Edmund Le Brun and Flore de Taisne met while working in Afghanistan and founded ISHKAR as a way to empower the highly skilled but vulnerable artisans they encountered; those whose livelihoods are threatened by mass production as well as war.
Forging partnerships in conflict zones with the likes of glassblowers, potters, jewellers, weavers and artists, they work collaboratively, designing and sourcing a wide range of unique products. These range from hand-blown glassware and colourful pottery, to fine-woven shawls, symbolic accessories and hand-painted stationery. All the creations are available via ISHKAR’s online marketplace and prestigious London shop, connecting makers with international customers.
Notable collections include: throws designed by Rebecca Hoyes and the Malian artisan Boubacar Doumbia, made using the traditional Bogalan technique of dyeing and printing cotton with dried leaves and mud from the river Niger; and rugs made in collaboration with ARZU (meaning “hope” in Dari), the Afghan charity which helps women weavers and their families break the cycle of poverty, and whose partner designers include the likes of architects Frank Gehry and Dame Zaha Hadid.
Valuing “slow production over fast, the human hand over the machine, natural materials over synthetic”, ISHKAR is fuelling dignified self-sufficiency, bringing neglected ateliers back to life and changing perceptions about war-torn countries where distinctive culture and rich heritage have been overshadowed.
As well as supporting makers directly, ISHKAR also works with NGOs, supporting education and healthcare development projects, while a portion of proceeds goes to the Turquoise Mountain Foundation alongside other charities.
The model is working beautifully, and Le Brun and De Taisne – listed on Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2018 – are venturing into new territories. An exciting period of development is on the horizon, including a travel branch offering trips to truly ‘off the beaten track’ destinations as a further dimension to this impressively progressive social enterprise.
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