Infusing Ethnic Tradition with Modern Vitality
It began with the meeting of two distinct female minds. Nolwenn Brunel spent several years in East Africa before opening her own boutique with an emphasis on “spicy” handcrafted products. Years later she began her work with Stephanie, a multilingual woman with a scientific background who ran her own business of importing Fair Trade products from Argentina to Europe. The two women joined forces to create a company with emphasis on fair trade principles and feminine appeal. All the textiles and pottery are created in and sourced from Ethiopia. Nolwenn refers to their product line as, “A subtle mix of tradition and design: renewed patterns, traditional materials used in a very contemporary spirit.”
The decorative items and accessories reflect centuries of artistry and skill. The company preserves the history and integrity of each product through principles that include ascertaining prefinanced orders, raw and recycled materials, waste and water processing, and honoring the need their artisans and skilled workers with good working conditions and creative self-agency.
Indeed, one of its favored collections, the Guinea Fowl pottery line, was conceived by a female designer from Ethiopia. This capricious and intricately detailed collection, Nolwenn tells us, “have been coated with sesame oil, then baked in buried ovens and smoked with eucalyptus leaves. Finally, the dots are handmade by means of a wooden stick dipper in paint!
The potters are generally women ; they make perfectly round pots by turning round the pots which are on the ground. As a matter of fact, potters' wheels have only been appearing recently in some parts of Ethiopia.”
Many buyers also know Dana Esteline by their trademark luxury cotton and silk scarves. The company sources the cotton from Ethiopia. The cotton grows throughout the country at lower elevations and depends on an irrigation system that supplies often dry land with the water it needs to thrive.
Though the commercial silk industry relies on the mulberry silk moth, silk from Ethiopia comes from “wild” silk such as eri and tussar. Eri cocoons are spun rather than formed by a continuous filament. This, and the worm’s diet of castor leaves, allow the worm and the industry to thrive in rural Ethiopia. Nolwenn gives us a behind-the-scene look at the process itself: “For ages and ages Ethiopian weavers have had a perfect expertise and made their own clothes. The quintessence of that expertise is to be found in those magnificent textile items.
Each piece is delicately hand woven and gives the contemporary lifestyle a luxury touch.They have neither modern tools nor sophisticated technology, but they use traditional looms, count the knots and use their legendary cleverness and produce patterns of all styles and colors in Silk or cotton.” While the dyes for the cotton are low-impact and locally sourced, thdyes that lend their silk collection their energetic and elegant hue are all 100% natural.
These natural dyes are derived from a profusion of natural elements. The national flower of Ethiopia, the mescal flower, which blooms only in September, provides shades of reds, oranges, and greys. The heartwood of the acacia tree is boiled into a thick which hardens. This and the fruit itself imbues man of the scarves with warm shades of brown. Indigo, safflower, and henna provide other vibrant colors culled from the environment to infuse the company’s accessories with appealing and lively color.
This combination of traditional technique and skill passed down through generations combined with sophisticated artistry will be exhibited for potential buyers at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource February 5-8 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.
For more information and to buy products, please visit http://www.dana-esteline.com/decoration-fashion-fair-trade.cfm