Exciting news ahead folks because, guess what (this should be easy if you’ve read the title of this blog post), I’ve designed my own sustainable collection with indie homeware brand, Kalinko – cue hysterical pinch me moment.
This has been a goal for a very long time now. No need to go anywhere just yet as the collection is yet to launch (more on that at the end of this post) but I wanted to spend some time introducing you to the brand itself. It’s become particularly close to me over the last 18 months for obvious reasons but I know you’re going to love the products as much as I do. Here’s how it all started…
Back in July 2020, I received an email from the Kalinko team asking if I would be interested in designing a capsule collection for them. I was immediately taken with the rattan and smoked glass products gracing the website pages and on further research, it was clear that there was more than pretty interior products going on. There was history, craftsmanship, tradition and a whole lot of passion behind the business.
Intrigued to know more, I hopped onto a zoom call with the wonderful founder, Sophie Garnier, and it was immediately obvious that this partnership was a good match. Total second date territory and thankfully, Sophie felt the same. After the call, I immediately started thinking about ideas and getting to grips with what was possible. I pulled out all my coffee table books and started flicking through for good references and vibes. Some of my books on musicians have the best vintage pieces inside which are wonderful archival references.
One of the most important things to me when working with businesses is that I can lean into the excitement of others. Sophie has this in abundance and it was immediately clear to me that she would not stop at anything to let the world know about Kalinko. I learned of her own life in Burma, her desire to keep Burmese craft alive and bring it to a wider audience, to support artisans in their villages and provide for them and their families with fair living wages. All Kalinko products are made by artisans in Burma and they’re all paid fairly by cutting out the wholesaler in the middle. You can read more about Kalinko here but there’s a very quick lo-down below too.
An average family in Burma is made up of four people. 38% are farming families and live off less than $300 a month. Adequate nutrition, healthcare and education for four costs around $750, and that was before a global pandemic and military coup that has overcome the country in the last two years.
The creative industries are suffering in Burma. Local demand has dwindled and cheap imports have undercut their trade. Yet here in the UK, it’s exactly the style of craftsmanship that plenty of us aspire to have in our homes. Products are made slowly, by hand, using techniques passed down through generations and they are well and truly made to last.
Now, for a little insight into the inspiration behind the collection itself. Of course I had to bring a little bit of a 70s twist to any collection designed by me and upon further research, Burma was bursting with creativity during these times, despite the heavy political climate. Deep into a decade of social and economic decline, it was a time of severe oppression for the country. But behind closed doors, there was a vibrant, secret world of expression and rebellion which belied the strictly policed public façade.
Studio photos of students dressed in flared trousers and mini skirts copied from illegally imported copies of Elle and Cosmopolitan hint at the vibrant minds making the best of things in the safety of their homes. And happily for the fashion-hungry, the global 70s trend for bamboo and rattan furniture, for curved edges and soft geometric shapes sat perfectly in Burma, the home of rattan. The Burmese were on trend before the trend was a trend.
I’ve now posted another feature which each of the sustainable furniture pieces, plus you’ll find lots of images and details on my Instagram. You can now shop EJP x Kalinko! It’s really important to me that you meet the makers behind each design and I’m thrilled to take you on this journey with me. Thank you to Sophie and the rest of the Kalinko team, Liv for her matchmaking skills and my lovely friend Joanna Bongard for shooting the collection. Bring on more!