Julian and I are deeply passionate about design. We are incredibly visual people and are stimulated by everything we see all around us, all of the time.
I am originally from South Africa, but I lived in London for 20 years, which is where I met Julian. We were both in theatre – I was an actress and he was a set designer working on productions all over the world. In the mid-90s I decided to change career, and started an interiors and architectural practice called Site Specific.

I sourced homeware for private clients from South Africa and kept up-to-date with what was happening here, so when I returned to South Africa in 2003 it was a natural progression to start our export agency, Source. Over time we realised that a platform was needed to provoke and propel the extraordinary handmade, unique work that didn’t fit our standard export and retail model, so in 2008 we launched Southern Guild.

Working with our artists and designers to birth their best and most unique work takes a lot of back and forth, intense conversations, visits to their studio and immersing ourselves in their vision. It’s about digging and pushing, to tease out their true voices and then express that in a way that no one else in the whole world is doing.

Julian and I both have very strong opinions, so working together we sometimes butt heads, but it’s part of the process – and ultimately this leads us to where we need to be.

Inspiration comes from the two of us talking in our living room over a glass of red wine – looking at books, finding reference images, showing each other things on our phones. We are two very different people, but there is nothing more creative and sparking than bouncing ideas off each other.

When I can steal away moments for myself I run and swim, especially in the sea. And of course, we spend all our free time with our children, which is such an important focus for us. We love to travel together as a family, to discover new places and to regenerate.

I dream of having a three-month fellowship to write a thesis on why African design can change the world.

And I truly believe there’s nothing stopping you from following your dreams. After all, I’ve had three very separate careers so far, and I’m still not finished.

Trevyn and Julian McGowan,
co-founders of The Guild Group