“We didn’t try to change technique,” Malene Barnett says to AD PRO. She’s speaking of the Orejen collection of fabrics, which officially launches today. The line, which aims to celebrate indigenous textile techniques and designs, was made by the Black Artists + Designers Guild in partnership with S. Harris. And while the braiding, woodworking, and beading techniques of three separate regions are clearly represented, how these fabrics will be used is arguably just as important as their authenticity.
“Responsible inspiration requires leading with the sources, providing information, and respecting people’s traditions,” Barnett emphasizes, using a term that is at its core the antithesis of cultural appropriation and is also newly part of S. Harris’s mission. “We want to encourage the design community to educate themselves and engage in deeper conversations about people, culture, materials, and traditions without taking ownership away from any of the sources.”
Indeed. Barnett’s message is one that is incredibly important for decorators everywhere to absorb. Speaking further on the topic, she adds: “Interior designers are hired to depict family life in a way that translates from mind to its environment via the language of design. You can’t string a sentence until you learn the language, and that is where there has been a disconnect. For years our heritage, our ancestors’ crafts have been misinterpreted at best and appropriated at worst.”
Barnett was not, however, alone in spearheading this project. BADG members Erin Shakoor, Rayman Boozer, Linda Hayslett, and Beth Diana Smith all participated in the design process. And while Barnett cites Tinga Tinga and Pele La as two specific fabrics that she is particularly partial to, other enviable textiles and trims abound. Tiger Nest, for example, is inspired by a monastery in the Southeast Asian nation of Bhutan, while Pemba Coast looks to the Zanzibar Archipelago for its undulating lines and deep color palette. Elsewhere, pieces like Bilum can trace their appearance to the Pacific Islands, and to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in particular.
S. Harris’s creative director, Jodi Finer, was also intimately involved with the process. “Throughout our two-year collaboration with Black Artists and Designers Guild, we have continued to do the important work of using our platform to drive impact initiatives and reinforce unification of the design industry,” she says to AD PRO. Speaking in part of this new collection, she adds, “We hope to ignite new conversations and meaningful change.”
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