Hoi P’loy – Shedding Light on Quality and Craftsmanship

Julie Velosa

Miele leaderboard-bannerLight is a little like love, it’s one of those enduring things that we just can’t live without. Figuratively, light is what gives us hope when all is dark, it’s the hero in the battle of good versus evil, and it represents all that is good and pure in the world. In a more literal world, these days, we flick on a switch and light floods a room – we probably never give it much more thought than that. But at Hoi P’loy that’s exactly what they do. They bring thought and creativity to light, or rather lighting, and their idea of craftsmanship and precision separates them from every other humdrum fixture out there.

There was a time where there were only a few, or maybe just even one version of a product available, and that product was made with integrity, care and quality. We live in a time of ultimate consumerism and that means our expectation of immediacy, our fixation on cost and to a certain degree greed, means that we often sacrifice on quality. We’re ok with sub-par products that break easily and look cheap. That is exactly the antithesis of the Hoi P’loy range, where it’s all about quality, careful craftsmanship and beautiful aesthetic.

The brand is the brainchild of Ploy Phiromnam and Guy van der Walt; the pair met while Guy was travelling and living in Bangkok. After getting to know the beauty of Thailand, with Ploy showing him the local version, he repaid the favour by showing Ploy the very best that Cape Town had to offer. On a visit over here, Ploy enrolled in jewelry making classes to exercise her creative side and has pretty much never left.

How they came to be in the lighting business was quite by default. They were looking for lighting that inspired a warm glow of a bygone era but in a contemporary way. Something that combined modern technology with hints of vintage inspiration and quality, and it was something that they simply couldn’t find. So their journey started, as many creative ones do, with the desire to fulfill that need.

Creating something with a nostalgic feel but using modern technology can be a challenge. As Guy told us, finding suppliers that possess knowledge of old school machining, the kind that produces quality parts, is very difficult. Many of these speciality trades have sadly been lost over time, in favour of cheaper and mass quantity ways of doing things. It was a non-negotiable factor to have these items produced locally and with the integrity of the way they would have been made many years ago, so the process was one of plenty of research and patience. The other consideration with these parts, aside from being beautiful to look at, was that their design had to be multifunctional.

When producing on a smallish scale, it simply doesn’t make sense to have to create unique parts for every type of fitting designed – parts and pieces need to be interchangeable from design to design. This means the designers have to somewhat ‘look into the future’ to try and create parts that will work in products that may not exist yet – no easy task. Tiny pieces, such as knurled brass thumb screws, have made all the difference to the look of the lights. These pieces are researched, designed and then rendered using a 3D printer. They are then individually machined using an old-school, manually-operated auto lathe, which uses gears and cogs, versus modern versions which are computerised. The result though is well worth it, as it is these finer details that make these lights so special.

Vintage is a real buzzword these days and drawing inspiration from yesteryear is evident across all design disciplines. Hoi P’loy’s design philosophy is not about taking shortcuts to recreate these looks –instead they look at traditional designs that have been abandoned, draw inspiration from those principals and bring contemporary, technology-driven thought to those ideas. The result is a range of beautiful and functional pieces that resonate with quality and refinement. The whole business is much the same. The workshop is pristinely clean and organised and there is an evident workflow from one area to another. The team are all involved in whatever needs to be done, jumping in to assemble boxes and to help where needed. The couple choose to work with people who share their vision and this extends from their internal team to the suppliers they work with and this pursuit of a shared vision shows.

Their passion for quality also extends to their packaging and service delivery. Their products are all available to be purchased online and will be delivered by courier within a couple of days of ordering. As the couple told us, because they can’t be there to actually greet and smile at a customer, their packaging has been designed to do just that. Boxes are packed and crafted in a way that gives customers the feeling of opening a special gift, and this is all part of the experience that the brand endeavours to deliver.

We were intrigued by the name Hoi P’loy and had to ask what was behind it, knowing that a play on Ploy’s name was definitely part of it. It is of course inspired by the Greek term ‘Hoi Polloi’ which oddly, in South Africa, seems to have taken on the meaning of something entirely incorrect. Here the term lends itself to the idea of something highfalutin, when in fact, the real term translates to ‘the many’ and actually refers to the masses. The couple loved this play on words and felt like it reflected the brand philosophy perfectly – that quality and craftsmanship should be accessible to everyone.

In an age where quality has become an afterthought, it is refreshing to sit down with people who are so passionate about resurrecting it. People who are incredibly dedicated to their vision and are committed to design that is not only functional, but exquisitely crafted and built to last. From their structured Molecule chandelier light to their more casual string lights, the range is elegant and refined. Each light is a piece of art that says a lot about the space it is hung in, as well as the people who choose to buy into the idea that quality really is key.

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