Growing up in Malawi, Monique Ryan-Musacchio, Founder of Coastal Drift Interiors, was inspired to connect the talented craftspeople of her birth country with the markets that could support them.
After 20 years working in corporate strategic marketing for global brands across the UK and Australia, Monique became supremely well versed in reputation management, and it was the poor quality imitations of Malawi chairs that encouraged her to take a stand for the artisans of Malawi.
“The imitation products weren’t only drawing income away from these artisans who had spent their lives developing their craft, but the poor quality was giving Malawi chairs a bad reputation. It was so disheartening to see global brands making money off the back of generations of design and talent. Having roots and connections in Malawi, I was in the position to make a difference: to empower the community and drive positive recognition for these chairs to the right people,”.
Malawi Cane chairs aren’t the only handcrafted product stocked by Coastal Drift Interiors, but Monique explains a special connection to these designs in particular:
“I’ve been sitting in cane chairs from Malawi on my whole life, but before I could sit still, these were the chairs I was playing on and building dens from. They’re the chairs my grandparents and parents had in their home, and the design is unique and special. The Traditional design was born in Malawi, and unless you’re buying authentic, Malawi made chairs, you’re buying imitations and you’re taking away from the livelihood of the Malawi people,” Monique explained.
Alongside the signature Malawi Cane pieces , Coastal Drift Interiors stocks a range of hand-crafted, artisan products, and Monique explained how her upbringing and early adulthood experiences informed her sourcing approach.
“Growing up in Africa, I’d seen what artisans and weavers could create. Every weekend we’d drive up to the lake (Lake Malawi) and stop to buy fresh fruit from the roadside. Beside the food stalls there would be artisans selling baskets and furniture and childrens toys, so I was mindful there were many beautiful things that these talented weavers could create. During University in the UK I had a placement year in Zimbabwe, and that opened my eyes to artisans beyond Malawi: in Zimbabwe and across south-east Africa. Amongst the rural villages in Africa, there is a rich and diverse cultural history. With close connections throughout the region I could work directly and exclusively with supply partners that I’ve curated. It’s personal and human, and we have trusted relationships – knowing they really value their artisans. We work closely with our supply partners to preserve the traditional skills and natural heritage of existing culture and craft. We also work with them using traditional methods to create contemporary and functional designs with locally grown natural fibres.”
When recounting memories from her childhood, Monique explained that it was the soul of Malawi that really inspired her to work to help the people who lived and created there.
“Malawi has always been known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’, and it’s the people who have created that reputation. The people in Malawi have always got so much time to give along with a radiant smile, despite the hardships they’re going through. Your birthplace will always be in your heart, and when I saw the opportunity to help the craftspeople who had made the toys I’d played with as a child – toys my daughter still owns – I knew it was something I wanted to do,”.
In 2021, Coastal Drift launched their “Coming Home’ collection, a luxury collection that acknowledges and stays true to the brand’s heritage – timeless design, setting their own trends, and celebrating quality and detail through handmade products.
“This past year has encouraged many periods of reflection, prioritising the important things and embracing a simplified lifestyle. It further fuelled my passion for supporting Africa’s traditional talents to ensure their continued success. Providing employment and a source of income to people in a region where wildlife roams the land and jobs are scarce; decreases the risk of poaching and deforestation.
Now more than ever, we’re seeing the celebration and real value of hand-crafted, fair-trade, natural and life-long global treasures within our home and lifestyles. Working with our exclusive suppliers and artisans we have developed new contemporary designs – both with our existing partners Malawi Cane, Tribal Textiles and Zimbabwean homewares, and our newer partners – SOUL Design Jewellery and Coral + Hive rugs. Our brands and products all complement each other to offer you a full range of unique luxury African home and lifestyle collections.”
Alongside her corporate career, Monique has spent twenty years renovating properties, so interior design was a personal passion that collided perfectly with her desire to elevate and promote high quality, ethically made homewares.
And so in 2014 Coastal Drift was born: a shop and trade site for ethically sourced, sustainably made African artisan pieces for your home and lifestyle. To learn more about Monique’s inspiration and approach, you can read the Coastal Drift brand profile here, and to browse the Coastal Drift range of hand-crafted products, visit coastaldrift.net. For more images of ethical homewares and lifestyle pieces with soul, follow Coastal Drift on Instagram @coastaldriftinteriors
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