Nur Kaoukji Discusses Her Design Journey So Far
Get to know the mind behind Ecru, Noon, 28 Kothi Jaipur and more…
After working for a few years under Munnu Kasliwal (the late owner of the Gem Palace in Jaipur), Lebanese designer Nur Kaoukji started her own lifestyle brand Ecru. Dividing her time between Beirut and Jaipur, she works closely with Indian artisans to create unique products for her label. Below, she chats with us about her design inspiration, her various projects and more…
How did you get into design?
I was studying political journalism in Beirut but found myself ditching university and having more fun than was necessary. I wasn’t really engaged or inspired. Until I met a jeweller who worked in the Armenian district of Beirut, and ran one of the many factories that function in that area. I was always drawn to the technique of jewellery-making so I began to intern there and then everything else sort of fell into place. I moved to London and studied design and then landed in India where I’m constantly learning about it.
How would you describe your style?
I like simplistic design but also the ornateness of ethnic and traditional art, so I would say my style is a mix of those two aesthetics.
What did you learn at The Gem Palace?
I worked under the late Munnu Kasliwal who taught me so many things, but most importantly he taught me patience, that most good things take time and that nothing is more interesting than the process. He took advantage of all the wonders that India has to offer, exploring and diving into the world of handicraft with the enthusiasm of a child and I loved working with him.
How is your design aesthetic influenced by the two countries you split your time between?
My design aesthetic is very much like my style which is influenced by all my surroundings — by the boldness of India, by the romanticism of the Levant and the mysteries of the traditional culture of the Gulf.
What is your design process for Ecru?
I work alongside my team in Kuwait, with my partner and best friend Noor Al Sabah. We discuss collections, key items we should have, reintroductions of old pieces. We receive inputs from every member of our team and then Sakshi, our production manager in Jaipur and I develop the product with the artisans with whom we have been working for the last few years.
Can you tell us a little about your work with artisans in India?
“It’s a rollercoaster and I love it. I’ve been working with artisans in India for the past ten years and have strong bonds with some who have really taught me a lot. Starting in the jewelry field and then moving on the textiles, brass, glass, papier mache, embroidery and more.
Can you describe what luxury means to you?
I think luxury is time. Having the time to truly enjoy something slowly, savouring every minute of the experience without feeling the rush of real life. Objects need time to be made… they need to be thought through, developed, refined. Time is luxury.
How did your clothing label, Noon, come about?
Noon was one of the first projects I worked on when I set off to start something on my own. It’s one that I couldn’t really let go of, so when Noor and I started Ecru, Noon was adopted into the brand.
Can you tell us more about designing 28 Kothi Jaipur?
Siddharth Kasliwal, the son of Munnu Kasliwal, became one of my best friends. His father was working on this house for a while and I would often see him musing over it, it was his happy place. So when Siddharth decided to turn it into a guest house, I felt a very strong connection to the property. When asked what I wanted for my birthday I said that I wanted to design Kothi! The answer was yes, and I started immediately. Munnu, his aesthetic, his taste for simplicity and his sense of humour were my starting points.
Where do you find inspiration?
In everything. Books I read, people I meet. The world is an inspiring place.
Which of your projects was most challenging and why?
28 Kothi, because I had never done such a project before and I felt that I was being trusted blindly. There’s no pressure like trust.
Is there anyone among your contemporaries who inspires you?
Among the many people who inspire me are Brigitte Singh, Marie Hélène de Taillac, Déborah Di Fiore of Modest Genius Design, Sophia Watanabe of Sophia203.
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