portrait of kurt merki jr
Courtesy Kurt Merki Jr.

For Kurt Merki Jr., Creative Confidence Lands a Dream Partnership

Shaped by his bi-cultural upbringing, the Studio KMJ principal’s design approach has led to success with brands like Duravit.

For Kurt Merki Jr., being hired to design a collection for a household brand such as Duravit boiled down to a combination of legacy, chance opportunity, and dogged preparation. While working on an office design with a colleague at a former employer, Merki was tasked with designing bathrooms. The client’s positive reaction gave him the confidence he needed to approach others for new business.

He also had strong encouragement from creative parents: His father traveled from Switzerland to Africa at age 23, working as a master carpenter for companies in Uganda and Nigeria before landing in Ghana, where he built his own company and met Merki’s mother, a fashion designer. Their guidance seems to have primed him to present his work without fear of reactions to it: “I remember once we took some clay from the floor, and I just formed a car, and in his Swiss accent my dad said, ‘Wow. Ku Ku, this is fantastic. You should send it to Mercedes,’” Merki says. He internalized and later channeled that early advice when he sent his designs unsolicited to Duravit.

Bathroom interior
Courtesy Duravit

The company replied that it was not in need of a designer at that time. A year later, Merki reworked his designs and sent them in again, this time receiving an invitation to visit the factory, which led to an offer of collaboration directly from the CEO. He insists the secret is never giving up. “I’ve done over 300 designs of a lot of things that didn’t go through,” he says. “You have to be persistent. If it doesn’t work by the 300th time, then you’re getting started, then you’re warmed up.”

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