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Local Design Duo: Man + Wife

Having now been in my new home for almost a year it is certainly safe to say that I have a new found love for interiors. So throw in a fresh local brand to the market and I’m sold. I tracked down Kimlyn and Bruce Harbottle of Man and Wife to share their story.

Roxy: Why did you decide to start up Man + Wife?

Kimlyn: Over the last few years, we had two children, it’s amazing how much they change your lives and what you will do to make sure they have everything they need. We started Man+Wife because we wanted to create a future for our children in the country that we love. Paired with that, I have always wanted to design my own range of homewares and products that I would love to have in my own home. Starting Man+Wife has allowed us to spend time with the children but also do something that we love.

Roxy: What sets you apart from other design duos? How would you describe your aesthetic?

Kimlyn: Even though we studied the same course at University, we focused on different areas of design when we left varsity. I went into furniture and interior design and Bruce went into mass manufactured products. I think this shaped who we are as designers as we see aspects of products through different lenses. This helps with the whole design process as we focus on different elements of the product and come up with something that is beautiful and well considered. My style is more mid-century while Bruce’s style is more brutalist industrial, so joined together I would it call industrial mid-century. I soften the crispness and cleanness of Bruce’s designs and he cleans up my retro inspired designs, simplifying them and taking away the fluff.

Roxy: Why should people support local?

Kimlyn: I love the fact that South Africa is not a washed up country but rather has amazing people in it with wonderful ideas. I believe to ensure that this country carries on expanding and growing the nation needs to see the power in buying from smaller local businesses that actually are able to hire local people and help uplift their communities. Bruce says when you buy from a small company then a real person on the other end jumps up and down and shouts “yah”!


Roxy: What is it like working with your spouse? Some of the pro’s and cons?

Kimlyn: Firstly we don’t always agree on everything and this can be good and bad. Good in that it can hone a design into something that is even better or bad when there is a dark cloud hanging over the office and the house for a few hours until one of us concedes that the other person is right or we talk it through and come to a compromise. What is wonderful about working together is that we can bounce ideas off each other and come up with ideas that you maybe wouldn’t of thought of by yourself. We do have our own sets of clients and some of them do overlap, this does help in that we aren’t in each others pockets all the time. We are best friends, so we do have some good laughs and we know we can rely on each other as we both have the same goal in mind.

Roxy: You mention making a positive impact in your community, how does your business strive to do this?

Kimlyn: We would ultimately love to open a factory where we can hire people from the community to work in. Ideally we would want to hire people that haven’t had a chance in life and may not have many skills, but we would want to teach and educate them on how make and design products. We have a son who has Down Syndrome and it makes you look at the world a bit differently, in that you want to make sure he has a future that he will be proud of one day. We would also love to hire people with special needs to manufacture and assemble our products, to show them that they have worth and they do have a lot to contribute to society.

Roxy: What are some of the most difficult challenges you’ve faced as entrepreneurs?

Kimlyn: At the moment trying to find clients and knowing how to market yourself. I am not one of those people who puts myself out there and Bruce even less so, so having to do that and getting in touch with people that may reject you isn’t fun. Its also slow going, nothing happens quickly and it takes a lot of hard work. Learning all the parts of what goes into a successful company, because there are only two people in the company you are everything all rolled into one: the admin lady, the designer, the marketer, the delivery person as well as the tea lady. We have had some amazing help from friends and family who have given some very helpful advice, but you also have to learn how to implement it. Having patience and knowing that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Roxy: Tell us about some of the current trends in design? What can people look forward to?

Kimlyn: In terms of colours being used on furniture, more muted earthy tones are coming in, like your dusty rusty pinks. Browns and deep greens are starting to make a comeback as well. Fluted, coloured and textured glass for coffee table tops and furniture has also started coming in and the play of light through the glass is beautiful. Marble and brass have been in for the last few years but are still standing strong if you are trying to create a classic interior that is elegant and sophisticated. In terms of styles and trends, Memphis is big at the moment, very eclectic interiors which makes you feel like you’re in another era.

Roxy: If you had to pick your favourite piece on your site right now what would it be?

Kimlyn: I really like our Stitch Candle Holders.I like the fact that you can arrange them how you like and criss-cross them at different angles. Bruce says he likes the little desk clocks, we’ve just powder coated a batch of them in a dark grey blue and they look great.


Roxy: What advice would you give to those starting their own businesses?

Kimlyn: Have patience as it takes time to get all the little bits and pieces up and running. Try network as much as possible with people in your industry to get your name and brand known. If possible, have savings/capital for the first year otherwise you’ll want to give up half way into your first year if you don’t have the financial backing you need. Have a clear goal of what you want your business to be, as the route to get there may not be what you expected, but if you know where you are going you will continue to aim for that goal. Be willing to hustle and also be willing to do unexpected jobs or different ones from what you intended to do as you will always learn from them.

A big thanks to Kimlyn and Bruce for taking the time to share their story. Be sure to go check out Man and Wife here and support local!

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