Interior and product designer and founder of Eklego, Hedayat Islam tells us about her London concept boutique, dedicated to reviving Egyptian arts and crafts through modern means.
Egypt has a storied past when it comes to design and, throughout history, has been at the forefront of presenting the world with a unique aesthetic vocabulary. But over the years, this international exposure has been somewhat lost and that is exactly what Hedayat Islam, interior and product designer and founder of Eklego, was seeking to remedy when she launched concept boutique Jam Space in London last year.
Launched last November, the concept store features a myriad of Egyptian brands, taking local design and creation and exposing a foreign audience to it. “80% of the pieces we feature at Jam Space are from Egypt – we have amazing talent and amazing creations and they’re not as in the limelight as they should be,” Islam tells us.
Jam Space curates a variety home-grown brands - from Malaika to Alef Gallery to Eklego’s own pieces, many of who stem from local roots - all of whose design elements draw inspiration from some aspect of Egypt.
“I like stories,” Islam says, “What I wanted to do with Jam Space was present people with something that was not only crafty and reflected our local culture, but also that had a story to it – the people behind the pieces.” The store encompasses an endless array of items that carry within them traces of what Egypt has to offer.
Brands like Encode, founded by a group of architects in Alexandria, work on reimagining ways to use traditional Islamic patterns, giving the ancient art form a breath of new life by utilising contemporary techniques, all in an effort to give it the attention they think it deserves. Think sleek, modern chairs which feature a back carved into a Mashrabeya-esque lattice design.
Other brands featured, like Reform Studio, create furniture out of recycled plastic bags. They essentially use Egypt’s waste surplus, repurposing it to create something new, while at the same time the material is interwoven on a traditional Egyptian handloom thereby reviving and supporting the weaving industry in Egypt.
Markaz makes throw pillows that are hand beaded and embroidered by artisanal craftspeople in rural areas of Egypt and was founded as a way to maintain Egypt’s heritage both aesthetically in the designs, and by preserving a traditional but dying skill.
Add that to the numerous other pieces that adorn Jam Space, including Eklego’s hand-blown hand-painted glassware (to die for), and all of the pieces at the boutique capture a slice of Egyptian heritage and interlace it with contemporary design. “Egyptians aren’t really on the radar, in terms of design actually,” Islam tells us, “You’d be surprised at the number of people who come into the store and ask ‘Is this Moroccan? Is this Indian?’ Egypt isn’t often mentioned.” But through Jam Space’s careful and consistent curation of creative pieces from our homeland, aspects of Egyptian design culture are slowly weaving their way into the design vocabulary of the outside world.
Next up, Islam herself is designing a range of “wallpapers and linen fabrics inspired by ancient Egypt”, called Ornamental Stories, drawing from iconic Pharaonic motifs and reinterpreting them “within a contemporary textile context” that will be launched during the London Design Festival in September. In addition, Jam Space will also be releasing another wallpaper collection, “inspired by the facades of the city…the theme of this upcoming line is to celebrate Cairo.”
And Jam Space’s entire ethos is to celebrate Egypt’s creativity, heritage, and craftsmanship.
You can check out their Facebook page here or follow them on Instagram @jamspaceuk