Clout/SA was officially launched to the local and international market in the last week of June 2021. Clout/SA is a purpose-first enterprise, creative agency, and business-to-business (B2B) market-maker for South African design. The aim is to promote South Africa’s creativity, craftsmanship and heritage. Additionally, creating opportunities for collaboration between corporates and designers is a main driver.
Clout/SA’s founding project and one of its ongoing directives is the Nando’s Design Programme. As part of the Nando’s Design Programme, Clout/SA developed and facilitated one of South Africa’s top biennial design competitions, the Nando’s Hot Young Designer Talent Search. This competition has launched and supported local design careers, including that of Mash T. design’s Thabiso Mjo, one of the first winners of the competition in 2016.
Mjo has described the competition as having “changed the trajectory of my entire life”. In 2020, she went on to make history when she became the first South African designer ever to have her work placed in the permanent collection of the Louvre’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, France.
Clout/SA’s work on the Nando’s Design Programme led to the development and launch of the Nando’s Portal to Africa in 2018. The portal is an online shopping platform for designer furniture that has facilitated more than R60 million worth of sales across 20,900 products since inception, making it one of the country’s largest exporters of South African design. There are approximately 1 200 Nando’s restaurants located across the globe from Washington DC to Dhaka, and each space showcases curated bold, bespoke furniture items which are procured through the Portal to Africa.
Clout/SA is focused on the promotion of South African design both globally and locally with the intention of contributing to the creation of a recognised category brand. As part of its public launch, Clout/SA now invites corporate partners, who share similar values, to join its mission by taking part in collaborations with its designer-maker partners.
At its core, Clout/SA specialises in designed creative solutions for hospitality, retail, and corporate clients. Its approach foregrounds creativity, craft, design and collaboration which highlights the South African design narrative as a point of distinction.
Advantages for businesses that are keen to collaborate are multiple and include: minimised risk through a turn-key offering as well as end-to-end oversight and support; the facilitation of payments upfront to designers so they can manage large-scale orders and the procurement of materials; quality control throughout the process; and managed logistics and time schedules to secure deliveries to clients based on their specific needs. Clout/SA also offers partners direct involvement and input into the design development process alongside the Clout/SA team.
Clout/SA does not operate on a conventional profit model. Instead, the enterprise carries a “purpose levy” of a mere 5 percent. In turn, these funds fuel Clout/SA’s ongoing development programmes. Clout/SA both identifies new local talent that is primed for development and invests in the further development and upgrading of its existing supplier businesses – setting up emerging SMME’s to become world-class design and manufacturing businesses.
“These stories and more are the highlights of the process and add immense value to the opportunity for local and global companies,” says Lynch.
To mark this new chapter, Clout/SA hosted a landmark exhibition of South African art and design as part of Decorex’s month-long Cape Town Design Trail programme in June 2021. Entitled “Right here, Right Now!”, the show was curated by Clout/SA’s creative director Tracy Lee Lynch and was installed across all four-storeys of the iconic Union House building in Cape Town’s eastern district.
The exhibition not only introduced Clout/SA to the industry and invited members of the public, but also unveiled a collaboration with HUB, a platform borne out of the Spier Arts Trust, which has run the Spier Arts Academy since 2009, training artisans in the field of ceramics and mosaics, as well as supporting the development of visual artists.
The exhibition hosted private tours for over 200 top local brands, architectural and interior design professionals, corporate procurement agents and facilities managers. This was followed by by-invitation-only sessions with local design learners and members of the public. The exhibition was documented digitally, with a view to sharing it more widely in a socially distanced manner, so that all can access the incredible display of local design ingenuity. The film version of “Right here, Right Now!” also marks the launch of several brand-new products that were debuted as part of this historic showcase.