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NeKeia McSwain Launches Luxe Leather Lighting Collection

November 19, 2021
NeKeia McSwain

NeKeia McSwain’s inaugural collection for Ngala Trading isn’t just about luxury—her decadent leather lighting is also about purpose and opportunity. 

The leather strips on McSwain’s luxe fixtures are all hand-cut and assembled by women artisans in Johannesburg, South Africa, creating jobs and educational opportunities there. “That to me was much more of a goal versus making money from the chandeliers, sconces and pendants,” explained McSwain, the principal designer of Kimberly + Cameron Interiors and president of the Black Interior Designers Network

The entire collaboration with the South African team was remote due to COVID-19, McSwain said. Even so, the team “worked harmoniously to create something unique, something that was worth working for, and something that set a precedent for the standard and purpose,” she added.  

Here’s a look at what they created together. 

[Related: This Desk’s Minimal Design is Big on Social and Environmental Impact]

Nairobi Pendants
McSwain’s lighting collection includes the Nairobi Pendant, shown here, as well as the NeKeia Chandelier and the Ndidi Wall Sconce. All three use cascading layers of leather strips to create a waterfall effect. Image courtesy of Ngala Trading.

Designing with Purpose 

Leather itself tells an important story, McSwain said: “It’s a rich product in itself. It’s a material that not only nourished you, but kept you warm, and now we’ve taken that and transitioned it into the world of interior design.” This outlook fits perfectly alongside Ngala Trading’s mission to bring indigenous African materials to spaces across North America, utilizing sustainably sourced feathers, ostrich eggs and shins, leather, porcupine quills, suede and more. That’s why Ngala was well-positioned to partner with McSwain for her first collection. 

“They already had the well-made products,” McSwain explained. “I just wanted to bring a bit of my personality and my character to enhance this line. I knew I needed to bring my A-game to the table to create something that was within the parameters of what their clients enjoy.” 

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The South African women who crafted McSwain’s designs by hand brought something extra to the process, McSwain added—skills that “are a gift to the world of design.” The success of the collection—despite the hiccups inherent in working remotely—underscored for McSwain that this collection was the right move for her at the right time.  

“Working with African artisans is a dream come true for me,” McSwain said. “My ancestors were birthed in the Motherland, and from what I know, many of them in South Africa, so the opportunity to collaborate creatively with people whom in my head I’ve been saying, ‘These are my people, this is my family’—that’s a real feeling.” 

Collection colors
NeKeia McSwain reviews the colors of her lighting collection with Ngala Trading’s creative director, Lawson Ricketts. The collection features four deep, rich colors: Baobab Tree, Nile River, Saharan Sunset and Oxblood. Image courtesy of Rayon Richards.

Inside the Collection 

Ngala Trading’s NeKeia Collection features three LED fixtures, all of which incorporate tiered layers of leather to form a waterfall effect. Designers can choose from the NeKeia Chandelier; the Nairobi Pendant, named for Nairobi, Kenya; and the Ndidi Sconce, named after Ndidi Emefiele, one of McSwain’s favorite artists. McSwain personally selected four vibrant colors for the collection: 

  • Oxblood: A deep red 
  • Saharan Sunset: A radiant gold/ochre color
  • Baobab Tree: A dark, rich green 
  • Nile River: A moody blue 

“I wanted to keep these names, their meanings and the colors they represent as close to home as possible,” McSwain explained. “Once I concluded choosing these colors and naming them, I just felt that much more on the right track with this project.” 

Designers can use the lighting in any space that needs a centerpiece, from hospitality to offices. The sky is the limit, McSwain said.  

“Step outside the norm. Bring one of these pieces of artwork into your space as a luxury cherry on top,” she urged. “Not only are [designers] supporting a purpose, they’re elevating themselves to a different place aesthetically.”

Read next: How 3form Created Its Globally Inspired Artisan Collection

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About the author
Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with a special emphasis on covering facilities management. She aims to deliver practical, actionable content for facilities professionals.