D’Souza in his 16th century tapestry mill home
in Mortlake, London
Independent.co.uk. July 15, 1999. 'Fast Track - CV -
A career in the life of Michael D'Souza, Entrepreneur'
Sunday Mirror. April 09, 2000. 'dot. com - Where to
pick the best buys for your home'
The Times. April 12, 2000. 'Wonderful world of the web.'
The Times. May 10, 2000. 'The home 'alone time' office
- Homes - Property. By Ana Urena'
Birmingham Post. May 27, 2000. 'Home is now where the
The Guardian. July 27, 2000. 'Cybershopping.. By Helen
International Herald Tribune. March 12, 2002. 'Custom-made
chic is edging out brands'
Scotsman.com . March 23, 2002. 'International man of
Evening Standard. Jan 08, 2003. 'Be my guest. By Katie
Independent.co.uk. March 26, 2003. 'Take It Home'
Evening Standard. May 21, 2003. 'A unique design made
to order By Barbara Chandler.'
Evening Standard. Dec 03, 2003. 'Hide and chic ; Designer
Michael d'Souza grew up on the hill stations of India.
He has brought his love for the crafts he found there
into his 16th century tapestry mill in Mortlake.'
15 July 1999
CV - A career in the life of Michael D'Souza, Entrepreneur
D'Souza, 40, "escaped" from high-powered marketing
posts for clients including Polo Ralph Lauren and Coca-Cola
to become the brains behind Mufti, a new line of home furnishings.
He claims he has never had such complete creative freedom
in the world of marketing.
went to school in India where I spent more time learning
sports than anything academic. In hindsight, however, I
believe that held me in excellent stead for my career because
sport is all about interaction and breaking down barriers
- essentials in the marketing world. It was for the same
reason that I chose to study psychology as well as economics
for my BA. I think people often underestimate the "people"
side of the business.
my parents' horror, I quit my first graduate job in advertising
- also in India - to backpack around the States for six
months. It was great fun and taught me a lot about surviving
in an unfamiliar culture. In fact, it was there that I did
my MBA - a qualification that many people in marketing consider
invaluable. I disagree. Whilst it might open doors for graduates,
a great deal more can be learnt by spending a couple of
years on the job.
first major post was at Lowe and Partners, an advertising
firm in New York. That was an amazing experience because
the advertising industry is so disciplined in America. Clients
expect you to be actively involved in all aspects of their
1991, I joined McCann's as vice president worldwide account
director on Coca-Cola. Whilst there, the year I spent in
Bangkok was one of the most insightful. It was meant to
be a month-long project to change the management. But in
Thailand, if one member of management gets "let go",
the rest of the team tend to walk out with them. It evolves
from a unique sense of loyalty among staff which I wouldn't
have understood, or have been able to find solutions for,
had I been doing the same work from the States. Indeed,
it always amazes me how tunnel-visioned some companies can
be when they enter a new market. You have to understand
the culture you're entering rather than imposing your culture.
after returning, I was poached to become manager of brand
marketing for Diet Coke worldwide based at its headquarters
in Atlanta. There, I spearheaded the strategic shift that
involved repositioning the $1.5bn Caffeine Free Diet Coke
against the fast-growing 40-plus consumer - a first for
Coca-Cola and the soft drink industry which had traditionally
focused on the younger generation.
years later, the corporate world began to get me down. The
stability and financial rewards are huge. But the amount
of effort required to take an idea from start to finish
is ridiculous because of the endless layers of managers
- who each feel they have to justify their existence, so
even if they have nothing constructive to contribute they
feel compelled to say something. The result is that it usually
waters down the concept and unnecessarily lengthens the
process. Mind you, if the idea is a good one, it's amazing
how many people start angling for credit. I found the higher
you rise in the corporate world, the more time you spend
dealing with company politics and the less time you spend
on the issue at hand.
thought I'd give it one more go, however, as senior vice
president and director of marketing on Polo Ralph Lauren.
I remember my first presentation which consisted of an analysis
on the brand's weaknesses and competitive threats to help
fuel growth. I soon found out that this was politically
incorrect and it felt as though all the company really required
was for me to say the "nice" things that would
please "The Man" at the helm.
was when I started work on Mufti. I took a year studying
the market and realised there was a gap which I could fill.
I went for casual sophistication to provide a sense of serenity
in today's fast-paced world. And on the environmental side,
since everything is created by hand using only natural materials,
customers can take comfort in the fact that they are doing
their part for the natural world. Two-and-a-half years later,
it's still going from strength to strength.
would always encourage anyone interested in having a true
impact in marketing not to be snooty about working for small
companies - or better still venture out on your own. Sure,
you can learn a lot from the corporate world, and I'd advise
any graduate who gets the opportunity to work in that environment
to grab it with both hands because the training and discipline
is invaluable. But in the long run, if you want real control,
bigger is not necessarily better. Going out on a limb is
the way to play this game.
9 April 2000
com - Where to pick the best buys for your home
time to load up its images but once there you're in designer
Michael d'Souza's world of natural fibres and raw materials.
Raw silk napkins cost £6, leather placemats £28,
and a silver ashtray £8. Free delivery within two
12 April 2000
world of the web.
text see http://www.thetimes.co.uk/
Date: 10 May 2000
home 'alone time' office - Homes - Property. By Ana Urena.
text see http://www.thetimes.co.uk/
27 May 2000
is now where the computer is.
Michael D'Souza the ex-marketing director of Polo,
Ralph Lauren and Coca Cola, has set up Mufti, which sells
furniture over the Internet.
His concern is
to develop home office furniture so that it is both functional
and aesthetically pleasing.
At the moment
'cold' seems to be the word that epitomises furniture
to accommodate the computer.
Desks tend to
be bland, made from a mean wood and of a design that would
fit into any office while looking just plain ugly in the
Michael has made
a leather desk especially for home computer user.
Leather is an
interesting choice of material because it is warm and
luxurious in contrast to the cheap wood that most home
office desks are made from.
being very much in fashion for three-piece suites, it
has an unashamedly contemporary look and yet would not
look out of place in a period home either, as leather
is also the oldest of fabrics. Costing around #1,500,
it is already selling very well.
to the problem of having a beautiful desk for a computer
is to have one made especially for you.
After all, if
most furniture designers are failing to be imaginative,
there's nothing to be lost by letting your own imagination
do the task.
Artifex in Sutton
Coldfield, Birmingham has a range of furniture designers
who can make desks to your exact specifications.
makes bespoke desks out of reclaimed Burmese teak, which
start at £650.
when it comes to designing computer desks is that people's
needs are different.
Unlike a sofa,
which basically just needs to be big and comfy enough
to loll on, desks for computers have a wide range of different
uses to accommodate.
want to have desks so they are big enough for two children
to use at the same time.
Some need space
for a scanner, printer, speakers, PC and big 17-inch screen
while others have a laptop and use the scanner and printer
so rarely that they can afford to hide them away in a
of having a bespoke desk is that you can have it exactly
as you want it.
Issues to consider
when designing your own computer desk are:
Do you need to
have a computer with a separate hard drive or is a laptop
How often do
you use your scanner and printer? Would you prefer to
have them hidden in a drawer or on the desk for easy access?
Would you like
your keyboard and mouse on top of the desk, or would you
like a sliding drawer designed so that they can slip back
under the desk when you are not using them?
Do you need space
for books and papers alongside the computer? If so you
might like to have a long desk or a desk in a corner with
a chair on wheels, so you can slide from one work area
to the other.
Would you like
to have a hole in your desk to put your computer cables
through or would you like your desk to double up as an
occasional dining table when you take the computer off?
Another way of hiding cables is to design a desk with
hollow legs and lead the cables through them. Don't forget
the additional cables for your lamp and your telephone.
How much additional
storage space do you need for books and files? Drawers
built into the desk can be useful but they do detract
from the possibility of combining the function of desk
and dining table.
If you find the
sight of a computer just too much, then why not have a
whole cupboard, rather than a simple desk designed? That
way you could close the doors on the desk at the end of
the working day and not have to look at a blank computer
screen all evening.
that another effect of having computers at home is that
men are taking more interest in interior design.
He says that
without a doubt there is a rapidly increasing number of
men shopping at his Mufti store.
'Men are now
more knowledgeable about design and interiors and are
rejecting cheap high street furniture for quality products
either made to specification or with design pieces made
'There's no reason
why it should be the case, but just as men tend to do
most of the buying of cars, so men tend to buy the computers.'
Because men are
buying the computers, they then develop an interest in
the computer furniture.
claims that working from home is alerting men to their
home surroundings, therefore making them more interested
in shopping for interiors.
The leather desk
is particularly popular with men, while the ones made
of Burmese teak tend to be more popular with women.
leather theme, Michael has created leather bookcases,
leather stools with suede drawers and leather filing cabinets.
are another example of an item of furniture which tends
to be particularly ugly, though there is no reason why
they should be.
The key to having
a computer in the home is to be imaginative about the
way it can be accommodated.
design around computers can only get better. Let's be
honest, it could hardly be worse than it is at the moment.
Until then, and
until computer designers decide to consider the aesthetics
of their hardware, we will have to settle for developing
our own distinctive sense of computer style.
Mufti can be
seen at www.mufti.co.uk or at 789, Fulham Road, London
Artifex can be
found on the Weeford Road, Sutton Coldfield, telephone
27 July 2000
By Helen Brooks
of Mufti the homewares range created by Michael
D'Souza no longer need travel to London's Fulham
Road, for his Burmese teak beds and leather letter racks
which are now available from www.mufti.co.uk
Browse for hand-crafted furnishings and accessories.
: International Herald Tribune Date: 12 March 2002
Custom-made chic is edging out brands
to Mufti's Michael D'Souza,
the trend toward custom- made has grown as designer fashion
has become more accessible. "You have to go one step
further when your builder's wearing the same shirt as you,"
he said. "People particularly like the fact that they
can have input. We're almost doing more bespoke furniture
than the standard side."
Date: 23 Mar 2002
International man of history
Relics of the Raj, hand-crafted Zulu
tableware, a battered trumpet from the birthplace of jazz
-Michael D’Souza’s flat is packed with piecesinspired
by his travelsand his past. Fiona Reidakes the grand tour
york, India, Africa, Putney. It’s an unlikely final
destination for a former Manhattan advertising guru to end
up. But even more off-the-wall is that Michael D’Souza
dropped out of the rat-race to start an interiors company
despite the fact that he doesn’t even own his flat.
he quit the Big Apple four years ago, Michael had only intended
to rent for six months in London. Yet today, the light,
airy Putney flat he moved into is still home. "I wish
I could put down hardwood floors," he admits, "and
I’d take the fireplace back to its original condition.
But when it comes to light and space, in four years I haven’t
found a place I preferred."
how do you stamp your personality on a flat you can’t
redecorate? Michael has managed it. His impressive living-room
is trademark D’Souza, a compelling mix of influences,
from souvenirs of his time in New York to echoes of a childhood
spent in India. Many of the pieces are his own designs -
the leather Shikari chairs and the hand-woven cushions lining
the window seat, for example - and the idea behind them
is simple. "Having a sense of serenity is very important,"
he says. "I learned that in Manhattan; there’s
so little space that people make a sanctuary where they
live. But more than anything it’s the uniqueness in
each piece that appeals to me, finding something I haven’t
place is full of such one-off discoveries. A painting by
Indian artist Nina Gimmi sits on the mantelpiece, alongside
ceramic bowls from Turkey and an old trumpet from a fleamarket
in upstate New York. "It looks like it’s been
through the wars," he says of the battered instrument,
"and that gives it a sense of character and history."
The international tour doesn’t stop there, either;
on the table, a bowl hand-woven by Zulu tribeswomen holds
ostrich eggs Michael found on a trip to Africa, while the
long wooden cabinet nearby originally belonged to a Mexican
tend to go off the beaten track," he says, and it’s
a journey that has taken him from North to South America
and back to India where, he reflects, "there’s
a whole bunch of places most people would be scared to go
into. But you find these amazing craftsmen working their
trade; even the old stools they’re sitting on, people
would go mad for them in London."
was this passion for collecting such obscure objects that
convinced Michael to pack in his marketing career in the
US (where he had worked for the likes of Coca-Cola and Ralph
Lauren) and head back to London to set up Mufti. Inspired
by the craftsmanship in the everyday things he came across
while growing up in India, his interiors company takes its
name from an old military word - Michael’s father
was a general in the Indian Army - for the one day of the
week that staff could go to work wearing "civvies".
wasn’t about wearing your flip-flops and ratty shorts,"
Michael explains. "It was smart but with a comfort
element to it." This is the look he now strives for
in his home; the pristine white sofas, classically simple,
are complemented by intricate, luxurious details, from the
hand-woven suede throw to the antique leather hatboxes,
placed alongside his father’s old army uniform. But
whether it’s from India, Africa or the junk shop round
the corner, Michael has only one rule: "I don’t
want to define what I’m doing from one culture. It’s
all smart casual, regardless of where it comes from."
Mufti on 020 7610 9123 or visit the mail-order website at
going on but the rent
left to right: Hand-woven silk cushions, from £27,
Mufti; ostrich eggs were bought in Africa, the basket, £110,
was woven by a Zulu tribeswoman; the Thai statue was a leaving
gift from colleagues in Bangkok, the trumpet from a fleamarket
in New York
habitat (0845 601 0740); mufti (020 7610 9123)
picture: Leather and reclaimed teak Shikari chairs, £385,
and matching teak coffee table, from £625, Mufti;
sofas bought in New York, try Habitat’s Utah, from
£599, for a similar look; the artwork above the fireplace
is by Nina Gimmi
Michael’s father’s army uniform; leather hat
boxes found in an antique shop
8 January 2003
my guest. By Katie Campbell.
Smart casual: Mufti is Michael
d'Souza's Chelsea shop that specialises in simple
but sophisticated furniture.
used are either reclaimed or natural stuff: Burmese teak
planter's chairs ( £825), cashmere and linen throws
in ochres and beiges, oyster linen sofas and tobacco leather-plaited
come in standard sizes but if you prefer something tailor-made
to suit the dimensions of your home, Mufti will undertake
bespoke commissions, too.
789 Fulham Road, SW6 (020 7610 9123).
26 March 2003
New at Mufti on Fulham Road is a leather
wardrobe with off-white stitched detail - a modern interpretation
of the old linen press. Built in two pieces for ease of
delivery and assembly, it has hanging space and leather-lined
drawers. Mufti is a lifestyle interiors shop that sells
original, elegant designs in leather and natural raw materials.
Owner Michael D'Souza's philosophy is based on minimalism,
discerning design, clean lines and interesting textures
- but with the emphasis always on the comfortable and livable.
The shop also offers a bespoke service to rework or commission
furniture and accessories to customers' exact specifications.
cupboard, £2,800, at Mufti, 789 Fulham Road SW6 (020-7610
21 May 2003
unique design made to order By Barbara Chandler
Commissioning bespoke furniture for your
home need not break the bank.
is a fear that Michael D'Souza
is determined to dispel. The atmosphere of his shop, Mufti,
is permeated with the tang of leather, a material he loves
to use in engaging ways: you can even order a leather bookcase
or chest of drawers. Showing me round two floors of simple,
elegant designs in materials that also include solid wood,
rattan, glass, linen, cashmere and silk, D'Souza says: "A
surprising amount of what we sell is made to order. We do
everything from a set of napkin rings to a wardrobe or four-poster
bed. People are thrilled when they find that pieces can
be made in a different size, or in different materials or
even in a different style.
don't charge a premium for this service, and can usually
deliver in eight weeks."
furniture at Mufti is made at various workshops - some in
England and some in India, where solid Burma teak reclaimed
from demolished colonial houses is used. Bookcases are the
most popular made- to- measure item - Mufti uses mainly
solid wood and/ or leather. "There simply isn't a standard
size for a bookcase," D'Souza observes, "nor for
books". As an example, a recent order for a bookcase
110cm-wide by 105cm-high by 28cmdeep in solid reclaimed
Burma teak cost pounds 625.
from the practicality of making furniture fit, D'Souza believes
people commission to express their individuality. "But
it works best when clients are adapting, rather than creating
from scratch. Visualising is very difficult without a lot
of experience." Today, computers and the internet are
vital: "We do endless drawings to achieve perfection
but can email workshops on the other side of the world in
3 December 2003
and chic ; Designer Michael d'Souza grew up on the hill
stations of India. He has brought his love for the crafts
he found there into his 16th century tapestry mill in Mortlake
FROM Michael d'Souza's
Mortlake living room, you can watch shivering rowers toil
past on the chilly Thames, while you are cocooned by the
opulent textures and delicious colours of leathers, animal
skins, silks and linens that are the designer's trademark.
Born in the rather more temperate climate of Goa,
southern India, into a military family, d'Souza thrived
on the constant changes of army life. "We - my mother
and eight brothers and sisters - moved, mostly around the
hill stations of India, every three years," he says.
These years proved to be the inspiration for "Mufti"
(meaning "smart casual" or "civilian dress
worn by a military type"), the shop he opened to sell
his distinctive range of furniture and fabrics when he came
to the UK six years ago after forsaking the corporate ladder
in New York, where as a young man he worked in advertising.
present home is part of a converted 16th century Dutch tapestry
mill, a building with the special appeal of an industrial
space that has been semi-domesticated - Mufti's warehouse
is also part of the property. When he first set eyes on
it, it was a dilapidated shell with "lots of potential".
He loved the sense of history it conveyed and its links
to traditional craftsmanship, its position, the view and
the fabric of the place, but hated the layout - so he set
a deadline of a month and a budget of 25,000 to turn it
was a lot to be done. The front door used to lead directly
to the bathroom, while the kitchen and sitting room either
side of it were poky and dark. A spindly ladder led to the
upstairs space, a loft once used by the tapestry-makers
as a work room, but more recently used to house a massive
got the builders in and within the month two walls came
down to make one gallery-style living room and a kitchen
downstairs. Steps were built and the loft space converted
into bedrooms, while the bathroom was shifted upstairs.
a practical soul, d'Souza decided to do the rest himself,
including all the decoration and fitting the kitchen - although
he admits work proceeded "slowly, slowly" after
the professionals finished. He purposely left the rooms
plain, adding few modern fixtures - no fitted wardrobes,
meagre shelving and no bookcases - to let the historic walls
speak for themselves.
painted floors, walls and ceilings are extravagantly criss-crossed
with the bare timbers of the original oak frame.
are mainly d'Souza's own design, often prototype pieces,
handcrafted and heavy on the natural materials, earth colours
and unrefined textures of stout leathers, skins, silks and
linens, with splashes of colour provided by his favourite
extravagance - flowers. The result is blissful. He says:
"What I love about the place is it's so tranquil. To
me, it's all about textures and making it serene and soothing
and calm." An atmosphere his seven-year-old daughter
enjoys when she comes to stay. D'Souza and his wife are
no longer together.
house may be historic, but the kitchen is a strictly contemporary
brushed-steel and frosted-glass affair. The kitchen units
are by Alno, bought from John Lewis, and a huge Miele refrigerator,
a brushed-steel monolith, takes pride of place in the corner.
D'Souza is particularly fetishistic about the fridge: "It
was a bit of an extravagance, but I had to have it. It's
such a wonderful shape, softened by a curve on the front."
the heart of the room is a Mahoot dining table (so called
because of the elephant-like chunky curved legs) from Mufti,
handmade from reclaimed Burmese teak and stained to a dark-treacle
hue. Burmese teak was the highest quality timber available
and, during the British Raj, all the old bungalows were
made from this venerable material. The old buildings in
India are coming down to make way for modern high rises,
so d'Souza is able to source plenty of high-quality reclaimed
wood from a salvage dealer in Bombay. He does much of the
furniture design for Mufti himself, and has it made up by
people who have been with him from the beginning. "When
I started Mufti I put together a team of craftsmen, who
have been with me for seven years now. They are mostly from
Bengal, based just outside Bombay."
sofas, piled with cushions and lit by guinea-fowlfeathered
standard lamps, mark out the sitting area from the kitchen.
The cushions are covered in the most gorgeous fabric, a
little-known Indian delicacy called Tusser silk, somewhere
between taffeta and raw silk. D'Souza says: "One of
the advantages of life as a military brat was that I got
to see different parts of the country, all with their own
crafts and traditions. My mum was very creative, and whatever
was available in the area - a special type of sari, a certain
style of weaving - I'd learn about it by osmosis."
Thus, when he came to start his own business, not only was
he able to source fantastic half-forgotten materials, he
also managed to recruit some of the dwindling group of skilled
makers who could produce small quantities of beautifully
d'Souza has cast his net a little wider and imports linen
from Belgium and woven baskets and animal skins - such as
the zebra skin that lounges across his sitting room floor
- from Africa.
the floor is dotted with hand-knotted rugs from Kashmir
and Bhutan. Sunlight slants through the linen blinds and
lights up the various shades of tobacco and tan of the furnishings:
the distinctive Mufti bed - a contemporary take on the traditional
sleigh - and all manner of leather-clad desks, chests and
is kept to a minimum; a couple of artfully antiquated pairs
of riding boots beside the bed seem to be the only tricksy
designer touch in the flat. On enquiry, however, it turns
out that, true to his military roots, d'Souza gets up before
6am every morning and rides out with the Household Cavalry
in Hyde Park. "It is the most perfect part of my day,"
TO GET THE LOOK
Mufti, 789 Fulham Road, SW6 (020 7610 9123, www.mufti.co.uk).
you can find: Mahoot dining table from 1,250; Tusser silk
cushions from 35; Guinea-fowl-feathered lamp shade from
90; Mufti bed from 1,475; woven leather basket from 150;
leather desk from 1,520.
Voice designed by Goacom Insys Pvt. Ltd., Goa
and funded by donations from the world-wide Goan Community.