After encountering the work of designers Verner Panton and Ettore Sottsass during her time at University of the Arts London, Kusheda Mensah soon pivoted her attention from fabrics to furniture. “I was looking at what I was going to be making fabric for,” she says, “and I thought: This is really boring. I should start making the actual pieces.”
She could hardly have dreamed that, one year later, her work would be showcased at SaloneSatellite in Milan. “I just applied with hope, a statement and drawings, and I got accepted,” Mensah recalls. Her eponymous line, Modular by Mensah, was then solidified; the British–Ghanaian designer hasn’t looked back.
Out of her Peckham studio in South London, Mensah crafts objects informed equally by her surroundings, relationships and community. Noticing the discord between social media use and emotional well-being, and wanting to remedy the situation by using furniture to promote real-life interaction, she arrived at the vision behind her Mutual collection. The interlocking nature of its 20 modular pieces is intentional, defining generous ergonomic seating that encourages communication while becoming social spaces in and of themselves. “I was thinking about breaking down barriers,” Mensah says of the line, which debuted at Salone del Mobile in 2018. “If someone came to sit next to you, it would be quite hard not to strike up a conversation.”
For the designer, this social dimension extends beyond functionality. Mensah, who sees her pieces as timeless, also prioritizes sustainability. In a collaboration with Adidas, for instance, she incorporated recycled foam (also used in Mutual) and post-consumer recycled PET fabrics to produce a range of playful plush geometric forms. Having recently received one of 10 grants aimed at funding international Black-owned businesses, she plans on growing her studio, continuing to create and eventually helping young designers enter the industry.
During a whirlwind few years for the emerging creative, Mensah’s continued rise is proof that fortune favours the bold (and talented). “My parents came from Ghana and worked just to make a living, so for me to be able to design and have people behind me is amazing,” she says. “I didn’t know you could do something like this.”
For Kusheda Mensah, the interlocking nature of her graphic pieces is as much about sustainability as it is building community.