I’ve been thinking a lot…well probably most of my career, about the world of high-end residential interior design and when the 50 Finest Interior Designers list was released, I knew I wanted to write a post about it.
See the thing is the list is going to be white. The truth is that Britain and Europe engaged in colonisation, empire and slavery. The riches that were born out of those periods still trickle down through British society.
Beginning with the Royal Family we all fall in line, we know our place. The most well off in this country can easily afford to hire “the finest interior designers” money is no object and the lower class are their staff.
A lot of white people didn’t think twice about the racial make-up of the list. Many more do now because a man called George Floyd was killed by the police.
I always wonder why it takes such a horrific event to be filmed for some people to even consider that there may be a problem.
Stately Homes and Historic Houses
When I walk around London, I view these grand old buildings knowing that the owners may have had slaves at one point and the uncomfortable feeling that if this were a few hundred years ago I could have been one of them.
I live in Harlesden, you may know it NW10. It’s a mostly black area full of Caribbean food places for some reason fishmongers. It’s the only place I’ve lived in London where people say hello. Older people who my heart aches for when I try to imagine what it must have been like here when they arrived. Some are fighting not to be deported back to the Caribbean by Priti Patel.
When I used to go to work on the tube another lifetime ago I used to love picking up ES magazine on a Thursday, it was the only thing I didn’t mind being thrust into my face in the street. Every article on the cover star though without fail would mention which school they attended and their generational wealth, “she was educated at….” “her Great Grandfather was the Earl of….” “she grew up in Gloucestershire surrounded by nature” of course she did, (eye roll).
It’s amazing to grow up there I’m sure, don’t we all want the best for the next generation. That’s why I write this, I want better, I’m tired of this endless worship of the well off, not because they are better, simply because of their connections.
Working-class people are told if you work hard enough you can make it, it’s incredibly difficult to make it in the high-end interiors world.
We all know the designers who quit their job to study at KLC a design school with a £12k design course that shoots you directly into the high-end world of residential interiors.
Black designers, we can’t wait for these types of lists to acknowledge us, they won’t and it doesn’t matter. The people that want to work with us will find us.
I love the saying “build our own table” I’m all for it in all senses. Make our worlds, take the brave steps of setting up on your own. It may not work out, it may really really work out.
I don’t want to create a world in which we ask to be included, don’t include me because someone told you to, do it because you believe at your core it is right. If people need to tell you your list is out of touch then you are out of touch and that’s fine, be out of touch, our worlds don’t have to meet. I want nothing to do with it.
The thing with diversity is that you have ASAP Rocky in your campaign, play his music in your shop, but then still have security follow him or anyone who looks likes him around when he comes in, that’s not diversity it’s performative. And believe me, we know the difference.
The world of interiors is a lot more subtle than fashion. It’s a CV that’s ignored because the Creative Director can’t pronounce the designers’ name, it’s the highly-priced courses that most black people can’t afford. The majority of black and brown people are from working-class backgrounds and fees are another barrier to entry.
The rich have created their closed world and it does not include people like me. They do not aspire to be like us, and interiors are all about aspiration.
We are used to seeing Ghanian masks and Indian rugs being sourced for projects, but you can’t take our heritage without acknowledging us first.