Next, please!

After longstanding complaints about a dearth of fresh talent in the industry, a new wave of product designers has at last emerged.

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South African furniture designers don't stand much chance of making a decent living… So goes the well-known lament in the industry. It's not because our designers lack talent, it's because they are crippled by a destructive combination: firstly, there's the stiff competition, namely, cheap imports from the East - from India, Indonesia, Bali and China. Then there's the lack of a widespread manufacturing infrastructure.

Tied into the above is the prevailing attitude of retailers and their clients. Making a fast buck - or saving one - seems more important than a proudly South African purchase.

With all of the above playing a discouraging role, it often seems a wonder that any new furniture designers emerge into the décor market at all. But thankfully, talent will out. Notwithstanding initiatives like Design Indaba Expo's Emerging Creatives project - sponsored by the proactive Transnet Foundation and aimed at highlighting the nation's most talented tertiary students - the Expo has become a platform for other "emerging" designers who are trying to break into the market.

Take a young designer like Philip Nel, for example, who was a Transnet Foundation Emerging Creative two years ago and is one of the project's success stories. He went on to start Inizio (meaning "beginning") in 2002. Since inception, Inizio's early years have been spent solely on product and manufacturing infrastructure development. The company is now "proud to launch its first commercially available products at the Design Indaba 2006".

Nel is one of a host of promising professionals. Here, we present just a small selection of the new names that will be on show at the Expo, before these deliciously fresh designer-makers start hogging the spotlight. Ever heard of Team Two Design, Tsai, Kwas Scenics, Rocketfuel, Cornelius Lemmer, High Thorn, Robin Sprong…? No? Well you have now.

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