Designers in D.C. work with home in mind — whether home is in the city or a faraway place that adds extra texture and color to their products. Each maker featured in our October Issue is unique, but a common theme persists: a focus on cultural appreciation, sustainability and naturalness. We tell their stories and dive into details of each business below, from cocktail syrups to minimalist earrings to vintage repurposed maps.
Nasozi Kakembo, founder of xN Studio, designs and curates interior decorations inspired by the convergence of East and West. The studio sells products and offers interior design services, focusing on making client spaces feel sacred. Some of her work is featured at Salt & Sundry and Nubian Hueman.
District Fray: What’s the story behind xN Studio?
Nasozi Kakembo: xN Studio is a multi-disciplinary design company I founded in 2011 in Brooklyn and Kampala, Uganda. It is a design bridge between my East African heritage and my American upbringing, which allows me to weave my studies in architecture, art history and urban planning into an independent career. I was born in Silver Spring to an American mother who lived in Germany for 20 years, and an immigrant Ugandan father. The biggest [focus] growing up in the D.C. area was on my career; diversity and culture were part of the everyday, not a separate thing we spectated on. I was always immersed in worlds that reflected my own and didn’t. There were no “others.”
In what ways do your international human rights and social justice work contribute to your products?
Connecting my business to social change was a key element of the business model from day one. My career and educational background were in philanthropy and international human rights. While I loved architecture, it wasn’t the right tool to address what I cared about, like access to clean water and quality education. Working in the social impact space for close to a decade, I collected and reflected on best (and worst) practices and devised a way to leverage a business model for social change.
How do you decide which products to carry through your shop?
I decide what to sell based on what speaks to me. I have also always had eclectic taste, so I try to pick things I personally like. And I find it really helpful to get feedback and ideas from customers and social media followers. I also recently returned from a five-country trip in Africa for my upcoming book on artisans and home decor. It is an understatement (and perhaps somewhat cliche, but true) that Africa is the source, and from it, artistic inspiration abounds. It’s sometimes overwhelming — it’s everywhere. Whether I’m seeing an artisan creation for the first time or noticing a new feature at my decades-old family home for the first time, these influences eventually find their way into my product assortment.
Anything else you want readers to understand about xN Studio?
xN Studio’s central mission is to use traditional arts and culture as a channel for historical storytelling and pride. The home accents I design and my interior design projects are an expression of this pride. The brand is helping tell and reframe stories of traditional African arts and artists (because these stories have been historically misrepresented or undervalued). As a daughter of both America and Uganda, it is my honor and privilege to be an ambassador in this exchange.