a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of.
A dearth of European antique furniture in Kenya led to the launch of The White Elephant Trading Co. Having worked as interior designers for many years, Chris Payne and Emma Campbell found that there wasn’t much nice, vintage, well-made furniture from different periods in Kenya. Whilst on holiday in the UK, Chris and Emma would attend antique sales and collectors’ fairs. They found furniture that while incredibly beautiful, was in bad shape with restoration often being prohibitively expensive in the UK.
Chris and Emma shipped the furniture to Kenya and worked with a skilled craftsman they had worked with over the years to re-upholster and completely regenerate the furniture. Chris explains that often in regard to upholstered pieces “the springs are coming out, the stuffing…so we remodel it and then decide what fabric to use”. They buy fabric, predominantly from West Africa, from a pan-African material dealer from the Gambia.
For three years, they intermittently sold the furniture from their Karen home and at fairs to great success; often selling out. Chris and Emma launched The White Elephant Trading Co in partnership with Jacquie Munene in July this year, confident that there was a market.
The company recently launched their website www.whiteelephanttrading.net which also serves as their storefront. This is East Africa’s first online vintage store, where you can browse, shop and pay online or on collection/delivery. For the past few years, Chris and Emma brought in two containers. But spurred on by their great success and the launch of the company, by December The White Elephant Trading Co will have brought in five containers this year.
Photographs by Josemaria Muendo.