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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Talata: the Dubai homeware brand that has taken Egypt as the inspiration

“It’s not about how perfect it is. For me, if it looks too perfect, then something is wrong. You need to mix things. Everyone should have what they love in their home. And you can always put what you love together in some way," says co-founder Mehry El Masry

Furniture from Talata's Ebly collection. Courtesy Talata
Furniture from Talata's Ebly collection. Courtesy Talata

As the name suggests, Talata (which means three in Arabic) is the brainchild of a trio of Dubai-based friends. Farah Zoghbi, Mehry El Masry and Mona Ramzy all worked in creative fields, but wanted to do something together that celebrated the Middle East’s rich design heritage.

“I came from a communications background; my two partners came from a design and interiors background,” says Zoghbi. “We’re very lucky that in the Arab world we have such a rich history and beautiful culture, and this has inspired art and design around the world. So we decided to go back to the roots of design, which is the artisans.”

The name Talata also refers to the three pillars that the brand is built on. One is interior design and architecture, as the newly launched company offers design services for both residential and commercial projects; the second is the design and manufacturing of furniture and home accessories, which are all handmade in Egypt; and the third centres on collaborations with creatives across the region.

“One of the things that’s important to us is helping designers who don’t have the means to be in Dubai. So we’ll act as a stepping stone to help them grow their brands,” Zoghbi says. This means that in addition to showing collections by regional brands, Talata will also collaborate with them to produce limited-edition capsule collections. For its launch, it has paired up with regional designers Shahira Fawzy, Tpots, Ehem, Sal, Kelos, Maison 69 and Shewekar El Gharably.

From left: Mehry El Masry, Mona Ramzy and Farah Zoghbi, the co-founders of homeware brand Talata. Courtesy Talata
From left: Mehry El Masry, Mona Ramzy and Farah Zoghbi, the co-founders of homeware brand Talata. Courtesy Talata

Egypt lies at the heart of the Talata proposition, since Zoghbi, El Masry and Ramzy all grew up there. In their debut collection, this manifests itself in countless ways – in the cotton flowers, palm trees, scarabs and fig leaves that appear on cushions and chairs; in the shisha-pipe-shaped legs on furniture; and in the pharaonic motifs that are dotted across accessories.

The designs often call on textile techniques from the 1800s, and use 100 per cent Egyptian cotton and natural dyes. But, while the motifs may reflect elements of Egyptian history and culture, they are combined with highly modern features like polka dots, chevrons and marble tabletops, to give the range a very fresh and contemporary feel. It’s an artful melding of the old and the new.

This is in part attributable to El Masry’s background. While she studied economics in Paris before moving back to Egypt to work in a bank, it was when she married and started fixing up her home that she found her true calling. “That’s when I fell in love with the design world,” she says.

This led to a job in an interior design firm in Cairo, and then a stint studying art history in Paris, with a focus on classical. This has given her an appreciation of a broad spectrum of design styles, she says, which is evident in her designs. “I love antiques. I love all kinds of styles – classical, modern, fusion. I’m not stuck in one kind of style,” she says. As she points to the scalloped motifs and geometric patterning on some of the pieces in Talata’s debut collection, she is also quick to point out that art deco styling has its roots in Egypt, since it was born out of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

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At the heart of El Masry’s design ethos is the belief that things do not need to be flawless to be beautiful. “It’s not about how perfect it is. For me, if it looks too perfect, then something is wrong. You need to mix things. Everyone should have what they love in their home. And you can always put what you love together in some way. I always say, look at nature, look at flowers. You have all different kinds of flowers together, in all different colours, and no one says they don’t match.”

And so you might find slight variations in the printing on Talata’s products, since they are all done by hand, screen by screen. But this is all part of its charm. “Everything is so perfect and automated these days that sometimes having something wrong makes it stand out,” says El Masry.

There are four lines within Talata’s launch collection: Raa’, Ebly, Bahary and The Chameleon, each inspired by historical, geographical and cultural elements. The collection is on view in a pop-up in Dubai Design District for the next three weeks, and the brand also has a showroom in D3, and will accept orders through its website and Instagram page.

Art deco motifs from the Raa' collection. Courtesy Talata
Art deco motifs from the Raa' collection. Courtesy Talata

Zoghbi says that Talata is trying to offer affordable luxury, which means you can pick up smaller accessories for as little as Dh200, while the most expensive piece of furniture, which is made from mother-of-pearl, retails at Dh20,000. “It’s very important to us that we keep our pricing very moderate,” Zoghbi says.

The plan is to offer four collections a year – a seasonal approach that is more in keeping with the fashion calendar. It is only in recent times that homes have become more static, according to El Masry. “In the old days, we used to change our homes. In 18th-century France, they used to change their house in the summer and the winter. It was very seasonal. That’s what we are trying to do with our Chameleon collection.”

This includes fabric-covered barrel stools that open up to reveal a hidden tabletop; side tables that can be stacked to form shelves or can be transformed into seats with the addition of colourful cushions; and chairs with interchangeable covers.

“We want to introduce interiors that change as much as fashion changes,” El Masry says. “That’s why we created things like the Chameleon chairs. You can change the covers and you immediately change the way it looks. We live such a fast-paced life that people need change.”