Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Industrial designer Lucy Tupu has carved out a niche for herself as a rug and furniture designer in the Big Apple.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Hanalei Foliaki | Reporter/Director

Industrial Designer Lucy Tupu is a bespoke rug, carpet and furniture designer.

“I’m a Wellingtonian, I grew up in Kilbirnie not far from here. My Father is Samoan, my Mother is New Zealander with Scottish and English ancestry,” she says.

“I love art. I think I’ve always loved art from a really, really young age and sort of being creative, [I] always looking for a creative outlet.”

It was Lucy’s passion for the arts that became more apparent when she ventured to Australia to study before heading to New York to visit her brother, where she remained for longer than expected. 

“When I graduated from industrial design… I fell into taking this managing job at a rug company – and I never designed for them,” she says.

“So when I went to New York and decided to open up a design studio, I was really passionate about furniture and lighting design but, because I had this experience of working in the rug industry, it just made sense to kind of just add the rugs to the mix.”

And her love of the creative process continued to grow after the opening of the ‘Lucy Tupu Studio’ in New York. It also brought her closer to her Polynesian culture.

“It opened up this whole new world of designing in a different way,” she says. 

“I was used to designing furniture and lighting and then all of a sudden I was bringing my Samoan heritage, my New Zealand heritage, my love of 70s and sort of putting all of this into rug designs.”

Having lived in New York for the past 17 years, Lucy has continued to draw inspiration from her Samoan heritage, with her latest collection, Falelima.

“Falelima is actually the family village that my Fathers family is from in Savai’i and I have been lucky enough to visit there,” she says.

“I really wanted that collection to use the Samoan language, graphic language, the tatau, all the motifs, the symbols and also the colours that was drawn from the Pacific Ocean and the landscape.

“I really wanted that to be very much a Samoan Polynesian influence.”

Now back in New Zealand as a lecturer at the school of architecture, Lucy hopes to inspire the generations to come

“Be yourself, go for big goals and dreams in your life. The pathway may not always be a linear one but take every opportunity that you can.” she says

“Don’t hold back, and just try and find the confidence to keep going and persevere”

Some quotes have been edited for clarity.

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