Oswalde is like “an amiable friend who gently guides you into making choices, and choosing things that you like,” says founder Jenna Fletcher
- Who is it? Founded by Jenna Fletcher, Oswalde is an Instagram-based furniture store piercing the design industry’s exclusive “invisible bubble”
- Why do I want it? A unique, carefully curated selection of pieces which mingle radical Italian design with up-and-coming designers from around the world
- Where can I find it? On Instagram at @oswalde.shop
Who is it? Oswalde is less of a brand, and more of ‘a helping friend’. With a growing collection that, as of now, sets radical Italian design side-by-side with up-and-coming designers from around the world, it’s the plug in the design world that’s loosening up the rather “stiff” industry.
Oswalde is the brainchild of the cool and collected Jenna Fletcher, who borrowed the name from her family tree. She started the business in lockdown, deciding that it was high time to give life to her vision after watching a corner of her living room pile up with plastic furniture that she had purchased “obsessively” from auction sites.
Today, Fletcher describes Oswalde as “an amiable friend who gently guides you into making choices, and choosing things that you like.” In slightly more concrete terms, this means an archive-slash-consulting company based in London that sells both vintage Italian furniture and contemporary international design. With pieces including Joe Colombo’s Boby organisers (Cassina) or Olaf von Bohr plastic modular shelves and stools (Kartell), Oswalde daringly delivers plastic gems at a time of global refutation of the material.
When asked how she had navigated such a decision, she responds: “I don’t think [the decision] was conscious. I think it was more of an attraction to form, and the colours of these objects. Plastic as a material is light – these pieces are mobile and stackable, and those characteristics made them attractive to me from a functional point-of-view.” In taking accountability, she adds, “I have to be accountable for the effect I am having on people – looking for plastic furniture now – and the lil’ market I’ve created. But I trust people are responsible, and in the way they shop.”
With growing demands – largely from some of fashion’s biggest creative directors, and students whom it allows to pay for purchases in weekly instalments – Oswalde is growing rapidly. In fact, it’s already begun to redefine itself as a vehicle for uplifting Black designers and those on the fringes. “I’m not the type of person to sit still and be one-dimensional,” says Fletcher.
Speaking on her future plans, Fletcher details her willingness to introduce fresh new faces onto the scene, such as Nigerian designer Nifemi Marcus-Bello of nmbello Studio who in June gave Oswalde the exclusive rights to distribute its reductively designed LM Stool in the UK. “My whole vision [with Oswalde] as a universe is much bigger than selling stuff on Instagram ... and the first step has been taking Nifemi’s [LM Stool] and saying, ‘OK, well I’m going to stock classic, Italian Postmodern design alongside an emerging designer from Lagos ... and tell people you need this in your home, just as much as you need this in your home.”
Fletcher’s background is not in design, but rather advertising. And the closest she’d previously been to the culture, admittedly, was during her time at Dover Street Market, where fashion, art and design are known to mingle together. “I don’t know half of the shit that I should know, and I’m very honest about that,” says Fletcher. “I think life is about learning and accepting other people in their journey of discovery.”
Plainly, Oswalde and its ‘amateur’ take pose a rising challenge to both the industry and the encyclopedic traditions of its gatekeepers. “I’m happy there are all these Instagram dealers,” says Fletcher. “Everyone hates on it, but I’m glad we’ve pierced the [invisible] bubble.” It’s an attitude which explains the aloofness and intentional friendliness behind Oswalde’s approach: a naivety-meets-strategy or, in Fletcher’s words: “My way of navigating a world that I don’t belong to.”
Why do I want it? Oswalde prides itself on the fact it is meant for everyone; a fact proven by the diversity, both in social and economic terms, of its clientele. It does not only represent inclusivity, it embodies it too.
It is a Black-owned business (within a predominantly white-male industry, mind you), run single-handedly by its LBGTQ+ founder. And while it rapidly continues to garner ‘likes’ and a serious following, Oswalde is making sure not to kick down the latter behind it. Instead, it pledges to extend its hand and lift under-resourced designers from their corners of the world along with it.
Where can I find it? On Instagram, of course: @oswalde.shop.