UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH @ARHINARMAHLONDON FOUNDER CATHERINE ARHIN
Meet Catherine Arhin the Founder and Creative Director of ArhinArmah London. She is on a mission to encourage people of all ethnicities to welcome Africa into their homes. With her sassy flair, impeccable taste and admirable work ethic, Catherine Arhin is definitely a woman that we should keep our eyes on. The self-taught designer has traded her role in the corporate world to pursue her long-dreamed career in luxury home furnishing.
Her bold move of launching ArhinArmah beautifully illustrates her identity which infuses tints of West African culture.
In this exclusive interview Fashion Editor Denise Bamfo finds out how Catherine Arhin perfected her craft and what sparks her imagination.
Tell us about ArhinArmah?
AA: ArhinArmah pronounced AH – HIN – ARM – AH is an independent London based brand that specialises in creating luxury home decor with an African accent. We create handmade soft furnishing items (such as cushions), and furniture using Ankara, geometric and abstract prints. Established in 2012, the company aims to introduce African inspired prints to the largely unexplored high end retail-market and make African prints accessible to individuals of all backgrounds and ethnicities.
When did you your passion for design begin?
AA: I’ve always been creative and a huge fan of bold colours. When I was about five years old my dad bought me blank notepads, colouring books and felt tip pens on a bi-weekly basis. Pre teen- I designed clothes in my spare time and in my teens I wanted to be a graphic designer. When I reached my 20’s I left the creative side to pursue a career in the corporate world.
Did you train to become a designer?
AA: No, but I’ve never let that hold me back. I’m a self taught designer and the
advantage of this is that I have no preconceptions or received opinions about how I should create my products. My creativity comes from within which is a definite strength. Being an outsider is my raison d’être. I also have 8 years of direct experience in business to fall back on. I've gained this through shadowing Directors, CEO’s and Committee’s in a mixture of global and start up organisations (covering both the private and public sector).
What inspires you today? And how do you generate ideas/concepts?
AA: I take my inspiration from everywhere. From nature, Ghana, my grandfather and his impeccable taste. I think back to the decor in his main house back in Accra. I think about the man he was and small things like the tailoring on his suits. To be at my most creative I need to be isolated with just my music for company.
Describe how your Christian faith has influenced you?
AA: My faith has had a significant bearing on the way I run my business. It’s seen predominantly in the way I interact with my team members but also in the way we interact with our customers and other suppliers. We’re definitely an ethical company. My team members are treated as individuals, supported by the Company and encouraged to give feedback on every aspect of the business. We’re very much a family. At Arhinarmah it’s not about me – it’s definitely about ‘we’. My faith has definitely had a bearing on this.
Can you remember your first ever design project? If yes, what was the concept?
AA: Yes, when I was 16 I was tasked with designing my own bedroom from scratch. I can remember doing full scale drawings and painstakingly picking out the wallpaper, fabrics, flooring and doing a full scale drawing.
The Beauty of Running a Business
What does an average day consist of for you?
AA :The great thing about running your own business is you never have an ‘average day’! The only thing that stays the same is I check my emails first thing followed by personal business and then our social media platforms. After that anything goes.
I've had many meetings with a few companies including a potential stockist, Universal Music and I have also been in talks with my PR rep about getting Arhinarmah featured in a high street publication. In addition to this we've done photo shoots. Right now I’m talking to TBNT, and later it’ll be a conference call with my marketing assistant and Arhinarmah’s head of customer relations.It’s 24 hours! It doesn't stop but I love it, I’m manifesting my dreams!
What is the most frustrating part of your career? And on the flipside what is the most rewarding part?
AA: The most frustrating part so far is being targeted by copycats. When you
have a bright idea or an exemplary product you expect to be targeted by larger
companies that are already more established than you. I believe imitation is the greatest form of flattery however I don’t dwell on it. The most rewarding part is seeing my creations coming to fruition and receiving all of the positive comments from people who love what we’re doing with the brand.
starting up your own Design Company
What advice would you give to a young designer starting out who is reading this interview?
AA: Do your research (irrespective of what sector you intend to go into). We spent months researching the market before launching Arhinarmah. I’ve met the most amazing designers over the years (many who are crazy talented) but who unfortunately haven’t done as well as they could have as they didn’t do their research beforehand and they weren’t clear on who they’re targeting from the outset.
What does the future hold forArhinArmah? (Where do you see the brand in the next 5 years?).
AA: I have very definite ideas for the brand. In a few years we’re planning to
branch out into other areas (still homeware). For now you’ll have to stay tuned.
Share something you would like our readers to know about you or your brand?
AA: We’ll be exhibiting at the ICFF in May 2013. It’s the largest exhibition in
North America (dedicated to the homeware market), and will play host to more than 500 exhibitors from more over 30 countries worldwide.
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