A mah jong sofa consists of several pieces that can be re-arranged to suit the owner's purpose and, perhaps, whim. But the Mimi Plange mah jong sofa at the recent Utopia fund raising event only had one purpose: to raise money for Horizons Atlanta, an academic and recreational summer program that supports low-income students over the course of their academic careers.
Featuring a colorful mah jong Roche Bobois sofa and other designs and clothing pieces by designer Mimi Plange, the event raised nearly $20,000.
"Our brand is international furniture with a cutting edge. The company has done a number of innovative projects on the international level with fashion designs such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Missoni and Sonia Rykiel, and we wanted to do something on the local level for a great cause," says Annysa LaMantia, general manager at Roche Bobois. "We were excited to partner with Mimi Plange because her brand is rooted in lost African civilizations with a modern interpretation. It's African fused with a Utopian perspective. It was a cool marriage of ideas that Roche Bobois has not seen before."
Plange, whose designs have been worn by First Lady Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, Rhianna and Vanessa Hudgens, said the fundraiser inspired her. "I'm a textile designer by heart. I love textures and prints and, being from Ghana, I'm inspired by a lot of skins and leathers, embroidery and the kente cloth," she says. "Horizons is amazing and I wanted to do an collaboration, auction off items and donate the proceeds."
Plange's mah jong sofa featured a variety of themes, butterflies, peacocks, patterns and geometric shapes. In addition, Roche Bobois, which is located on Buckhead Avenue, had a "Pop Up Shop" of fashions and accessories designed by Plange that again showcased a modern interpretation of ancient African design traditions, including a painted version of the kente cloth, surreal animal poppet collages and pastel Ashanti dolls.
The proceeds from this event, which took place at Ponce City Market, will fund additional programs, says Mary-Kate Starkey, director of development. The program essentially is a six-week summer school that helps students maintain their grade level functionality or brings them up to grade level in time for the start of a new school year. In addition, the program teaches the children to swim and takes them off-site for educational field trips.
"Once a child is accepted into our program, we work with them for the entire nine years of their education from kindergarten through eighth grade. We're committed to that child, and frankly, the entire family," she says. Horizons Atlanta has served over 500 students across eight program sites. The eventual goals is 12 programs that will serve more than 2,000 metro Atlanta students.