IKEA’s brand new LOKALT collection brings together local traditions and cultures with four young contemporary designers from Amman, Delhi and Bangkok. Produced by social businesses in Jordan, Thailand and India, every piece is handmade by skilled artisans and provides livelihood opportunities in regions where it’s most needed.
The designers of LOKALT are fashion designer Tania Haddad from Amman, IKEA in-house designer Akanksha Deo based in Delhi and design duo Ploypan Theerachai and Decha Archjananun from Bangkok. Each product tells stories from the places where the products are made – celebrating the beautiful chaos of Amman’s cityscape; drawing inspiration from traditional Indian kantha embroidery; and paying tribute to the Thai culture of sharing meals with family and friends.
Tania Haddad was born in Amman, Jordan, in 1989. She started her career by studying fashion in Italy. Today she runs her fashion brand Tania George from Amman and London. For LOKALT, she designed cushion covers showcase glimpses of everyday life in Amman and feature intricate hand-embroidered details.
“Amman is a very special city for me. It’s beautiful and charming and a bit chaotic with all the people, the colourful cars, the small alleyways and the rooftops that double as living rooms. I call it beautiful chaos – a chaos I miss every time I’m away. I wanted to show all that in my design,” says Tania.
Tania also worked together with the Jordan River Foundation, which helps to create jobs for Jordanian women and women refugees, and help contribute to their integration. “I’ve worked with social businesses right from the start of my brand, but when you’re a small brand, you only reach a limited number of people. Partnering up with IKEA changes that. In Jordan, there are very, very many crafty women who want to work and it’s great to bring that opportunity to them,” she adds. “I asked them how they could incorporate embroidery into my prints, but I also wanted them to add their personal touch,” she adds. “They are really talented. For example, it’s mind-bending to watch how they can draw an image directly on the fabric, using an embroidery sewing machine.”
“I take lots of pictures of pickups, and almost every time the driver stops and tells me the story of the design and how proud he is of the car. They are very representative of Amman. In Amman, there’s a whole culture around designing the pickup of your dreams. Now you can own your own, with hand-embroidered details.”– Tania Haddad
Meanwhile, Delhi designer Akanksha Deo designed the beautifully handwoven woollen LOKALT rugs as inspired by traditional Indian kantha embroidery, each one sustainable, renewable and durable. Born in 1991, Akanksha grew up in Delhi, India, where she also studied fashion technology. In 2016 she started working as an in-house designer at IKEA, based in Delhi. “My main inspiration comes from the local practices of my culture and from my immediate surroundings here in Delhi. I’ve also looked for similarities to other cultures and transformed my findings into patterns and forms that are playful, figurative and modern,” says Akanksha.
“The rug is inspired by the traditional Indian kantha embroidery. The curved shapes that look like enlarged embroidery is in fact part of the hand-woven design,” adds Akanksha. “The pattern on the wool rug takes its cue from the matka, a pot traditionally used as a home water cooler, and the organic forms and curves that can be seen everywhere in India. The idea was to take a traditional motif and give it a modern expression.”
Every cushion cover and rug is unique – handmade by skilled Indian artisans in collaboration with Akanksha Deo. “The artisans have so much to teach us, mastering skills that sometimes go back many generations,” she says. “Thanks to their contribution, we can create unique, handmade products that tell the story of the makers, their community and their culture – and share them with the world.”
Akanksha also designed the LOKALT baskets and lampshades. Being hand-woven, as well as made from banana bark, a fibre with natural colour variations, no two pieces are alike. The banana fibre basket is essentially a job maker, hand-braided by women artisans working for Industree, an Indian social business with a clear purpose – to provide long-term livelihoods where it’s most needed.
So far in IKEA’s collaboration with Industree, seven collections have been created and sold in stores in Europe, Japan, and Korea – with more to come. For LOKALT, 700 artisans were involved.
“I’ve learnt a lot. It’s amazing how something that’s perceived as traditional in one cultural context can be considered totally modern in another. Still, the most striking thing of all is how similar we all are, despite coming from different backgrounds.”– Akanksha Deo
Finally, Thai designers Ploypan Theerachai and Decha Archjananun worked with IKEA on the LOKALT collection of bowls, vases and plates. Ploypan and Decha both grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. After studies abroad, they returned to the Thai capital, and in 2008 they started THINKK design studio. “We get inspired by things around us, by looking at them in new ways. It can be everyday objects, it can be antiques, anything that speaks to us. Sometimes we find an interesting item in the street and bring elements of it into our design,” they muse.
With the LOKALT ceramics, the designer duo celebrate traditional Thai handicraft and the traditional way of serving food while adding a modern twist. Fusing contemporary Thai design with traditional handicraft is a recurring theme for THINKK studio, with the handmade element emphasized by the finger imprints left on the surface of the bowls, vase and plate.
In Thailand, it’s customary to offer, or accept, something with both hands as a sign of respect. The two handles on the LOKALT ceramics reflect that tradition. “Sharing meals and dining together is an integral part of Thai culture. It brings family and friends together. With that – and the rich Thai history of ceramic artefacts – as our starting point, we designed a set of dishes, bowls and vases,” they say.
For the LOKALT collection, THINKK design studio worked with local artisans from Doi Tung in northern Thailand. They are in turn employed by Doi Tung DP, a social business – and long-time partner to IKEA – that creates jobs for tribal people in northern Thailand.
“The artisans have made a great job, manifested through the finger imprints that add to the beauty of the finished piece. Working with local artisans is a good way to bring the aesthetics, the essence, of a place like Doi Tung to the world. We hope that each product will give the person who brings it home a sense of us, and of the artisans producing it.”– THINKK Design Studio
Says Maria O’Brian, Creative Leader at IKEA: “I looked for designers with a modern expression because I wanted to show that handicraft doesn’t have to look traditional or old-fashioned. It can be modern and even avant-garde. Also, the designers needed to be open to collaborating and wanting to be a part of creating better opportunities for vulnerable communities.”
“It is a constant process where you start with an idea and together find a way to what is possible. The collaborations between the different designers and the artisans are very much explored in the prototype phase.”– Maria O’Brian, Creative Leader at IKEA
“For example, we sent out rough ideas for the carpets we wanted to create to the supplier before we visited – but when Akanksha Deo and I came to the factory, we got lots of new input from the craftswomen. In the end, we developed a couple of completely new designs based on the techniques they showed us.”
Finally, on working together with the various foundations, Maria comments: “These collaborations give my team and me such a clear purpose. They are a way for us as a big company to help to create jobs in areas where they are needed the most. Also, we learn so much about handicraft and cultures – and what possibilities and restrictions we have to consider when there are people behind every stitch.”
The LOKALT limited collection will be available for purchase in IKEA Tampines and online from 3rd June 2021, while stocks last. Find out more at IKEA.sg/lokalt