Malene B Talks Design Inspiration with MBL
By Yvette Brown
Born in the Bronx and currently residing in Brooklyn, Malene B is the consummate New York artist. Drawing inspiration from all around her, including her Caribbean heritage, she has carved out her own place in the Interior Design world.
You may have seen Malene on the Nate Berkus Show or participating as a selected guest speaker for a TEDx Talk event. She is a member of the Tory Burch Foundation Program, a program designed specifically for women business owners and has appeared as a panelist on Morning Joe alongside Tory Burch, President of the Tory Burch LLC / Tory Burch Foundation, Arianna Huffington, former Editor and Founder of The Huffington Post and Valerie Jarrett, Personal Advisor to President Barack Obama.
Below we share our chat with Malene.
MBL & Malene B
MBL: Which artist or designer influenced you the most? Lois Mailou Jones
MB: I had taken an AA Art History class and a professor introduced me to her. She died in 1998. She was a part of the Harlem Renaissance. She was very bold with her patterns, very graphic. When I first discovered her work she really inspired me. I was studying Photography and painting. It made me think about design in a different way.
MBL: Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
MB: I knew it was something creative. I wanted to create a product that everyone could experience. I transferred to FIT because I love to draw people, there I discovered textile design. I got into the program that is how I was able to really hone my skills of drawing and creating a pattern and a functional product.
MBL: What was the inspiration for your new line of carpets?
MB: A road trip to Savannah Georgia. I was really intrigued by the architecture and design . The oak trees were amazing. I have a design entitled “Oak”. They have the Spanish moss that creates a “dreamy look” and they way that they grow creates a very organic feel.
MBL: I see greater numbers of designers of color today…are there or were there difficulties in the past for you as a black woman in the design field?
MB: We still have issues. I am in the Interior Design industry and there are many designers of color. I could open my book and name maybe 100 talented designers off the top of my head, yet you don’t see them in design books or magazines. So yes, I think race is still an issue. If you see the top 50 lists we are not there. I don’t think there is an issue of lack of talent, but an issue of lack of exposure. There are only a few of us who are getting exposure.
Yet, I took it upon myself to reach out, to promote myself. I did not want to allow a lack of connections or exposure effect my career. But maybe I have that personality that is more comfortable to engage someone unknown to me, not everyone has that or maybe that talent has not been developed within them. I am not afraid to go up an introduce myself. I don’t want to use money as the issue as the reason why I am not getting press.
MBL: What would you say to a 12-year-old girl who wanted to be a designer?
MB: Go for it! But I would also say or encourage them to be entrepreneurial to create their own brand or vision. To show us how to live a better life. Also, you have to pick the right school for your discipline. Don’t go to the school because its cheap or close to home. Surround yourself with people who know more than you and are doing the things you want to do.
MBL: Share with us your ideas of great inexpensive ways to give a room have character or style? MB: Well, of course, Get a wonderful Rug! Malene’ custom carpet line can be found at www.maleneb.com. In addition she has a rug collection with Surya at very affordable prices.
- Paint, re-painting a room
- Adding decorative pillows. Accessories a rug.
- Photographs you could frame. Getting an attractive or unusual frame.