The Fowwa/Kiliim Venture
We’re all about supporting local businesses; especially social enterprises that help to sustain local crafts and artisans with time-honored techniques by trying to revive something that is quickly fading in today’s modern world.
That’s why we love Kiliim.
Having just turned one this summer, this lifestyle brand manufactures local handmade kilim using traditional craftsmanship with the help of kilim artisans from Fowwa, a small village along the Nile Delta. Having once been a hub for kilim weaving, Fowwa’s main industry has been hit hard by cheaper machine-made rugs. Yes, we’re talking about your IKEA kilim knockoff.
Having started small, Kiliim are slowly getting bigger and employing more and more craftsmen in this otherwise dying industry. So by buying yourself a kilim made using the finest wool yarn and dyes made by artisans who consider their craft as their heritage will not only give them more pride in their craft but it’ll also help in creating a sense of financial security for those who need it most.
And of course aside from that, we’re suckers for pretty things. We love their latest Summer Botanical Collection, which was designed to pay tribute to the cypress tree motif from traditional Persian rugs symbolizing eternal life. Pretty and deep, we want them all!
Tell us how you found yourself working with the craftsman of Fowwa? Do they work with you on all your projects?
When searching for a rug for our daughter’s room, we found that there was a market gap in locally handmade, well-designed kilim rugs. After some research and speaking to street vendors, we found that the handmade kilim industry (specifically in Fowwa, the most famous village for handmade kilim weaving and home to over 2000 craftsmen) has been declining with craftsmen no longer passing down the craft to their children.
After further research, we could not find a single brand that offered a wide range of modernly designed kilim because kilim artisans were responsible for the business as a whole (instead of just working on their specialty, which is the craft itself). The artisans designed, marketed, and sold the kilim despite having no formal training in any of these fields. Due to this, the motifs they created were obsolete and less marketable to younger, design-conscious homeowners.
After conducting focus groups, we discovered that millennials opt to buy imported machine-made rugs since their designs better suited their homes. So we decided to partner up with local artisans from Fowwa and provide them with our professional experience in design, sales and marketing. We travelled to Fowwa and started interviewing craftsmen and finally settled on workshops with trustworthy craftsmen with good production capabilities and started off our journey
You just turned one! What have been some of your most pivotal highs?
Like any journey, we had our ups and downs. It was very challenging in the beginning to get people to know of our work and to reverse the mindset of the craftsmen of working haphazardly to actually abiding by the process, design, materials and colors we selected. But our hard work is paying off day after day. We take pride that we started off with three craftsmen, and now we have 11 – all of which are now earning a steady income that’s almost 40% higher than what they used to earn before. This gives them a sense of security and pride in their craft once more and it has allowed us to have over 500 customers in over 18 different countries worldwide.
We’ve also participated in international trade fairs and exhibitions like Bazaar Berlin and Dubai Design Week (where we were named one of the top 10 emerging design talents in the Middle East).
Our biggest achievement however was winning 1st place in the MIT Arab Enterprise Forum Social Track competition with over 7000 applicants across the Arab region.
What is it about your kilim that sets it apart from what’s out there?
We differentiate ourselves from our competition by creating an emotional bond with our customers through our story-telling and heritage-reviving branding. We also offer customization options with quick and friendly customer service.
Join Kiliim‘s initiative to put Fowwa back on the local and international map for authentic craftsmanship.