A few weeks ago I was deep in conversation with The House of Artusa’s CEO, talking as we often do about the products being sold on the THOA website and the sustainability aspect, when he told me about a brand he is so delighted to be including within the interior decor collection, that he is commissioning one of their products for himself. The brand is London-based Marokka and when I found out a little more about the company, saw what they are creating and learnt about the principles behind their operation, I was impressed and just a little bit intrigued. Within a couple of weeks I was offered the opportunity to talk with Marokka’s owner and Commercial Director Charlotte Clout who kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss the brand, its ethics, design and manufacturing processes and to tell me what inspired her to buy into this highly unusual design company with a conscious. NB: Keep reading until the end of this journal post for a rather special House of Artusa offer on Marokka sculptures.
CHRIS | THOA: Can I ask first of all about your professional background Charlotte and how did this lead to your becoming the owner of Marokka?
CHARLOTTE: | MAROKKA: My background is in the banking, finance and technology sectors; I’ve always worked in the City, beginning my career at Morgan Stanley running their trading desk followed by working for two financial technology companies both of whom were eventually acquired by larger corporations. But my prime interests outside of work couldn’t have been more different and ranged from a longterm fascination with ground-breaking modern design to supporting the natural world and protecting our environment. By 2019 I had reached a career plateau and decided it was time to focus my energy on what I was truly passionate about, so when I discovered the Marokka brand and also found out it was up for sale, this seemed to be a golden opportunity that was too good to miss. The products they were creating captured my imagination not just as an animal lover but because the range of colours, finishes and geometric styling were highly original and celebrated the animals depicted in an uniquely contemporary way. Having spent many years in the corporate world, I wanted to find a way I could use my professional experience for the good, working with a brand which was not only producing items of great individuality but where giving back was high on the agenda. As the company was already linked to the Aspinall Foundation, the renowned animal conservation charity dedicated to protecting animals around the world, acquiring Marokka had obvious appeal.
CHRIS | THOA: As the philanthropic aspect of Marokka is incredibly important to you, how have you developed this further since buying the business and how is this linked to your products?
CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: We continue to support the Aspinall Foundation and their inspirational commitment to conservation through captive breeding, education and reintroducing animals to their native habitats. They work in some of the world’s most fragile environments saving endangered animals which is where the link to our GUS the Gorilla range comes in. I also wanted to extend the charity element of our business to include FRANK the French Bulldog so had the incentive to work with a canine charity. I was delighted to announce earlier this year our support for DOTS (Dogs on the Streets), a volunteer run, not-for-profit charity dedicated to the welfare of dogs belonging to the UK’s homeless community. We donate a percentage of our profit to help Michelle Clark, the amazing lady behind this organisation, which supports dogs who belong to people living on the streets, whose pets literally are the world to them. From making sure the dogs are kept healthy with the help of their mobile veterinary unit, to rehousing a dog if the owner becomes ill or moves into accommodation where pets aren’t allowed; its a charity I am incredibly proud Marokka are involved with. And we have also recently created a custom-made version of FRANK for the charity ‘For the Love of Frenchies’ which will be auctioned to raise much-needed funds; we even included their hand painted heart logo on their bespoke Frank.
CHRIS | THOA: Can you tell me more about the staff structure of Marokka?
CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: Although I am the owner, we work as a team. There are five people working at Marokka and although not everyone is full-time, we are all involved with its function, designs, ethos and success. Our design team consists of two amazing individuals: Enrico and Dan. We do a lot of brainstorming, coming-up with ideas many of which are initially created as prototypes where my input can range from colour suggestions to themes. And I’m really pleased that I now have my own printer set-up and am learning more about the world of 3D design and print.
CHRIS | THOA: One of my main personal and professional interests is environmental protection and sustainable design; how does Marokka operate as a planet-positive organisation?
CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: All our the products are manufactured using natural resources and we are always looking at how to reuse the materials we already have. Any recyclable plastic left over from the production of our sculptures is reused and although we hope that none of our customers would ever want to dispose of a FRANK the French Bulldog sculpture (particularly as the design world has heralded FRANK as being destined to become a modern-day classic), however if they did, the base materials could be recycled. All our packaging is eco friendly including the wrapping paper and boxes because we consider it a key element of our business that we do not increase our carbon footprint and avoid damaging our environment any further.
CHRIS | THOA: Can you tell me about any new sculptures you are currently working on?
CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: We’ve been rather a male-orientated design studio to date with GUS and FRANK so I’m delighted that our next product is of the female variety. AVA is our queen of Marokka, a sleek, elegant and wonderfully stylish lady cheetah. The story behind her creation originated with the Aspinall Foundation. They returned two wild male cheetahs to their natural habitat in Africa with the hope being that not only would they successfully settle into their new home but they would find their own AVA’s and increase the cheetah population.
We are also delighted to be producing something a little different which will appeal to those who like their sculptures of a more classical nature with a slightly gothic edge, although we see this product more as a symbol of regeneration. There’s nothing tragic about our YORICK skull – he signifies transformation and change, a particularly potent and relevant message as we come to terms with the current pandemic. YORICK has been produced in the same way as our animal sculptures using our unique 3D printing process and echoes the multi-faceted surface design found on GUS and FRANK.
CHRIS | THOA: Has Marokka been present at any of the major interior design events in London and would a television appearance be something the brand would ever consider?
CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: I took Marokka to Top Drawer at Olympia in January which was an amazing experience and the team behind the event were fantastic to work with. I wanted KING GUS to have pride of place on our stand; he is our 3m high gorilla that had been sited at the Aspinall Foundation’s Port Lympe Nature Reserve and then in storage after being on show at the Broadgate Exchange. However he’s far too magnificent to spend his life out of the spotlight and I wanted him not only to appear at Top Drawer to show prospective clients how incredible our products are, but to raise awareness of our charitable links and sustainable business ethics. KING GUS really was the star of the show and looked magnificent surrounded by lots of smaller GUS and FRANK sculptures, the whole thing looked spectacular. A lot of people took photographs of KING GUS and our stand and we received some very positive reactions, it was a great show.
And yes, television would be a wonderful platform to share our story. What the Marokka brand focuses on and the way it conducts its business is highly relevant to what is happening around us. Whilst our story is about supporting the environment, the natural world and helping charities who carry out incredibly important work, its also a story about cutting-edge contemporary design and originality.
CHRIS | THOA: I have to ask about the name Charlotte, where did it originate from and did you ever think of changing it when you bought the company?
CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: Marokka is a word which has links to Morocco, a vibrant and unique country that can be interpreted as a reflection of our vibrant and unique brand. Originating in Marrakesh, the name comprises strong syllables and creates a bold impression with the use of the double ‘k’. Morocco has historically been considered a sacred land presenting a strong synergy with our attitude toward the planet; we should be treating our world as a sacred entity and look after what we already have. And so not only is the name visually appealing, the underlying message (or my interpretation of that message) is that we should be kind to animals, to the planet, to each other and be upcycling and recycling wherever we can. With such strong links to our business ethics, the name Marokka is actually a perfect fit.
CHRIS | THOA: And in these uncertain times, what does the future hold for Marikka?
CHARLOTTE | MAROKKA: As well as continuing with our charitable involvement, creating cutting-edge designs and continuing to be a company who puts the environment to the fore, we are looking to support and collaborate with designers whose business ethos sits well with our own. We are currently working with Working with Half Cut Candles who are based in Tenterten, Kent. They recycle bottles and use the base as a holder for their organic soy wax candles. And of course we continue to offer our commission service for clients who want to own one of our creations which can be colour-matched to their decor, extending to all sizes including our 3m high KING GUS. With our cheetah model AVA launching later this year as well as some rather special candles and a collection of organic chocolates, we are very positive about the future. As a brand that is always looking ahead, even with all the challenges that surround us, its also a very exciting time.
Many thanks to Charlotte for giving us an insight into her business; I predict big things for Marokka.
And as an added bonus for The House of Artusa customers, from Wednesday 15th July 2020 until midnight on Friday 24th July 202, all GUS the Gorilla and FRANK the French Bulldog statues are reduced from £100 to £90 with free gift wrapping worth £6, the perfect gift for the animal or design lover or just for you, because you deserve to have these characterful creatures in your life ….
Chris Billinghurst | July 2020