Latitude Hotels Group have a genuinely ethical attitude to their existence. Providing uber chic city hotels that focus on local African authenticity through design and décor. Their statement interiors, created by local communities using recycled and sustainable materials, offer a unique vibe unlike any formulaic hotel.
Latitude are true ambassadors for emerging African talent. Their relationship with each local community is a symbiotic one with corporate responsibility and sustainability at the heart of their brand. Each property exudes an individual spirit that embraces and celebrates local influence. Curated original artworks form huge centrepieces in lobbies, ornate hand beaded textiles adorn the stylish bedrooms and funky recycled furniture really push the boundaries of local materials.
Latitude’s ethos started on the shores of Lake Malawi at the property, Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, that was the pre-cursor to the Latitude brand. Co-founder James Lightfoot and his wife, Suzie, worked with the local community to set up the design house Katundu, which became the lead interior supplier for the Latitude Group. Established to engage in community uplift, employ local women and bring to market their unique set of products and skills, Katundu was instrumental in limiting the impact on the environment.
A team of 32 artists, Katundu has an extremely creative and diverse product range inspired by sustainable living, finding new life in things usually throw away. Their exquisite hand beaded textiles include ostrich egg-shell, cast bronze pendants, and coconut shells. Magnificent individual furniture pieces are made using old disused fishing boats, metal scrap and recycled glass. But by far the most stand out items are their 100% handmade chandeliers, each one a unique statement-piece made using items such as tumbled glass, seed pods, copper discs, bicycle cogs and clay beads.
Lightfoot Zambia, owned by James’ sister Gillie, has similarly been instrumental in the creation and development of the Latitude brand design. Operating two workshops, one in the South Luangwa National Park and one in Lusaka, Lightfoot Zambia employs previously underprivileged craftswomen and men to create a range of high quality hand-designed fabrics and leather feature pieces. Her influence is seen throughout the properties in everything from the bespoke leather and fabric headboards and unique mirror surrounds to the luxurious oversized couches that populate lounges and bedrooms.
Between the two companies Katundu and Lightfoot Zambia have created originality through art pieces which have become the signature feel of the Latitude brand along with genuine mutually beneficial and progressive relationships with the community. The choice to work with these ethical suppliers has also created jobs for local communities, often women, not only creating an income but providing dignity and purpose, giving people the skills and knowledge to improve their own circumstances. “We work with suppliers that design and create bespoke interior items in an ethical environment, empowering women and through them the local community. Recycled and sustainable materials add another dimension, respecting the environment and utilising what it has to offer” says Suzie Lightfoot.
The next exciting project sees the opening of Latitude 0 in Kampala, Uganda in 2018, where a unique cultural twist on Uganda will be reflected in the décor, art and furniture. The team are already exploring ethical suppliers and local artisans working with Ugandan materials and local crafts such as pottery, bark and basket weaving.
Further hotels are planned in the African cities of Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Kigali, Dar Es Salaam, Maputo and Harare in the coming years.