INTERVIEWED BY Mary Garner
Melville du Plessis is an industrial engineer who’s been working in the textile and apparel industry for 14 years… and, fuelled by a love of and passion for design, he recently started an online bespoke furniture business.
We were curious to know more about the multitalented creative behind Grapefruit Designs.
Where are your products manufactured and by who?
I have partnered with a small local manufacturer in Cape Town that manufactures all my designs, and I also have a manufacturer in Pretoria that I use, which gives me some flexibility.
What inspired the name Grapefruit Designs?
I was fortunate to visit Paris for my 21st birthday and was just blown away by the art and design. I think this kindled my passion and love for design, something which just grew stronger from there. I wanted to link the name back to where I felt it all started. I looked at which French words were fun to say because I wanted the brand to be fun and different. There were two words that I liked, one was parapluie, which means umbrella and the other was pamplemousse, which means grapefruit. I liked the grapefruit idea, as it is a fun, zesty and colourful fruit. I realised that pamplemousse is a bit tricky to spell and search for, so I decided to just stick with the word grapefruit, which then became Grapefruit Designs.
Where and what did you study and what led you to a career in design?
I actually studied industrial engineering at Tshwane University of Technology and did a Masters in Business Administration at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. I did however grow up in a house where I was exposed to art and design through my dad, who studied fine art. I have been working in the fashion apparel industry for the past 14 odd years, so I have been exposed to some form of design, and growing up with a father who exposed me to design really helped. Studying business and engineering helped develop my ability to conceptualise something and then develop and follow a process to actualise it. If you are passionate about something, you naturally immerse yourself in it, which means you constantly learn and evolve.
Which design principles did you focus on for your debut range and why?
Inspiration for me comes from a combination of online content and stuff I observe in my surroundings. If you’re focused on something you will start to see elements of it everywhere you go, so I see different elements of pieces and think how I can incorporate something of that into a design.
In terms of how I approach my designs, I try to keep it simple and add just enough detail to make the piece stand out without overpowering it with too much detail. The wooden endcaps to my tables is an example of this: it’s a small, subtle detail that complements the piece and makes it slightly different to a normal table. In terms of materials, I currently love the combination of wood, metal and leather.
What can we expect from your studio in the next few months?
I am currently fascinated by the combination of bent metal and wood. I am trying to incorporate it into a leaning sideboard where the metal seems to be folded open, resting against a wall. I am really happy with the progress: the geometric lines and shapes look really good. I might just create a range around this concept.
I also want to play around with more combinations of wild olive and black resin.
For more information, visit grapefruit-designs.com.