As we speak Solly is working with rural communities as part of a Craft Sector viability assessment in the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area of the Eastern Cape in South Africa, thousands of miles away from the cold and drizzle of Paris and Frankfurt, but very much at the heart of what we are doing.

More information soon about our work at Maison and Ambiente and watch this space for our very own style trend blog! Coming soon.