In this episode, I chat with architect and product designer Tosin Oshinowo. Tosin is an architect with her own architectural practice called C M Design Atelier. She is also a product designer designing furniture using local fabrics under the brand Ilé Ilà. In our conversation, we talk about establishing her name as an architect, cultivating the confidence needed to win contracts and the business support essentials that have enabled her to start and managing multiple businesses.
The architectural industry is one with a notoriously high barrier to entry, but that has not stopped Tosin from setting up her own practice and designing buildings from the Maryland Mall in Nigeria to luxurious private beachfront properties along the shores of Lagos. Her interest is spaces and how people interact with them began as a child, and watching her father build a house fueled her interest further. Having studied fine art and technical drawing in secondary school architecture seemed a natural progression.
As Tosin’s business has grown she has developed a design signature which she calls Afro Minimalism- an aesthetic that embraces modern minimalism but is conscious of how we, as Africans use space. Tosin is championing a homegrown Nigerian and wider African architectural style. One that is not about copying global trends but creating architecture that stands the test of time and is designed for the local environment and recognises how people from different cultures use space.
Alongside C M Design Atelier Tosin runs her furniture line, Ilé Ilà. She stumbled into this area of design after being gifted a piece of fabric that was over 100 years old by her late mother-in-law, and seeing the potential of using locally handwoven aso oke fabrics to cover her chairs and give another dimension to preserving these vintage fabrics.
Designing products brought with it the challenge of not only navigating the process of getting product to market, but also managing multiple businesses. This she does by knowing what her skills are and what she can do herself and recognising what and when to delegate and outsource what she doesn’t.
Being a creative, it is one thing to create a product, but you need to [be able to] get it to market. – Tosin Oshinowo, C M Design Atelier, and Ilé Ilà
Being a business comes with many responsibilities, learning as you go along and for Tosin this means embracing her [healthy] insecurities, because they keep her pushing herself forward to do and be better.
We talk about:
- What inspired her interest in architecture and led her to set up her architectural studio C M Design Atelier
- The process of establishing herself as an architect
- How working from a place of insecurity is a strength
- The importance of presentation to build trust
- The importance of understanding the basics of setting up a business, being honest about your capabilities, and getting the skills you need
- Having a circle of people she can call on for help and advice
- Managing client and money relationships
- The types of projects she works on and developing her design signature
- Designing for the local environment and being aware of how people use space
- Her thoughts on the development of architecture across the African continent
- The impact of Covid on her practice and the local architecture/construction industry
- Embracing multiple income streams
- The opportunity that led to the creation of her chair design business
- Navigating the process of getting product to market
- Managing multiple businesses
Links and resources mentioned in this episode
Where you can go to find out more about Tosin, C M Design Atelier and Ilé Ilà:
And before you go I have a favour to ask, if you could take a few minutes to do the three R’s that is: rate it, review it, and recommend it to anyone you feel would benefit. It will really make a difference and I would greatly appreciate it.