Ecru, The Light Beige Color of Unbleached Linen
“Ecru is a lifestyle more than a product’’ says founders Nur and Noor. Ecru offers homeware for those of us who enjoy simple luxuries, both beautiful and functional. It's appreciating discreet scents from the jasmine bush that linger outside your door.Connecting with the artisan responsible for your intricate cotton dhurrie. Allowing the vibrant color of your block printed table cloth to lift your mood. Instinctively rubbing a cashmere throw between your fingers whenever you pass by it. Losing yourself in your freshly laundered towels. Ecru is remembering to enjoy the simple luxuries of your home.
We chatted with the founders to explore their craft and design process.
Journey with Design and Materials
We both are the children of creative parents. We grew up surrounded by a lot of fantasy. Our parents are the best of friends, both have strong personalities and strong aesthetics. We grew up together, literally almost side by side. Whether we travelled for summer vacations and saw beautiful public gardens or walked around museums or binged on old hollywood films at home in bed, we were definitely both absorbing and sharing our attraction to what we know realize is design.
After university we both worked, for quite some time, and gained a lot of experience in the field of reality and management. Noor worked for the Al Othman department store, one of the oldest institutes of fashion in the region, the first of it's kind to introduce the established houses such as Oscar De La Renta and the like, as well as first blooms such as Erdem, Proenza Schouler and hundreds more.
I (Nur) moved to Jaipur where I worked for the prestigious Gem Palace of Jaipur directly under the late Munnu Kasliwal.
Both our worked influenced our future decision to work together, we gained confidence in our training and our employers who acted as forms of patrons in a way.
Being two Arab girls who had the privilege to travel around the World from a young age and meet some of the most interesting people, our influences are a combined mish-mash of all we've been exposed to. I think we're both very much drawn to characters. People who move us, their personal stories that excite us to dig deep and dive into other cultures, other personal universes.
Indian designs globally
When I first arrived to India I was blown away by what the country had to offer in terms of design. It is dripping in it. From all the hand painted typography, the brave choice of colors, the stacking of vegetables and fruit. It is a country that is teeming in well designed beauty. What I found strange, well not so strange as it something that we too are guilty of in the Middle East, was a need to replicate or emulate what was happening in contemporary design in the West. In general I found that pret a porter fashion was confused, as it was neither here nor there. Popular interior design - be it cafes, hotels etc the same. It can be a pastiche of different cultures that didn't necessarily work. However, In the last five years I feel something extremely exciting is happening. A pride of Indian design, developed from an Indian aesthetic. Young designers are appreciating and promoting their available handloom industries - although we can never do this enough.
One of the crucial products that we design and create every year is our istikana sets. These are sets of traditional Kuwaiti tea cups that we modernize in ur own very way. This year we decided to design our tea set around the theme of the deep and wild jungle. We created this by pairing the glass cup with a brass hand embossed super in the shape of palm tree leaves. We felt that the tropical theme would be well received and had a bit of fun in it. We chose a palm leaf so it loops in our lives both in India as well as in Kuwait. We also played with either a more traditional waisted glass cup or a more modern straight glass, also a touchy preference for our clients. When it came to the stirrer we toyed with the options of a tropical bird or another palm leaf to keep in line with the saucer. To finish off our set- we wanted to house it in a special box- both so they can be easily gifted and feel special as well as allow for protection and an easy storage solution. Our set of six jungle istikana will be embedded in a screen printed jungle box inspired by the fabulous artist Henri Rousseau.
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The Craft Project that wishes to document tangible anthropology i.e material culture of a place and comment on its relevance in the contemporary space. We also wish to bring together a community of cultural travelers and craft entrepreneurs and create a collective of common motivation. The Craft Project celebrates Diversity in culture through objects, folk arts, crafts, and design. Through this project, we will be conducting community-sourced primary research and publishing about crafts and will involve brands, NGOs, collectives, makers, designers, curators, thought leaders, other publications etc.
Balance of modern and traditional
It's funny, someone in Jaipur recently asked the religious significance the symbols of the eye, the eight pointed star and the hand have. And the truth of the matter is, absolutely none. What does have a large influence on design is superstition. Since time immemorial human's innately feel the need to protect themselves, or whom they love from bad energies by using different kinds of talismans. That is what we attracted to and definitely influences us.
I think that craft has always been commercial, so creating a balance of modern and traditional isn't something we are very conscious of when we design. What are faced with are limitations in technique, understanding craft better, what we can do versus what we can not. This is what we find most interesting. We love the shape a product can take when we begin developing it according to the advice the artisan has given us.
What is a challenge however is industrialisation. People have become so used to purchasing things which have been machine made, so explaining the beauty in the differences you get with things being handmade is one of our largest obstacles, but we don't mind, it's worth it!
I think that India, the Middle East and Europe play big roles in what we make, it's interesting to us to see what people identify as Arab which is actually a Byzantine motif or influenced by an ancient Indian carving. Or vice versa. The more we design, the more we realize just how much design influences has travelled and influenced the world. For example the three dots and stripe motif which we've used can be found in Ottoman art to Buddhist art.
Living and working in Jaipur
I (Nur) have been living in Jaipur for almost fourteen years now so I'm basically Jaipuri, I can't even remember half of the funny stories as they've become part of my everyday life. I can say that it's been a dream, I landed here when I was twenty and did everything to be able to stay, and thankfully I did as it's the city that allowed us to start our business and have access to some of the most wonderful people we know.
It is definitely becoming a design hub which is quite wonderful.
Our favorites are definitely the beautiful blue Bar Palladio, the two Indian Coffee Houses, Brigitte Singh, 28 Kothi Cafe, Idli, all the artisans you find in the small streets of the bazaar.