Earlier this month, Alena Walker of Majestic Disorder interviewed Bohemia founder and Creative Director, Jenny Lockton. Read the interview below and find out how it all started...We live in a society that leaves very little allowance for flaws as factories churn out products with robotic repetition. These mass-produced clones chug down mechanical conveyer belts, uniform in their appearance because irregularity is marred by the desire for perfection.
The Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi instead appreciates the simplicity of imperfection and reveres authenticity above ostentation.
It’s a way of life that resonates in the vision of Bohemia Design, a collaborative design studio based in Edinburgh that works with artists in India, Turkey and Morocco to create fashion and home accessories using the traditional techniques of each country.
“I believe that part of my role is to educate both the artisans we work with in the demands of the Western consumer and our customers in what is realistic to expect of an artisan-crafted product,” explains Jenny Lockton, founder and creative director.
One can surely expect hand-woven palm leaf baskets with an inconsistent ridge in the bind or discrepancies from hand-mixed colors on leather babouche slippers.
“Our crafts won’t look like something that has come out of a factory,” says Jenny.
Jenny grew up on the Scottish border with an upbringing that nurtured her appreciation of a slower lifestyle. Eggs were collected from hens, wool was hand-spun and vegetables plucked from garden stems. It was this inherent exposure that taught her the richness behind slower and conscientious consumption.
An avid entrepreneur, she has been self- employed for 30 years. Her endeavors began with a picture framing company after graduating from university, which was followed by opening a gallery space in Edinburgh.
In 2006, Jenny started Bohemia Design out of an increasing interest to share the cultural highlights of working collaboratively on textile designs with Moroccan artisans. While expanding her network beyond borders, the foundation has remained the same: ethical partnerships providing valuable employment and preservation of ancestral skills.
“I can only do this job because I love the people I work with,” says Jenny. “It isn’t easy and I’m not financially wealthy, but I’m rich in experiences and have friends all over the world.”
Travel flows through the veins of Bohemia Design with a truly deep reverence for the countries of Morocco and India, which have deeply impacted Jenny both emotionally and creatively.
“I am fascinated by their culture,” she explains. “But also deeply moved by the poverty and need which underlie the beauty.
If there is anything we can do to make a difference through the partnerships we forge, with our artisans and the respect and dignity that comes from the work they do for us, then I am happy.”
In recent years, it has become routine for fast fashion houses to plagiarize indigenous designs with little accountability. But as demand rises for these artisan crafts, so does consumer knowledge of fair-trade practices.
Bohemia Design has since expanded its repertoire to include colorful custom printed fabric using wooden blocks by collaborators in Jaipur on natural cotton and cotton canvas. The pared-back styles are given a playful vibrancy through pom-pom embellishments, dazzled sequins and wool trims found on every- thing from doum palm baskets to wash bags.
“I remain conscientious by taking time to observe and to listen, and to really get to know and understand the artisans, the crafting techniques, their meaning and the role it has for their families and communities.”
Jenny’s business approach is an ethos that permeates the very essence of what it means to be a true citizen of the world. She extends creative hands to mingle with global cultural hearts and to give traditional crafts, otherwise threatened by the mechanization of corporate giants, a platform to share their beauty.
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