Going to the right schools, finding the right internships and mingling in established circles is often the key to success in the design industry. None of this applied to Tariq Dixon, the New York-based founder of Trnk, who launched an online vintage furniture store in 2013 before expanding into a curatorial platform for contemporary design. international. An extension of Dixon’s personal love for collecting objects, Trnk has become a stealthy resource for the discerning, especially since the launch of his eponymous furniture line in 2017.
Dixon, a former menswear buyer, considers himself an industry outsider in more ways than one. “Design was not my original career or training,” he says. “We always apply a level of accessibility. We love to celebrate how objects inform memories and experiences, and the role environments play in our daily lives.
Development of the Trnk collection
Tariq Dixon, seated on a $2,995 ‘Toma’ loop lounger, from the ‘Fawohodie’ collection by Studio Anansi for Trnk
It was through this practical lens that he formed the inaugural Trnk collection, consisting primarily of seating. ‘The initial impetus was problem solving; trying to find a sofa suited to the needs of the urban customer. But it was also about quality and craftsmanship made in the USA within a certain price. We just couldn’t find it anywhere,” Dixon recalled.
The collection quickly grew to encompass a full assortment of tables, rugs and sectionals, made with producers around the world. His latest iteration champions the work of emerging designers, including color creatives – Studio Anansi, Michael K Chen and Farrah Sit, all of whom entered Dixon’s orbit in different ways. Fueled by shared perspectives and identities, Trnk’s new collaborative collection proves there’s a lot to be gained from expanding visual storytelling.
Left to right: “Prism” bookcase, $3,995; ‘Abla’ dining chair, $1,495, both from Studio Anansi’s ‘Fawohodie’ collection for Trnk. ‘Lozi’ ship, $1,450, by Studio Anansi
The motivation to amplify unconventional voices grew out of Dixon’s need to balance his work with his personal passions. Since the start of the Covid pandemic, he has made good use of solitude and introspection, realizing his ambitions to mount a series of exhibitions (albeit now virtual) that echo the cultural zeitgeist. Memorable moments include 2020’s “Provenanced,” celebrating African and Indigenous contributions to Western visual language and design culture, and 2021’s “Chosen” portrait series, featuring queer photographers of color.
“I constantly question how to represent our personal lived experiences, while being mindful of how our identities are inherently politicized as queer people of color,” shares Dixon, who is of black and Korean descent. “These are questions that we are not able to avoid or escape. At one point, it seemed essential to me to integrate this into the company.
Creative collaborations: Studio Anansi, Michael K Chen and Farrah Sit
Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi, sitting on a ‘Bambara’ sofa, 94 inches, in cotton velvet, $4,495, from the ‘Fawohodie’ collection by Studio Anansi for Trnk
Trnk’s collaboration with artist and designer Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi is a direct result of these efforts. The two creatives connected when Jerry got in touch after seeing “Provenanced.” “The show reflected the direction I was going with my studio and my practice, so it was so refreshing to see someone exploring those avenues too in such a conceptual and elevated way,” says Jerry, who is based in New York. -Scotland, Canada.
Launching this week in Trnk’s new Tribeca showroom and online later this month, the Studio Anansi collection articulates a black aesthetic in its oblique, sculptural forms. Inspired by the African architecture of the late 1950s and early 1960s, when many countries were gaining independence from colonial rule, Jerry incorporates modernist forms into his furniture as symbols of liberation. “What I found really interesting was all the beauty and the chaos, the contradiction, the turmoil and even the trauma that really lay in these architectural forms as these countries searched for freedom. These contrasts reflected the political turmoil we [were experiencing] with the murder of George Floyd, and I thought that was a nice representation of what it looks like after some kind of oppression. I love that this collection shows that tension.
Michael K Chen seated on an “Angle II” armless dining chair, $2,295 by Trnk Collection. The mat, by Trnk x MKCA, will be launched in September 2022
On the other hand, the collection of Michael K Chen is deliberately without reference. The architect’s designs, which include an area rug, sectional sofa and chairs that build on an earlier custom chaise design, experiment with the notion of merging traditional boundaries that delineate living, working and resting spaces. . “The rug has no particular orientation and we designed it to create endless and varied landscapes of furniture,” says Chen, who met Dixon while purchasing pieces from Trnk for an interior project. “As designers, our studio does not subscribe to any particular style or aesthetic idiom, but we are both fascinated and wary of historical aesthetics. Many of them are white and exclusive in nature, so we are consciously trying to bring out new visual traditions.
Farrah Sit with a coffee table and side table she designed for Trnk, launching September 2022
Of the three designers who contributed to the new collection, Farrah Sit has the deepest connection to Dixon. Having befriended Sit over a decade ago, Dixon says her ability to challenge and merge aspects of femininity and masculinity in her form-focused work reflects “her point of view in as a female designer in an industry that is still quite male-dominated”.
Her first designs for Trnk – a coffee table and a side table – build on a lighting collection she developed at the start of the pandemic. “I was interested in creating monolithic forms that can be majestic without being stylized. There’s no femininity or masculinity, there’s just this swirling unity,” says Sit. “I was interested in representing that in a three-dimensional visual form and really creating movement in a very heavy, traditionally masculine volume. To merge these two opposing visual languages and show how they could be in harmony. Both Sit’s and Chen’s collections are set to launch later this year.
Left to right: “Toma” loop lounge chair, $2,995; “Kyaman” side table, $3,895; ‘Bambara’ sofa, 94 inches, in cotton velvet, $4,495; ‘Kyaman’ coffee table, $4,995, all from the ‘Fawohodie’ collection by Studio Anansi for Trnk. ‘Lozi’ ship, $1,750, by Studio Anansi
Together, Trnk’s new pieces mark a new high in American design, where different viewpoints are not only validated, but celebrated. “I don’t necessarily think it’s because [the designers] are people of color whose work I fell in love with. Maybe it’s that I see them and recognize them more easily. It’s also based on the community that we’ve built for the company and that I’ve personally built for myself,” says Dixon, adding that future partnerships won’t be limited to color designers.
“What will be consistent is that we want to grow with this community and evolve together. We will continue to support emerging young talent, find more unknown and under-celebrated voices, and inspire each other in the process. §