L’Équipée is a Nairobi-based studio founded by Lilo Chaumont together with her daughter Gus and Ferdinand Barbier. In close collaboration with 19 Kenyan artisans, they produce furniture that is displayed both in Africa and Europe.
In Nairobi, the struggle to access standardized industrial products is a powerful driver of innovation. Nothing is disposed of, very little is bought, which make craftsmanship and homemade products commonplace. From cobblers to carpenters, you will find plenty of artisans working outdoors, along the roads, in slums or in markets. For these artists, the lack of technical tools is not a barrier: table bumps are hit with hammers, and a wobbly chair is easily fixed by bending its legs.
Because there are no common standards, each object is unique, irreplaceable and often shown off like a trophy. Brakeless boda-bodas, matatus full of holes, weary electric generators and butchers’ stalls are covered with stickers, graffiti of Biggie, and multicolored neon lights. In Nairobi, shapes, colors and the impact of the product seem to be a priority, while technical concerns are just an afterthought.
L’Équipée tries to find a balance between the calibrated, rigorous European design, and these Nairobian over the top aesthetics. Technical drawing and the use of 3D imagery seem very futile: Every piece is designed through long and captivating conversations between the craftsmen and the designers.
The end result is a family of furniture that just like us, are from neither one place or another. Each item, with its own character, brings spontaneity in the way we produce objects, and pride to those who create them: craftsmen and designers.
By giving new opportunities to the craftsman, and using local materials, we try to help local economy at our small level.
We can be proud of our furniture, because we work with confidence and respect.
We learn a lot about the artisans, sharing ideas and maintaining a very high level of expectations upon them.
Beyond these exchanges, we guarantee our artisans as much as possible a stable employment, with regular orders, under the best possible conditions. We are committed to the setting up of well-equipped workshops and the establishment of time schedules adapted to their individual needs. One of our main objectives is the maintenance of a win-win financial balance for the entire team: optimal revenue for the artisans, affordable prices of all our furniture.