We at polly & other stories strongly believe that the products we sell only tell one part of the story. We are just as interested in the people behind the brands we curate and in sharing their stories with you!
This is the first of a series of blog posts where we will feature the makers behind some of the products we carry in our shop where we focus on a dynamic and entrepreneurial trio – the talented sisters behind the homewares brand, Veranda at Five.
Three sisters - Mariam, Mahin and Zainab Hussain - are behind Veranda at Five, a contemporary homewares design brand that mixes eclectic prints with traditional craft and thought-oriented design. Veranda’s name harks back to a time when the girls spent hours on their veranda playing, listening to their grandparents tell stories, and enjoying tea and gossip. It is evocative of family, happiness and enjoyment.
It was 2011 and the Hussain sisters (all graduates of the prestigious Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi) were living in different cities - Karachi, Islamabad and Dubai. They had been discussing how to combine their collective design skills and creative powers for several months without being able to pin down the best way forward. A shopping trip to Dubai changed all that – while trying to furnish a new house with well-designed, contemporary home accessories which also paid homage to local heritage, the girls realized that if there was a market niche that needed attention, this was it!
It was clear to them that Pakistani products struggled to compete with Indian and Bangladeshi ones in getting to the forefront of the international craft arena. Especially exasperating was the lack of design intervention in any craft-based product from the country making the world believe that ethnic, somewhat aesthetically challenged and dated design was Pakistan’s only strength.
Mahin and Zainab, both had a textiles background and were perfectly poised to bring the knowledge of craft and technique to the new project. Mariam excelled at graphics design which was needed to grow a brand that wanted to borrow from history and culture while maintaining a very modern aesthetic.
The girls knew that traditional craft in Pakistan was slowly dying out because of lack of support to artisans, a growing market for faster, cheaper and more mechanized forms of instant gratification and inflation. Craftsmen, who had been creating masterpieces by hand for generations, were now considering other commercial avenues. At the same time, the international market was reigniting its love affair with handmade, artisan-led products. There was a serious contribution to be made and the girls were determined to play their part!
Veranda creates home accessories which are bold, well-designed yet are an ode to the subcontinent’s rich cultural history. The brand features designs that are quite simple but involve beautiful craftsmanship, impeccable finishing, impulsive use of colour, typography, textures and patterns. A huge source of inspiration is the vibrant and chaotic city of Karachi with its multi-ethnic people, its rain-drenched vistas, British colonial architecture, and old city sites with names like Dou Minute Chowrangi, Golimar etc. The girls love for their city of birth is evident in their continuous use of Karachi symbolism in their work. The brand aspires to be part of the zeitgeist but keep the artisan at the heart of it all. For the sisters, creation is not about meaningless art. It is about cultural relevance and contemporary design.
Veranda at Five depends on a number of very talented people. Some of these are traditional craftsmen with whom the sisters work directly while others are employed at Veranda’s small factory where the design, screen printing, and stitching is done. The sisters also seek opportunities to outsource work through NGO partners or other small SMEs in a bid to be more inclusive in their outreach. Baskets are woven by the traditional weavers in the Punjab while homebound women embroiderers in Sindh are also engaged for stunning handworked pieces that are converted into cushions.
If you have not checked out what Veranda has to offer, here is your chance to do so. Click on http://www.pollyandotherstories.com/collections/veranda-at-five