Home Improvements: Paboy Bojang on embracing fun, risk and self-expression in your interiors
A sofa without cushions is akin to a painting without a frame. Inigo meets one man bringing colour, cheer and more than a bit of himself to the finishing touch no home should be without
With smile-making descriptions such as ‘Mango Tree Green and Rose Pink’ and ‘Pompeii Red with Sandy-Yellow Piping’, the bonhomie colour combinations of Paboy Bojang’s Naples-based line of cotton cushions, In Casa by Paboy, don’t play shy.
Setting up his company in July 2020, Paboy has spent the last year filling his fans’ homes with joyously patterned cushions, adorned with rococo-style ruffles and pleated borders (which, naturally, have gone down a treat on Instagram). Paboy beams, “Out of the darkness of lockdown, there was both a need to survive and find ways to bring happiness into my life. These cushions come from my heart and people can feel that. They have the capacity to bring happiness, fun and personality to any interior!”
The cushions are all hand-sewn by Paboy from 100% Italian cotton, sourced in his local Naples neighbourhood. On his Instagram, Paboy suggests different colour combinations, often reposting images of his cushions in their new homes. The bright, candy-shop colours which run through Paboy’s collections represent an amalgamation of the journeys he’s taken and the experiences which have shaped him. “I am inspired by everything I see around me— the colourful, lively markets of my childhood, the buildings in Naples, the ruins of Pompeii, the various countries I passed through to reach Europe, the sea, my friends’ houses, my clients’ homes— everything”, he says.
Growing up in his grandmother’s home in a village in Gambia, Paboy was inspired by her interiors made up of “bright, bold fabrics called grambubom, the fabric from her old African dresses, which she used to make curtains, sheets or tablecloths, all sewn by hand.” At 13, he started working at his uncle’s tailor shop, learning about colour, design and sewing. After his uncle went to Europe, Paboy took on his uncle’s role as the provider for the family, making various dresses and clothes for his clients, and mastering the art of combining unexpected colours and textures in the process.
Paboy then undertook a tumultuous journey from Gambia to Italy, fleeing the dictatorship of his home country and crossing both the desert and the Mediterranean before finally arriving on the shores of Italy. After spending a year on the streets of Tripoli, he eventually reached a refugee centre on the edge of Naples, a small space crammed with hundreds of camp beds. In 2017, he was granted humanitarian protection in Italy, allowing him to work legally at a historic workshop in Majolica, making tiles and vases. However, after two years, the bureaucracy of the asylum renewal process left him stuck once again. Without a valid work permit, he was made jobless. Nevertheless, when a friend offered him a room in her home, Paboy’s visionary brand came to life. Discovering an old Singer machine and some vintage fabrics collecting dust under his friend’s bed, he happened across the simple materials which ignited his global business.
Paboy’s journey informs the identity of his brand, as he hopes to raise awareness regarding the difficulties asylum seekers face in finding sustainable employment and security in Europe. He says, “This year has been challenging, but extremely rewarding; I was able to employ several fellow migrants who, like me, have struggled for many years to find stability and employment. My main priority is to keep my business alive in order to obtain asylum documents and continue to live in Europe.”
Paboy tells Inigo to look for inspiration in anything and everything we see, from old, forgotten fabrics to well-worn pieces of clothing. “I am always on a journey of discovery, looking for new colour combinations. You have to take risks,” he says. Here, the cushion designer shares how one can break the rules and make your home a canvas for self-expression.
Use your cushions everywhere and anywhere
“You don’t have to limit yourself to only using cushions on your sofa. I personally love using cushions on the chairs around my kitchen table and on the stools in my studio. They add a pop of colour whilst also being comfy bolsters. I also love piling them up on my terrace when I’m entertaining guests.
“My home is filled with cushions, mainly ones that I have made mistakes on, which cannot be sent to anyone!”
Break the rules and experiment with risks
“People are often afraid to break the rules and they worry about the permanency of any interior design choice. But it’s possible to break the rules and experiment. All you have to do is let different pieces of fabric sit side-by-side for a while, give yourself time to really look at them and consider whether they work together.
“Experimenting is a fun but lengthy process— my main advice would be to consider the quality of the fabric, the texture and the particular tone of the colour. All these factors can make or break a combination.”
Look for inspiration in the homes of others
“I always feature Instagram posts of my designs in my clients’ homes. It’s exciting to see my cushions find a second life after my studio in a new home with a completely different aesthetic sensibility. I love to see the different creative visions of my clients.
“Personally, I love bold colours and patterns, but it is really interesting to see clients who have gentler, more muted colour schemes and patterns. My designs are statement pieces which can often complement these paler colours and work as a point of contrast.”
A home is a reflection of who you are
“To me, fashion and design are connected; they are different facets of self-expression. It’s really important to feel confident and assured when you go out. My aesthetic in fashion is definitely connected to my cushion designs. I like to look neat and polished, just like my cushions, which are very precise. I am a perfectionist when it comes to stitching and cutting. I won’t let anything leave the studio unless it is perfect.
“I am always thinking about how a fabric or a colour makes you feel— whether it be a cushion or a jacket, the effect is the same to me.”
In Casa by Paboy on Instagram
- A Maker’s Story: Roddy Maude-Roxby, the man behind the maskInteriors
- A Room of One’s Own: ceramicist Jynsym Ong’s studio of elemental explorationsInteriors / Pursuits
- A Home with a History: old meets new at contemporary architect Chris Dyson’s 17th-century house in SuffolkInteriors
- A Private View: in praise of an ecologically sound Cotswolds conversionHomes / Interiors
- A Home with a History: how Luke Edward Hall and Duncan Campbell raised resplendence from the ashes in their Cotswolds cottageInteriors