Mark Grattan is direct, passionate, and focused. The designer is not interested in trends or being put into boxes, nor tokenism.
On a Tuesday evening, I virtually chat with Mark Grattan, the creative force behind VIDIVIXI.
During our interview, I understood not only the motivations behind the way he designs but also the way he maneuvers the design industry and the world to create timelessness.
We edited this interview for brevity and clarity.
In your recent interview with Surface Magazine, you said, “I don’t really have struggles as a Queer man. Being gay gives me more power—it’s the cherry on top.” I loved that.
Two weeks later, the same topics came up in an article in Elle Decor, Mexico. I got a lot of backlash for that.
People didn’t like the things I had to say. I got nasty WhatsApp messages—can you imagine that? Maybe I was a bit too honest; people don’t like to be told the truth.
This is my personal story of oppression, colorism, and racism. These experiences hover over all corners of my life, professional and personal.
Of course, I’m talking about it! This is about a Black gay man in Mexico. And, it needed to be said.
Recently, there has been a rather large ’roundup’ of Black artists, designers, and makers. I saw that you recently spoke out about being a part of one of those ’roundups’ and talked about the industry’s lack of Black designers. Where are all of the Black designers?
I have the same question, where are the Black designers? Many designers in the industry are coming to me asking me what to do, asking me what they should do about [creating space for Black designers]. And I don’t know.
It took me a decade and a half to get to this point, and I feel I’ve only got a foot in the door. It’s not like you can just pick a Negro from a list and start working with them.
I’m just as perplexed as you.
Black people don’t have the experience because they won’t hire us or give us the opportunity to learn.
When I think about design (interior, industrial, and furniture), it’s very White. Then I start thinking about Black design—if that’s even a real thing. Are there spaces where Black designers exist? Is it just not mainstream?
There is a level of elitism within my industry. I’ve had this conversation with myself, but it starts with schooling—a lot of schools are underfunded. I feel like I slipped through the cracks, and I’m not sure how.
I would love to start a conversation about fashion and art on the occasion of Blackness versus my creative industry.
I think about Blacks in fashion like Telfar, Kerby, Shane, or even artists like Kehinde, Kara, and Jamaal.
How are these industries able to at least pretend they’ve got it together? I feel a little left out if that makes sense.
Do you feel like you have survivor’s remorse?
Absolutely. I feel very responsible because I’m supposed to be a role model. I’m also supposed to be the catalyst to open this door. I’m supposed to be there for Black people.
And I don’t think I have been doing that.
So yes, I feel remorse for that. And I guess my medicine, my remedy for that, is to start talking about it. I never wanted the brand to be associated with my Blackness. But, Black Lives Matter started happening, globally, and I had to say something.
All these design firms were putting all these Black people on social media blasts, and that pissed me off so bad.
That’s what stirred the pot for me and got me talking.
I just kept talking and talking, feeling more comfortable about it, eventually. It’s a bit sad because I think I am the only Black-owned company doing it at this level. And it’s not because there aren’t any—I know you’re out there.
It’s because the press prefers to write about the same shit they wrote about two months ago on that same White person, sitting on that same boring walnut stool they made in that woodshop in Brooklyn.
I need to do my own research and much more of it.
How do you measure your happiness?
I think if I’m productive—in my physical and mental health—I’m happy. If I’m eating right, I think I’m happy. If I’m willing to take risks, I think I’m happy. That is how I see it. I’m in a very happy place right now. I think it’s my mother doing magic. RIP Mom.
How would you describe your relationship with design?
It’s deviant. I don’t believe in the convention. I like to push the envelope a lot.
My relationship with design is similar to my relationship with life: it’s caution to the wind all the time. I use it how I want to use it. Some call it selfish. I use it to express my emotions, the same way I do with life.
Who do you design for?
Myself. I never design for anybody but myself these days. If I create for other people, the work won’t look the way that it does. That’s how I can relate this concept to New York because you’re not doing anything but designing to pay the rent.
In Mexico City, rent is not the biggest issue. Conceptualizing the work is the more significant issue here, and that allows the work to really thrive and evolve in the way that it needs to.
I design for myself; however, I didn’t when I lived in New York. I designed for the city, and I designed for the clients, I created to get by.
Are you proud of yourself?
I’m not good at taking compliments, even from myself, and this is embarking on such. If someone told me I had pride, I’d try to convince them it’s arrogance.
When “the next time” comes around, are you doing better?
I better be.
How would you describe your work ethics to someone who does not have a vast design knowledge?
One of the mottos of VIDIVIXI is to be a reflection of all styles. I’m taking my experiences and everything that I’ve been through—all of my influences: visual, emotional, or chronological—and I’m putting them into one place.
It’s art deco, it’s modern, it’s classic, it’s all of the things put together to make something cohesive in a way that it shouldn’t be.
I think VIDIVIX’s work challenges stereotypes. I never thought about it this way until now, and I find that quite beautiful.
I don’t like trends and never have. I’ve always been that way. Do not put me in a box!
Yes, let’s forget the box. Let’s blow it up!
And here we are. We are running shit!
Final question, yes or no, and why?
No. I think people are scared to say no, too often. And when you say no, it means you’re being true to yourself—most likely.
Saying yes is to please.
I’m not here to please. I’m here to live authentically through my experiences.
I have a notification on my cell every morning at 7:30 AM; it says: “I have the strength and courage to be true and authentic with myself.”
It’s my constant reminder.