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SUSTAINABLE LUXURY: THE LATITUDE HOTELS GROUP

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Sustainability and luxury aren’t often teamed up in the same sentence, let alone in an establishment like a hotel. The two needn’t be mutually exclusive, and so far when it comes to blending the two, the Latitude hotels, are undoubtedly trailblazers on the African continent.

With their wildly successful offerings of Latitude 13 in Lilongwe and Latitude 15 in Lusaka, it begs the question, “How do they do it?”

No need to forego any of the usual comforts one is accustomed to in a hotel here. Latitude represents a truly unique, beautiful, authentic African immersion of the senses. Every piece of furniture has a unique story; from the light fixtures, to the statement chandeliers and unique wall art. It’s a true tale of creation and even resurrection, starring elements that were disused and forgotten and even the very dirt we tread upon. It is an eclectic mix of recycled, up cycled and repurposed furniture in vibrant colours and textures, unique art enshrined in elegant architecture.

Sustainability lies at the very core of who the Latitude brand is, and to achieve this, they engaged the services of Katundu from Malawi and Lightfoot Zambia.

Katundu is a small growing company, based on the remote and idyllic Likoma Island in Malawi, with an extremely creative and diverse product range. The company’s founder, Suzie Lightfoot, built it around her passion: designing and creating luxury items in an ethical environment, empowering women and through them the local community.

Katundu has become the lead CSR supplier for the Latitude brand supplying both Latitude 13º and Latitude 15º hotels so far. The partnership has been an exciting adventure for Katundu – channeling the company into producing amazing statement pieces they would never have endeavoured to venture into.  Huge chandeliers have been created hanging off trees swaying in the island breeze! These creations have instilled immense pride for the team at Katundu. 

Lightfoot Zambia (Gillie Lightfoot’s company in Zambia) has also played a major role in the design of the hotel – and between these two companies, as the product designs unfold. “We believe we have created an originality through our art pieces which has become the signature feel of the Latitude brand.  We are proud to continue this journey – injecting new energy and creativity into the coming Latitude 0º (Kampala) – to create an innovative inspiring space representative of the brand.” Suzie Lightfoot

She further reveals that she is equally excited for the opportunity to extend her passion for ethical suppliers into the interiors for The Latitude Hotels. For Latitude 13º, she worked closely with local Malawian artists creating all sorts of unique pieces – recycled instruments made from tin cans, recycled wire toys supporting street kids, recycled maize baskets made by refugees, rummaging through scrap markets and transforming mechanical parts into art pieces. She also worked with artists to promote their paintings within the hotel – the same was achieved at Latitude 15º.”

Their signature range of hand beaded textiles are complimented with statement chandeliers and interior pieces – wall art, rugs/baskets made from baobab and maize string and frames and furniture made from old disused fishing boats, interior accessories such as curtain/mosqiuito net ties, the list goes on! 

When asked what she planned for the upcoming Latitude 0o in Uganda, Suzie points out that she intends to push the ethical sourcing further – developing relationships with artists and artisans throughout Africa, whilst primarily targeting what can be achieved locally.

“I plan to work with suppliers on design and product development, representing Ugandan materials, styles and local crafts such as pottery, bark/basket-weaving, and carving – with the primary focus on the sustainable and recycled element. The idea is to create exclusive African designs that represent and benefit local Ugandan artists, creating an art gallery feel true to the Latitude brand.” 

Uganda and Kampala specifically, is a place of artists and artisans, creators and inventors. The visual arts and design scene in Kampala is growing in leaps and bounds but there is a need to establish more show spaces to support and showcase contemporary Ugandan design. This is an exciting opportunity for Latitude and the team hopes to create a space such as this by supporting local artists and artisans, providing them with training and exposure. The idea is to encourage small businesses and craftsmanship in the same way Katundu has on Likoma island. Some of the people who will directly benefit from these projects are land mine victims and street kids, who help the artists source their material for artists like Paul Mulondo. The land mine victims receive work for V interiors, where they receive training to make furniture and baskets.

In a final comment about the future of Katundu, Suzie had this to say, “It has always been my dream for ethical trading to become a major influence on global consumerism and it is inspiring to learn of the impact we can achieve through the interiors of The Latitude Hotels. Katundu is still small, but we advocate strong values; the alleviation of poverty through sustainable empowerment is our fundamental goal. In partnership with The Latitude Hotels, I am excited for this concept to grow, promoting a brand that is passionate about African art and Africa’s creative innovative people, whilst respecting the environment.”

There is no doubt that the Latitude Hotel group will continue to light the way, when it comes to offering sustainable luxury in Africa.

MAGICAL MALONGANE

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