#designersofpakistan #twincities #furnituremakers #womenindesign #moderndesign #smallbusinesses
I remember when we were growing up and could not fit into our old beds, my mom decided to get us our individual ones. My father being an officer of the Pakistan Army we were posted in Bahawalpur at the time, a city not very well-versed in the ways of contemporary living. Hence, finding modern beds was next to impossible so my mom decided to go for our unit carpenter who is a person doing small jobs for the army personnel. She searched on the internet and decided on plain white beds with our favorite cartoon printed on the headboard. The outcome was beautiful, and we were never late for bedtime after that. At another time, an annual spring flower show was held where my mother again with the help of the carpenter created many outdoor furniture pieces, adorning them with natural flowers. She earned the 2nd position in that show, and it was a proud moment for the family. She has been designing our home furniture till today, changing pieces on every move, going through all the details till the final finish. In recent years I have been participating in the process as well and learned so much from her including the choice of design, selection of material, making and setting up. We have learned to love the comfort of our homes because of her.
Hence, my search for other women designers in the city started and I spoke to Zehra Aziz, the person behind the brand MYOF – Make your own furniture. As a practicing Architect she started by designing furniture to solve interior design problems for both private and commercial spaces. Along with her design team they try to come up with ideas that try to make peoples lives easier. A local version of IKEA that lets the customer not only choose material, color and size but also lets them make and dismantle the furniture themselves. However, it is not an industrial scale operation like the giant but a small studio that uses local craftspeople with new ways of making and aesthetics. Culture and history of craft are always incorporated in their designs.
I chose to talk about their tray tables, made with solid wood, hala hand-painted tiles and metal with a modern touch.
“We follow the general spirit of our time calling for easy to maintain, lightweight, good quality, and trendy pieces. We let our customers personalize their furniture according to their spaces by giving them an array of options. These customizations range from size and material to the color of tile and legs. We are trying to work with local craftsman of twin cities with the help of detailed design drawings, sampling and hands on support. Every piece of furniture is designed keeping in mind the millenial and his/her lifestyle.”
At MYOF, they are trying to make every piece of furniture special by making the customer make their own choices. Their products are easy to move and fit in small spaces ideal for apartment living. Considering how life in the cities is so fast-paced and working people are short of time it is really impossible to go to the bigger showrooms to search for furniture. Also the type of furniture that is available is very traditional and bulky. One can see more furniture and products like lamps and trays done by them on their instagram and website.
Another brand I came across is Naari. I contacted them through their instagram page and they shared their amazing journey with me.
“Naari is representation of ‘The Woman’ and what women can achieve if they put their heart and soul into it. Naari is run by a doctor/architect sister duo. Their focus is to make products for women by women. Although they do currently employ men for tasks such as welding and carpentry, their goal is also to eventually enable women to learn new skills to provide them with new avenues for income. The women that work for them are partners with them in each of the products they make and get a cut of the sale price up front. Additionally, their focus is to bring new and exciting designs to their customers, while also pursuing their dream of bringing a positive social change. A key example of that is their Maqsood series, which is skillfully prepared by Maqsood Sahab, a visually impaired artisan, who does all his wicker weaving just by touch. You could say that Naari more precisely aims to represent the compassion and empathy that embodies The Woman to use our positions of privilege to create greater equality.
Yarn Lamp Process
The first product we started off with was our hanging yarn lamps. Each lamp is unique and has never been exactly replicated by us as each string in the lamp is individually hand pulled. The making of these lamps is divided into four stages. We start off by making drawings of the designs either digitally or by hand. Since all our metal frames are made in-house, we make sure that their dimensions are accurate and unique to each piece. The next step is to give the designs to our welder who then skillfully brings them to life. Once we get the frames, we send them off for multiple coats of paint. Every effort is put to try to come up with diverse colour palettes so that each piece tells a fun story of its own.
Stage four is one of the toughest decisions we must make during this process, as we must decide the colors of the yarn to be used for the lamp shades. It is very important for us to work with color theory, to ensure that the colors are not only out of the box but also blend well with each other in harmony. Once decided, these are then hand woven by our female artisans. Sometimes, we provide them with a pre-approved drawing of the design and at other times we decide as we go along. We also encourage them to participate in the design process. For these lamps, we have experimented with various kinds of yarn including acrylic, cotton, wool and merino yarn and now have moved onto cotton thread.”
Other than these yarn lamps, Naari is also creating other weaving products such as cane magazine stands, macrame products, table coasters and recently wicker cabinets. They are trying to use beautiful materials – like yarn, cotton, jute, and wicker – which are rarely found in Pakistan, to connect to their past as they are materials that we have come across our whole life but were slowly getting outdated. They aim to continue to create new products for their clients, while also continuing to follow the social ethos of the brand and to employ more skilled labor and to encourage women to stand on their own two feet. According to them
“We celebrate this country and its people, and we were stoked by the amazing response, and the heartfelt messages of encouragement we have received from so many.”
I came across Hipflask at a friends house and was struck by their artistic style with very fuctional objects. It is a practice founded by Ayesha Zafar Sabri & A. Rahim Khan who have their credentials in architecture, graphic design, film, and entrepreneurship. Hip Flask team aims to produce affordable and usable art by taking inspirations ranging from pop culture to space and architectural design. They design home accessories that are unique and feature traditional, yet modern designs made with natural materials.
“While exploring contemporary furniture design with a local context, we wanted to try designing a chair which was all about putting khaddar on display, the material had to be the protagonist of this story. We sourced handwoven fabric and then delved into designing a chair that channels comfort but maintains its form. We worked very closely with the craftsmen in Rawalpindi and Islamabad to execute the chair as we had envisioned it.”
Visually the chair appears to open up to people, the hand-quilted khaddar which is now a dying art in the country is upholstered with alot of attention to detail to enhance its beauty. The Love Seat is a cofortable, cozy and sculptural addition to any space. We love its aesthetics and how minimal it looks. It’s made-to-order and can be done through their Instagram page. Other than this, their concept store also focuses on home accessories, graphics, and some interesting stationary.
Founded by an interior architect – Roaa Tahir – Roaathawra is her sweat and soul. In times where people find furniture at exorbitant prices in stores, her aim is to make things affordable and modern.
We asked her about the Stacked Drawers that not only stand out as a modern piece of furniture but also a solution to storage problems in every home. Made in laminated MDF with solid wooden drawers, the 2 toned multipurpose drawer stand is eye-catching, sturdy yet very affordable. Her background in interior design helps her in making furniture that can be used in almost any space of the house.
Other than this there are a lot of other types of furniture that Roa is making. A thing that we love the most is that she considers her customer feedback very seriously. She is making efficient economical furniture to compete with the market and aims to take her brand to great heights in the future.
It is inspiring to see so many women in the local design industry and so this search is To be continued…