Phulia April 16 2019, 0 Comments
I was told some months ago that a few hours drive outside of Calcutta exists a community of weavers who specialize in handloom, particularly jamdani, which is an incredible technique of weaving muslin. The excitement of meeting new artisans comes second only to the discovery of hidden treasure. It was not long after I was told that I found myself on small windy roads headed in the direction of a village named Phulia.
The Bengal countryside is a magical dream, particularly for those who have the luxury to choose not to live there. It is a mix of driving through a romantic scene from Kipling's Junglebook and the harsh realities of rural India. A lush and destitute jungle that time and the government have forgotten. But that is a completely different subject.
Four hours into the drive the dusty road begins to resemble a relatively normal one and fabric stores begin to line the street. Enthusiastic hand-painted signs indicate your arrival to Phulia. The shops sell meterage of beautiful handloom muslin which are either leftover pieces from private production or pieces the artisans chose to develop themselves, which either follow current trends or are one of a kind masterpieces. Apparently, this is usually where visiting dealers stop to accumulate meterage of fabric that they then take back to the city to sell.
Prashant, our contact in Phulia, met us at the side of the road and lead the way into the village where we would arrive to his beautiful family house. We were met by his proud father and excited family members. We didn't have much time to spare so Prashant took us through the village, where you could see abandoned miniature looms on the terraces of the modest houses. He showed us to a small brick hut hidden in a banana plantation, where his sister in law spools thread by hand. A process which is difficult to believe or understand unless you have seen it with your own eyes. This lady spends hours a day alone in a room concentrating so deeply on her craft that I can only imagine transforms her into a meditative state. Working with an invisible thread that only she can see. I felt like I was in a fairy tale and was being made to imagine something that wasn't actually happening. I couldn't see a thread at all but at times when her fingers worked particularly fast I could catch a glimpse of a sheen, not unlike catching a glimpse of a spider's web in the sunlight. I had never seen this process in real life before.
We left her and continued to walk through the plantation, encompassed by moist, earthy air, to soon reach another hut. I could hear the sound of the slow rhythm of the shuttle. I love the sounds of handicraft. Inside we found an elderly gentleman who was using a handloom, three times his size. He smiles at us quietly but isn't alarmed or disturbed by our presence. He continues avidly weaving. His hut is small and moist which keeps him and the threads cool. He has a little God corner, as they all do, with several photos of different deities, who have been offered their daily flower garlands and sweets. Nothing else, nothing else is really needed. The room is sparse and to the point, only the artisans and his tools. No radio, no T.V or phone. Oh! Except for a small broken mirror and a comb where he occasionally brushes his tiny tuft of hair while taking his chai break.
Prashant explains to us the sadly common story, 'This is my uncle, he is one of the last handloom weavers still working, the only reason he hasn't bought a power loom is that he finds he is too old and won't last long enough to reap its benefits. His son is not interested in weaving.' 'My father takes pride in his work so he keeps his loom but my other uncles have collectively invested in power looms'. He then begins to explain the mechanism of the looms and the intricate details at which point his uncle breaks from his meditative state and looks up to take part in the conversation.
I can not contain my excitement. I feel alive again! I want to move to Phulia and live with the weavers and reawaken the World to the beauty of Handloom. But of course, I know this feeling all too well. I've had it many times before. I end up doing only what I am capable of, I give Prashant a design that we work on together to translate it for the loom. I choose the colors and prepare to go back to the city. But before I go I ask Prashant what I always ask artisans, which piece is his favorite. He pulls out a piece of fabric that is no larger than a kitchen towel. There is no designed pattern except for what appears to be a mishmash of wildly colored threads. Not what I was expecting him to pull out at all, with barrels of such sophisticated weaves. 'This one is my favorite, I collect leftover threads from all the weaving production we do for these famous designers and eventually I weave them into one piece that I own. A piece of all the different designers in one.'
(Images courtesy of Nur Kaoukji)
Alabaster January 23 2019, 0 Comments
Alabaster is a new material that we are working for our new collection. A beautiful mineral that has many uses. The rock usually is clear and translucent making the light go through it and the softness of the stone allows for many functions. Alabaster, the word, originated from Ancient Egypt which is a reference to the vessel of the Egyptian goddess Bast. It was used historically by many cultures for decorative purposes especially in making sculptures. We are very excited about using it in our new Cups, that will be launched in the Spring.
Sophia 203's Magical Craftsmanship October 15 2018, 0 Comments
The perks of collaborating with Sophia Watanabe of Sophia 203 is the magic she is always able to produce in her atelier in Jaipur for the following reasons:
"Sophia’s embroidery — done with ancient techniques called aari and zardozi, which are practiced only by male artisans in Rajasthan and mostly used on costumes for religious ceremonies — adorns everything from necklaces to pillows to clutches and features intricately stitched flora and fauna, like poppies or butterflies, in bright shades of coral, turquoise and pink. Often inspired by works of art (a recent collection was based on the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois), Sophia’s creations take hours of handcrafting and have the rich, inimitable feel of vintage heirlooms. She begins by sketching her designs, including the color placement of every thread, after which her artisans make a sample." Amanda Fortini
(Images courtesy of Masumi Kura for the New York Times Style Magazine)
Our New Home February 27 2018, 1 Comment
It’s been a long time coming but we have finally opened our very own showroom.
In Zahra complex, on the 8th floor overlooking the beautiful Arabian Gulf, we invite you all to our space. We worked with local designers to integrate all that is ecru from the natural stone on our floors, the carved wooden door embedded with brass symbols, and the antique Indian lion who greets you upon entering. We have designed a wild hand painted playroom for all the little ones who visit as well as a full working kitchen for upcoming foodie events. We made sure the showroom would be adaptable to accommodate all of our fantasy future collections but still keeping it cozy and welcoming to all of our clients.
Please visit us from Sunday to Thursday 9 am to 3 pm so we can make you a fresh mug of steaming tea and walk you through our collections.
(Images courtesy of ecru)
Semi Precious September 11 2017, 0 Comments
Stones are both beautiful and healing, that's why we love using them in our products. Last year we started making necklaces and bracelets from semi precious stones, so the healing properties can be felt when worn. Because we love the magic of these stones, we will be introducing new objects made out of them. Just as your body needs the energy of these stones, your home does too. These specialty objects will be launching towards the end of the year, just in time to reflow the energy of your home for the New Year.
(Image courtesy of ecru)
The Annual Jaipur Visit November 02 2016, 0 Comments
Last week I did my annual pilgrimage to Jaipur, which is always exciting and fun. I got to meet with the production team at our Indian office. First thing was looking at the amazing fabrics that Nur sourced for our lounge dresses. The next order of business was visiting different factories and workshops. I got to see what is being sampled for upcoming collections. My favorite part is the printing factory. It always amazes me to see how artisans carve beautiful blocks and printers meticulously hand print our fabric. The natural rhythm they have while printing fabric is unbelievably calming. However, my latest obsession is the treasure trove that is the stringers workshop. It's absolutely amazing with all the different stones displayed and dangled. Just spectacular.
(Images courtesy of ecru)
Cofounder Noor Al Sabah on the Cover of Khaleejesque October 04 2016, 0 Comments
Khaleejesque's latest "Bloom" issue features ecru's Co-Founder Noor Al Sabah on the cover wearing one of our latest robes. Make sure to pick up the magazine to read the full interview on the inspiration that lead her to start and create ecru with Nur Kaoukji. You'll also get a chance to see her in our latest lounge pieces.
(Image courtesy of Khaleejesque)
Bananas for Bananas! February 17 2014, 0 Comments
You rarely meet someone who doesn't like a banana. They are one of these fruits that everyone loves, and especially if they are in a sweet treat. We've been working on several banana prints for spring and couldn't help craving this delicious Roasted Banana, Chocolate, and Coconut bread.
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canned coconut milk (may swap butter milk or greek yogurt)
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (or swap canola oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (use more or less to your liking)
1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Peel the bananas and lay them flat on the baking sheet. Drizzle each banana with a drizzle of honey and then sprinkle with cinnamon. Roast them for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the bananas are very golden brown and caramelized. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, mash the bananas and set aside. Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees F.
Spray a 9x5 loaf pan thoroughly with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, combine the white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour), all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt, whisking thoroughly. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Add in coconut milk and canola oil, whisking until combined. Stir in mashed bananas and vanilla until mixed. Slowly stir in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate and toasted coconut. Pour batter into the greased loaf pan and sprinkle with the remaining unsweetened coconut flakes.
Place loaf pan on a baking sheet and set in the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until center is set. If the top begins to brown (mine did after about 45 minutes), tent the bread with aluminum foil.
Remove and let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Bread will keep (covered) for 3-5 days.
(Image and recipe of Banana Loaf courtesy of Half Baked Harvest)
ecru's Soundtrack, Celia Cruz's Guantanamera January 22 2014, 0 Comments
Our tropical fever is not going anywhere anytime soon. We've been heavily influenced by the sounds and colors of the Caribbean. And with the help Celia Cruz's Cuban Salsa beats playing in the background, we've been busy coming up with our tropical themed Spring Summer 2014 collection.
Block Print Influence December 09 2013, 0 Comments
Nur gave a speech during Nuqat’s 2012 conference and a small workshop on block printing, which led Anwar to create a print that she used in products produced by Sadu House and sold at this year’s Nuqat’s Culture Shock Confrence. It is a delight to see a young artist use an ancient technique in her work, and we love working with artisans in creating block printed products. The full article on Anwar’s experience in Nur’s Nuqat workshop can be found here.
(Images courtesy of ecru and Khaleejesque)
Explosive Pomegranate August 26 2013, 0 Comments
Summer is still in full force, but fall produce is slowly approaching us. Pomegranate is one of those fruits that is usually introduced towards the end of summer to pave the way for the rest of fall and winter's fruits. Here’s a light Pasta with Spinach and Pomegranate that is filled with both texture and taste. Just as the fall produce is coming our way in the markets, we’d like to introduce you to ecru's new pomegranate print for the upcoming fall and winter collection.
8 ounces (227 grams) Gluten Free Brown Rice Spaghetti, cooked and drained (or any pasta you like)
1 cup (120 g) diced Red Onion
1 Garlic Clove, diced
6 ounces (170 grams) Baby Spinach
4 ounces (115 grams) fresh Pomegranate Seeds (Arils)
Roasted Slivered Almonds
Crumbled Feta, Blue Cheese, or slivered Parmesan Cheese (your choice)
Cook pasta, toss with some olive oil and set aside. Add a splash of olive oil to a large saucepan. Heat the garlic and onion over medium heat until lightly browned and the onions translucent. Stir often. Season with garlic salt, smoked paprika and black pepper. Add baby spinach ~ one handful at a time. Let each handful wilt a bit before adding the next. Once all of the spinach is wilted toss with pasta, pomegranate seeds and some fresh thyme. Season to taste with more garlic salt, smoked paprika and black pepper if needed. Top with slivered almonds and or cheese.
(Recipe and Image of Pasta courtesy of Family Fresh Cooking)
Enchanting Jaipur June 25 2013, 0 Comments
After the hustle and bustle of Bombay we hopped on the train to enchanting Jaipur. Once there, we met with all the talented artisans we work with to discuss the production of new exciting ecru products for your home. Bright colors of thread were chosen for our embroidered crib charms at Sophia 203, cotton was dyed in unique colors to be woven into our dhurries, and bright paint was mixed to create unique combinations for our hand block printed fabric.
We can’t wait to show you what’s up our sleeves, but until then, here’s a little sneak peek of what went on in Jaipur.
Bombay Meri Jaan June 12 2013, 0 Comments
We are in Bombay enjoying this energetic city during monsoon, finding inspiration in every street corner. Most importantly we are meeting with the talented Modest Genius, and Kara Weaves to collaborate on exciting new ecru products.
Stay tuned for more on our trip because we are off to enchanting Jaipur next.
The Big Reveal April 30 2013, 0 Comments
We finally got the chance to introduce you to our world, last week, at the launch of the ecru’s Pop-Up shop at Dar Al-Funoon. It wouldn’t have been a success without all of your amazing support. Our aim is to make sure you are constantly enjoying the simple luxuries of your home.
We hope you love it, just as much as we love creating it.
Noor & Nur
(Video courtesy of Saud Al-Khateib for ecru)
Just A Squeeze Of Lemon April 10 2013, 0 Comments
Here’s a little sneak behind the scenes of the magical noon for ecru ‘When Life Gives You Lemons’ shoot. Stay tuned for the final juice.
Holi Post Better Late Than Never April 03 2013, 0 Comments
I can safely say, for those who manufacture in India, Holi is that time of year when you constantly cringe, knowing all your deadlines are due, and that absolutely nothing will get done.
Because the first thing that happens when Holi approaches is that although everyone can speak of nothing else, the actual date that Holi falls on can not be pin pointed.
'Some time around the 20th till the 29th, it's definitely one of those days'.
The pre warning begins around two weeks in advance, 'Don't forget, it's HOLI, every one is returning to their village, all work will stop!' Whether they are going 1 week before or staying a week later also depends on when the date falls.
Frustration builds and you find yourself detesting absolutely everyone.
From the happy tourists who arrive wearing the predictable white kurta pyjama, flip flops and huge Canon cameras complete with the wide angle lens, which you know isn't going to make it through the colorful, chaotic and highly wet festival of Holi.
To your friends who smugly inform you of their elaborate Holi holiday plans that they've pre organized as not to endure the stress of watching their production being abandoned.
I'm never that organized.
This year, although Holi was bumpy, manufacturing wise, I must say I was quite excited.
A friend explained the mythological history of Holi, and like most holidays that fall around this time of year, it has to do with harvesting and the reformation of crops.
It has developed into the festival of color, where everyone is basically intoxicated from the morning's start. The protocol is to dress in white, leave the house armed with water guns or buckets, and pigments which you have purchased the night before.
Grandmothers, children, milk vendors, everyone comes out and goes completely wild. By the time you reach where ever it is that you are going to play Holi, you have probably been completely sprayed by a rainbow of colors on the street and are soaking wet.
It's a completely surreal feeling, and what is even better is that you can physically feel all tension and stress left behind as everyone runs frantically, spraying each other with water so the fluorescent pigments stick. Strangers roar at each other and join forces to gang up on others. I have no other way to describe it but surreal.
By the end of the day, nothing makes sense. Everyone is an intoxicated blur of color and is completely worn out, but extremely happy and relaxed.
Generally life resumes to normal the day after Holi, at least with those who have returned from their villages. And it's an amazing feeling to try to keep a straight face and actually talk work while everyone, including yourself, has remnants of faint Holi stains that refuse to scrub off or green hair that will need a few more washes to resume it's natural color.
Life is some how put into perspective, seriousness and stress are replaced by absurdity and foolishness. And it feels so good.
(Images courtesy of ecru & Juliette Dumerchat)
ecru Soundtrack, Carmen Miranda's I Like You Very Much April 01 2013, 0 Comments
We can never get enough of Carmen Miranda’s upbeat energy and music. Her songs, especially ‘I Like You Very Much’, inspire us so much that she became the muse for our ‘Carmen’ range.
Dhurrie Weaving March 04 2013, 1 Comment
I hadn't been in India a very long time before I was sent on a dhurrie mission. My charismatic boss Munnu Kasliwal, who was a firm believer in perfecting tradition, sent me to create a series of dhurries for the floors of his new store.
For those of you unfamiliar with it's traditional name, a dhurrie is a hand woven carpet, traditional to India and can be made of cotton, wool, jute or silk. It is however; more commonly made in cotton and is known to cool your house in the summer, and warm it in the winter.
I had no idea what to expect as I was on my way to the factory. I drove miles outside of Jaipur, listening to my iPod for about an hour, happy to be out of the office and into the country. The driver off roaded for a while before we arrived at what looked like a farm dotted in what appeared to be multicolored bridges.
It was an incredible site.
I was in front of a field of pit looms where weavers sit in seats made into the earth, with their feet dangling in pits under oversized looms, using both their hands and feet to weave.
I felt that I had entered into a world that time had forgotten. There wasn't a machine in sight. The weavers somehow appeared to be part of the Earth. I'm not one to use phrases such as 'organic', but in a way, it seemed as though the two complemented each other.
One of the weavers told me that this specific village was known to have the best dhurries in Rajhastan, but he was from this village and was bound to think so. I was mesmerized and spent the entire day watching how they separated the yarn, how they mounted the looms, how they sat and wove using both their hands and feet while singing away to Bollywood hits from the 50s.
Thought I'd share.
ecru’s Soundtrack, Silvana Mangano’s El Negro Zumbon February 27 2013, 0 Comments
To keep the mood upbeat, we've been listening to the beautiful Silvana Mangano’s El Negro Zumbon from her movie Anna. There’s nothing like a Latin beat to add a little spice to our day.
Magic February 13 2013, 0 Comments
The day always begins bright in Jaipur.
Living with two fabulous girls, the three of us in design, means that without fail, the door bell frantically rings at 8.00am.
There are two painters who are back for the 100th time to repaint your house.
The tailor, who is soon becoming a fellow housemate arrives, tangled in swatches of fabrics for your approval.
A random 90 year old gardener discreetly floats by you in his white 'lungie' to save your attempt at a jungle terrace.
All the while coffee is overflowing in the kitchen, fresh fruits are being chopped and plans for the day are bouncing off of each person that passes by.
Your breakfast meeting then simmers and your working day begins.
You skip pass wild bougainvillea outside the house, waving at your smiling neighbors, inhaling the absolute exotic bliss that is your life.
Right before you crash. Hard. Into reality.
There's been some major confusion. The design which you handed to the block printer more than a month ago seems to have been used as a coaster for a paint bucket, as a result is no where near being made. The fabric you imagined your entire line of bed linens to be made in hasn't arrived from Calcutta, and will probably never arrive. Your order sheets have been misplaced - which technically means you don't exist.
Ah yes, the familiar roller coaster of emotions begin.
But that is what we love about Jaipur. One can be sure that a day does not pass uneventful. No emotions are spared. All senses are undoubtedly exasperated. Your breath is constantly cut short by a lingering date that floats in your mind - you know you're never going to make it - 1000 meters of fabric can not be printed in thirty days - there really is no point, you may as well quit while you're ahead. Quit now.
And then you enter the workshop. The artisans are jolly, they laugh at your impossible orders, they tease you with the potentiality of failure, they reassure you that it will all work out in the end. And you know it will. Then, with the precision of surgeons they begin. Chisiling at their blocks, creating colors from dust, stretching fabric so it's tightly crisp and printing in perfect rhythm. Everything makes sense.
The artisans are magic.
Comforting Grey February 11 2013, 0 Comments
There's something calming about the color grey. It evokes a certain kind of romance, especially when it's raining outside and all you want to do is cuddle on your couch with that perfect someone or that perfect cup fo tea.
ecru uses it's signature chinchilla grey to create a sense of comfort. A perfect neutral that is flattering with any bright color, and we love to pair it with our lemon-drop yellow to make it pop. One of the ways we combine these colors organically is by creating a grey lantern. Once you turn on the light the flash of yellow illuminates through the grey, achieving the ultimate sense of serenity.
(Images courtesy of John Drysdale, Garance Dore, Hans Feurer, Life Magazine 1948, and ecru)
ecru's Soundtrack, Billie Holliday's Summertime February 06 2013, 0 Comments
Number one hit on our soundtrack, perfectly in tune with our summer obsession. Thought we'd share what we have playing in the background while we work, with you...
Seashells By The Seashore February 04 2013, 0 Comments
As a child, one of the favorite past times on the beach is collecting seashells. The thrill of finding unique shapes, different colors, and finally showing off your bucket full of treasures to your family.
We are all attracted to the mysteries of the ocean. It's salty scents and calming sounds, which is why we have taken the ocean, in all her glory, as inspiration for our launching collection. We plan on rekindling your childhood memories of outings by the sea.
'The sea, once it casts its spell holds one in its net of wonder forever' Jacques Cousteau.
(Images courtesy of Pintrest, 1001 Treasures, Glamour Magazine, The Graphics Fairy, and ecru)
Our Printing Process January 15 2013, 0 Comments
The thing that gets me the most excited when I first look at a textile, isn't the way it feels, isn't the brightness of its color or the sheen of its weave. It's the process behind it. Technique has always been an obsession of mine, and the technique of block printing is a fabulous one.
Every aspect of block printing is beautiful. From the wood block itself, which is meticulously chiseled, by an artisan who has been trained for years to prefect his craft. To the swatches of jute used to hold the pigments on which the blocks are stamped.
And what I love about block printing is it's lack of pretentiousness. It does not scream of the amount of work that is put into it's production.
Here's a little bit about the technique:
Blocks are made in a series, each block represents one color, the more colors in a print, the more blocks are made.
Once blocks are chiseled, and the pigments for a print are made and ready, a different set of artisans (the stampers) take control of the process. The stampers use the chiseled blogs to gently tap onto swatches of jute fabric which hold their respective colors. The drenched block is then tapped on the chosen, stretched fabric, until it dries.
The pressure of the tap while printing has to be of such a perfect mix of firm lightness, that it is enough evidence to differentiate an experienced stamper from another.
In a block printing workshop there can be up to two dozen stampers, each can produce a different looking fabric, even if using the same print and color, solely based on their tap.
The outcome of a block printed fabric depends on every person involved in it's making - from the designer to the block printer to the stamper. The look of a fabric can change based on any of these person's styles or moods. It is a highly sensitive process.
The perfect block printing quality is when one cannot tell where the print begins, and where it ends.
It is a beautiful technique of printing, we hope you love it as much as we do, as there are a lot of exciting prints coming your way.
Love from Jaipur,
*(images courtesy of Alfred Tarazi)