Clinton Friedman started making images in 1997 as a visual arts student in the port city of Durban, South Africa. In 2003 he started a photographic journey that would culminate in his monograph Subtraction (2007). This collection of botanical images was a statement of intent that would come to define his aesthetic style: the ability to explore the intersection of seemingly contradictory elements. His work is a celebration of imperfection, expressed through a keenly refined point of view. Both inspired by the human touch of craft like wabi sabi and informed by the classical beauty of a modernist aesthetic.
This considered point of view is something that he has honed as an artist for nearly two decades. His work transcends artifice in favour of an uncompromising simplicity; forgoes trend in favour of timelessness. And in developing the Clinton Friedman brand he has brought this distinctive style to bear both in his artistic output and considered range of products. And while the expression may be adaptable, the intention is single-minded – a celebration of life that is bold and graphic, absolute and honest.
In 2015 Hakan and Anneli made a trip to South Africa from their home in Sweden. The décor in one of their hotels caught their eye and – even though the context and continent were worlds apart – Hakan knew he wanted to work with whoever was behind these pieces. With a background in the fashion world in Europe came a desire to create products with integrity. And so he sought out Clinton Friedman with a simple proposition: combine their skills to take this point of view to people around the world. And while Clinton had seen a measure of success both at home and in some international markets, he understood that this was the right opportunity to truly take his point of view to the world.
So in late 2015, with only a few emails to organise the basic details, Clinton arrived in Sweden to meet his soon to be business partners. It wasn’t the first offer of collaboration that had been made to him, but the earnestness of intent of Hakan, Anneli and their partner Johan was compelling. The background was right and the synchronicity seemed auspicious. Clinton’s great-grandfather was Swedish, and if nothing else he would finally get the chance to visit the country.
By the end of that trip, the Clinton Friedman brand officially had two homes: South Africa and Sweden. The first joint collection came to being in 2016 with creative direction coming from Clinton out of South Africa and design development from the Swedish team. A creative collaboration to take the brand global.
While the Clinton Friedman aesthetic is informed by the Global South, the artistic intent is international. And with the benefit of creative exchanges between the two countries, the brand now has a real presence in both hemispheres for the first time. The next phase of the journey is to globalise the brand’s reach while retaining the authenticity at its core.
Clinton Friedman is about more than applying the artist’s signature botanical images to garments and homeware. It is about taking the authenticity of his approach and expressing that through these different idioms. Each item is rendered in the best possible quality, whether it’s produced in South Africa or Europe. And each piece – from art prints to home décor to garments – has been created to inspire the owner as a piece of functional art.