Bespoke Binny’s Natalie Manima On Starting A Homewares Brand
With so much more time spent at home – one silver lining of lockdown is the thriving number of independent British homewares and interiors brands. Since launching Bespoke Binny as a side project in 2013, Natalie Manima has grown a customer base enamoured by her African print-inspired designs, and now works on it full time. We sit down with the designer to talk launching an independent interiors brand, design influences and her post-lockdown plans.
Tell us the story behind Bespoke Binny?
Bespoke Binny started as a hobby, initially I had no intention of turning it into a business! I had taken up evening sewing classes at City and Guilds because I felt like I needed a new hobby. I started using the skills I learned to make things for my own home – at first things like cushions, because I’ve always loved interiors and decor. I’ve always used African prints for all my sewing projects because I love the bright colours and have always had similar pieces at home.
I had a really positive response from friends and family, and they encouraged me to start a business. At first I thought it was crazy – I had a full time job as a cognitive behavioural therapist and there wasn’t time for much else. But in 2013 I eventually opened an Etsy shop, and the brand has grown organically from there. Bespoke Binny now has its own website, and I went full time last year.
What are you influenced by?
I’m inspired by the cheerfulness of beautiful, bright fabrics. I’ve always loved the idea of making practical items look more interesting. Coupled with knowing how colour can lift our mood and spirits, I’m inspired by creating homewares that can be blended into our environment in a way that’s both functional and uplifting.
What have you learned in lockdown?
That we’re probably all neglecting our homes to some degree! Being forced to stay inside during lockdown made many of us re-evaluate what we can do to make our surroundings more bearable and enjoyable. Like everyone else across the country I was buying and making more things for the home than ever before (and I was an interiors enthusiast to begin with!)
The business did face logistical challenges – getting hold of the fabrics and supplies I need to make my products was an obstacle, but I was also really lucky to be a homewares business at a time when people were investing more in their homes. Bespoke Binny is definitely well placed to help people make their spaces look lovely.
Tell us about your daily routine?
Usually it consists of the nursery run, shipping orders, making lampshades, replying to customer enquiries and then nursery pick up!
Any favourite pieces from your collection?
My favourite pieces are my lampshades, I know I’m biased – but I really do love them, they’re such statement pieces. I have one in each room of my home, a different colour to suit each of the different palettes. I also have them up on overhead lights as ceiling pendants.
Advice you wish you could have given yourself five years ago?
Keep going, it will eventually pay off! There were so many times when I felt like giving up. When I started Bespoke Binny, minimalism and scandi decor was very in – everything was white, grey and muted, and it felt really hard to see how I could ever really break into the industry as what I was making was so different from what was considered on trend. I’m so pleased I did keep going though. At the time, I would never have envisioned reaching the point I’m at today.
Any favourite under-the-radar interior brands you can share with us?
What’s getting you through the last of lockdown?
Being fortunate enough to keep working and doing something creative which I love has really helped. Like many, I’m also so grateful for Zoom and FaceTime so that I can keep seeing friends and family and that we can all keep each other going. I can’t wait until we can meet up again in real life.
What’s going to be new to Bespoke Binny for 2021?
I have a few new products up my sleeve, but nothing I can divulge just yet!
What makes a piece from Bespoke Binny unique?
The nature of the African textiles I use means that pattern placement is always slightly different on each piece, making every one of them unique to the individual that owns is it. And of course, each piece is made with genuine love and care.
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