The Panton-Inspired Designer Creating Furniture to Inspire Empathy

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Modular by Mensah
MutualCourtesy of Modular by Mensah

With her debut collection, Kusheda Mensah injects intimacy and playfulness into our social interactions

  1. Who is it? Modular by Mensah is a line by Britain-born Ghanaian designer Kusheda Mensah, whose emotive furniture designs inspire intimacy and empathy
  2. Why do I want it? It’s furniture for the lonely, the lost, the conscious, the creative and everyone in-between
  3. Where can I buy it? Online, at Modular by Mensah

Who is it? With every word she uses to explain her vision, furniture designer and LCC Surface Design graduate Kusheda Mensah adds a new dimension to an already dynamic debut collection. “I feel like as millennials we’re so woke, but the generation above us seems quite narrow-minded. We’re trying to push the world forward, off our backs, and no-one’s listening to us,” she explains.

Fresh off the plane from Salone del Mobile Milano, where Mensah showcased Mutual, the designer discusses her work with an emotional awareness so profoundly mature that it’s hard to believe she’s only just getting started. Echoing a non-conformist approach to design and human interaction originally championed by Verner Panton, the former aspiring fashion designer cites the Danish designer and 70s style as two of her major influences. “I studied art and design at London College of Fashion and really loved it. I love drawing and thought I wanted to be a fashion designer, like every 17 year old does in London. I hated doing Fashion Design, took a gap year, and then a friend suggested studying Surface Design at LCC. I don’t know what got me looking at furniture, but I got really into Vernor Panton. I was so inspired by all his work and the interactive spaces he created in the 1970s and I started thinking, ‘why don’t we sit like that?’”

Why do I want it? In an era of social anaesthesia and applauded mediocrity, Mensah is the antidote. It’s no secret that creative industries are dominated by the middle classes, with those who can afford to commit to unpaid internships and badly paid roles floating to the top almost by default – but with the support of the Prince’s Trust, and some serious dedication to her hustle, the south-east London-based designer has turned her unfiltered empathy and emotional discontent into a platform upon which she can build for the better.

Candidly referencing her personal experiences with depression, Mensah believes designing to inspire intimacy could be pivotal to improving the everyday experiences that shape our mental health. “I’m a pisces, and I’m a very empathetic person – apparently to a fault, because I’m so invested in other people. That’s probably why I decided to make furniture,” says Mensah. “I really do want my furniture to be for everyone. When I first made the product I was thinking about how we can all better socialise. When we’re kids we’re told to play with toy blocks – it helps us develop socially and mentally – but why aren’t we doing that now?”

Mutual is a collection in progress. Committed to diversifying the ways we use space at work and at home, the fluid designs can be arranged, rearranged and added to. Presenting an aesthetic inspired by Jenny Saville’s exploration of form, Joan Miró’s talent for composition and Ellsworth Kelly’s use of colour, Mensah’s unconventional furniture pieces challenge our tolerance of impersonal design. Explaining her process, she says, “When I first researched the word modular, I got synonyms like reciprocal or interchangeable or portable. All the modular furniture I was looking at on the market is either rectangular or circular. It doesn’t resemble the human body. It’s very straight, but we have loads of curves.”

Where can I buy it? Mutual is available to order online from Modular by Mensah.