“I live in India. I grew up in London. I have studied in different parts of the Asian sub-continent. My parents are originally from Sri Lanka. My husband deals with Americans and I have family in Egypt and Kenya,” says Naqiya Yusuf, the founder of Random in Tandem (RIT), a range of urban home and office accessories.
Yusuf married early — at the age of 17 — her varied travel and life experiences contributing to her design perspective. “Travel and exposure to international cultures moulded me into the person I am today,” says the 30-year-old designer, adding, “RIT reflects my diverse history and tastes, showcasing how the ‘random’ in my life has come into ‘tandem’.”
While still a student, Yusuf dabbled in home furnishings, later working as a style consultant. But it was while on a sabbatical that she realised the need for the kind of home décor accessories she wanted and couldn’t find. The effort would result in Random in Tandem, launched in April of this year.
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The products blend Eastern influences with Western elements, resulting in a range that includes Speech Bubble mouse pads and totes especially designed to carry newspapers or magazines. Workaholics can choose from magnetic shelves that mimic the city skyline, mirrors shaped like ties and even paperweights with Latin quotes, while SoBo snobs have cushions that spell out popular landmarks.
Yusuf, who works with two assistants, describes her products as contemporary, chic and inspired by Scandinavian designs. “The products are not culture-bound and will appeal to a global audience,” she says, adding that while the products are quirky, they have utility value. “They make life easier.” Her most popular products, however, are ones that might not be utilitarian in the strictest sense of the word: cushions that extol the virtues of being single, as well as the Mr Right and Mrs Always Right ones.
The designer’s inspirations include literature, typography, symbols, stories and emotions. She adds that each of the products carry a message. “The chalk boards are to encourage people to think, while the snack tins have ‘healthy’ messages inscribed on them. Within each product there is a different contour, focus, use of colour and material ranging from faux leather, tin to aluminum and iron.”
Most of the products are designed at the Grant Road design studio where she often burns the midnight oil while taking care of her three children: Amatullah (11), Sherebanu (9) and Farida (6). “I often ask them for feedback about the products I design. They understand the humour and the context behind it; they have even suggested the names for products.”