Katy Taplin and Adriaan Hugo
Katy Taplin and Adriaan Hugo

"We never really said that one day we were going to work together because I was in publishing and he was working for Gregor [Jenkin] and then when I was away [working in New York] and I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t want to be in branding and Riaan had started making his own stuff. Once the space was available and we knew I was coming back then we really started talking," says Katy Taplin reminiscing about the origins of her partnership with Adriaan Hugo the other half of award-winning duo behind the the multi-disciplinary product design company Dokter and Misses .

"It was really just a place to put stuff and make stuff. It wasn’t really a fully-fledged plan. We had no idea of how we were going to do anything," says Hugo in his characteristically humorous, nonchalant manner.

"I mean, we opened the shop without any prices," says Taplin.

That was November 8, 2007, almost 10 years ago and the “shop without any prices” that they speak of was their first shared showroom space, a tiny wedge in the corner of 44 Stanley, Johannesburg. It housed fun and bright things enthused with the energy of raw, young talent and gusto. Now as they prepare to open up their third incarnation of a showroom space much has changed for the founding husband and wife and yet they still have plenty of gusto.

"It’s like that with everything that we do. We make a bench and we make it in yellow. Because? Why not? It doesn’t make sense to be subtle," says Hugo.

And subtle they aren’t. Recently at Design Indaba they wowed international and local guests with 'Weird Dream', a performance art piece directed by Lindiwe Matshikiza that examined their journey through films, an infomercial, a performance by Dear Ribane who twirling to the music of João Renato Orecchia Zùñiga in pink connected hats, and a disembodied face singing Givan Lötz songs out of a triangle.

A journey, which started with a fair amount of triangles and other geometric shapes on a handbag; a cardboard bag designed by Hugo while he was still studying. He roped in then girlfriend Taplin to add graphics to his design and they came up with the name Dokter and Misses to go with it. Many years later, going full circle, Taplin would go on to spend two weeks hand-painting patterns on monolithic wooden servers handcrafted by Hugo, which found their way to London, Miami, Dubai, Basel and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s, Beauty-Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial exhibition and get casually photographed by Beyoncé.

"It’s been quite difficult to understand the hype cause it doesn’t feel like anything has changed. We’re still doing the same thing everyday. But it’s very cool," Taplin says.

They've been on quite a prolific journey and I ask if they are aware of how much they've helped shape the local design scene. 

"We weren’t really being aware of it — not that we don’t want to do that — it’s just not been our goal, we’ve been self-serving along the way and done what we felt like doing, whenever we felt like doing it. Whenever an opportunity came about we did it. And I suppose by doing so this is the sort of by-product, which is very cool. We’re definitely having a good time," says Taplin.

The good times they were having with emojis resulted in 'Foreva XXX', their latest collection, made for 100% Design where they were honored as the featured designers of 2016. The pieces featuring cloud-like concrete bases, floating half spheres on glass, rounded stone cone monoliths and hanging leather storage hammocks inspired by the “sculpture-for-use” philosophies of Japanese American artist and industrial designer, Isamu Noguchi, the distinctive marriage of lines and materials found in Brazilian modernist furniture, and by a unicorn, a sombrero and a cactus.

"There is a movement towards establishing our identity in a way," says Hugo.

"More sculptural stuff…," says Taplin. 

"Trying to develop a new sort of design language. That’s kind of our new aim," Hugo concludes.

Their other new aim is to create a space that would allow designers to showcase their work the way that they were afforded the opportunity to do so 10 years ago in their “shop without prices”; an affordable, beautiful space in the small corner of well-established district with the added bonus of being across the road from a German bakery. Ninety Nine Juta, a pink building in Braamfontein, was bought by the couple in partnership with Play Braamfontein and ConUrban and redesigned by Local Studios Architects.

"We really want it to be a design-orientated building. That it would, hopefully, specifically focus on product design with four really key product design tenants, some smaller retail spaces and a really nice restaurant," says Taplin.

While still a work in progress, there are plans for the spaces to come with all the glorious amenities that one would expect of a space when you have an experienced industrial design tenant as their own landlord; such as a goods lift, your own tiny kitchenette and a really nice looking toilet roll holder but most importantly a championing focus on local design, functional fun and respect for the area that surrounds the space.

"Our approach has been quite do-it-yourself," says Hugo.

"Which is quite Joburg," says Taplin.

"Whenever you work for yourself you do it in your own environment and you have to know how to utilize it till its max. Then you can move onto the next thing and the next thing. Joburg has always offered us the next thing," says Hugo.

"Joburg has allowed us to do what we have done. It’s been very embracing in terms of us finding the right spaces and allowing us to keep moving forward," Taplin says.


Rehearsal for Weird Dreams
Rehearsal for Weird Dreams
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