Q&A with Alex Cooke, co-founder of Nkuku
Q: What makes you stand out?
A: Our core values as a business are ethical, handmade and eco-friendly. A key part of this is transparency; we really try to be as open as possible with our suppliers and with our customers. We have just completed a project where we have interviewed one hundred of the talented artisans, asking them about their lives, their interests and aspirations as well as documenting this with photography. We know all of our suppliers and value the artisans in around the world who make our products; we believe their amazing skills make our products unique. We consciously create products from recycled and reclaimed materials, and we love natural materials and see the beauty in imperfect textures and handmade finishes. We try to ensure we sea freight our products and allow long lead times for production.
Q: Why do you care?
A: We set the business up in 2003 after a year out travelling over ten years ago; the catalyst for the business was to work with the talented artisans we met along the way and with this came a feeling of responsibility for their wellbeing.
Q: Is being responsible good for business?
A: I think it has an impact but perhaps it is not the main reason. We have always aimed to create beautiful products that people want and then they discover that they are also made from sustainably-produced materials with good business practices. I think responsible business is the only way to do business.
Q: Has the business changed you?
A: We continue to be very conscious of our impact on the world.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: We feel very lucky to be running Nkuku, the early years of building a business are hard work and there were times when we thought it may not work but ten years on we have over 1,500 UK stockists and are expanding worldwide. In addition we have a close knit team of people now supporting the Nkuku vision. It is very exciting.
Q: Plans for the future?
A: We have a new Nkuku Lifestyle Store that opened in 2015, we have developed a courtyard of derelict barns to create an exciting space to showcase all our Nkuku pieces. Hopefully the future holds more travel, meeting more people and finding more beautiful and unusual skills.