BRYAN TURPIN ENVISIONS A MORE INCLUSIVE AND MORE BEAUTIFUL WORLD
For Bryan Turpin and Samita Malik, both in their forties, life is far from ordinary. The couple has moved to five different countries and traveled to more than fifty, taking their family where the road leads them.
Today, they’re running MADE x HANDS, a luxury home décor brand that brings together unparalleled quality, exquisite handmade craftsmanship, and exclusive designs. Their creations are an ode to the heritage of Asian and African cultures with a modern twist, turning the idea of contemporary design on its head.
Tell us more about the journey that led you to create MADE x HANDS.
For a long time, I’ve been collecting textiles and art on my travels: rugs from Morocco, India and Turkey, blankets from Bhutan and Laos, and art from everywhere (Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Myanmar). Each of these things commemorated my visits and allowed me to keep a piece of the place with me. I used to live in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn and I would fantasize about having a small store on Atlantic Avenue (a street with a cluster of home decor and antique shops) where I could sell what I found while traveling.
When I was living in Hong Kong, I was able to travel and see a lot of Asia. And with each of these trips, one of the most interesting parts was discovering how unique the art was in each place. Sometimes it was a pure interpretation of an artist's local environment or customs, and other times there were strong global influences at play. We’d often buy pieces from these trips and bring them home.
Travel leaves a lasting impression on you, and at the same time, tourism leaves a mark on communities. I visited Bhutan which is relatively rugged, raw and devoid of foreign visitors. However modest their tourism industry is, it's still a major draw for young people, who prefer to leave their villages for tourist work in the capital. As a result, some of the youth are not interested or even present in their villages to learn and master the craft traditions of their parents and grandparents. So when I do purchase local art or a hand woven textile, I feel like I'm helping preserve culture. And with MADE x HANDS, I'm able to amplify that impact.
And that led you to India, where MADE x HANDS was born.
Yes, I went to India right when COVID was starting, in January 2020. I started thinking about what I wanted to do after corporate life, and there was a library in the hotel where we were staying that had a lot of coffee table books on Asian art and textiles. Over hot chocolate, I voraciously flipped through these books; the antique rugs were my favorite because they were so unique compared to what was in the market. The styles, patterns and colors felt so much more soulful compared to what you see home décor companies offering. Although some of these were old, to me they would feel right at home in a contemporary space.
About 45 minutes from our hotel, we toured a rural village where we came across a family weaving a rug on their home loom. I had so many questions: where did this design come from? What materials are these? How was the color achieved? Could I give you a design? How long would it take to makeit? I made the guide and my wife translate all of my questions into Hindi so I could speak to the family.
At this point, although I had traveled around the country over a dozen times before, I was seeing India in this artistic light for the first time. Artistic and approachable. Basically, if you have an idea, there are artists almost hidden away in these small villages who could bring that idea to life.
The flame was lit. I knew I wanted to do something that combined my growing appreciation (slight obsession) for traditional textiles, my understanding of global culture and my lived experience as an African American. Since I was new to home decor, I had to extensively research the landscape. That was when I discovered how few companies had people of color at the helm – I could almost count them on one hand.
Given what I knew to be true, which was that Asian and African cultures created so much of the templates and techniques that go into our home furnishings, the absence of diverse leadership in home decor companies was shocking and shameful, but not surprising.
So MADE x HANDS is so much more than a luxury home decor brand – it’s a beacon for a more inclusive world.
Starting a business during COVID is tough. What was it like for MADE x HANDS?
Of course, with many borders being closed, international travel has been very restricted. But choosing India ended up being very strategic. There is such a rich, handmade history here, local skill combined with artistic influences from Persia and Central Asia. So we’ve been able to travel to artist clusters all over the country to prototype and develop our products.
Hong Kong was a regional hub for Asia, so Samita and I are very used to managing teams across multiple countries. Light work. COVID has accelerated the adoption of digital tools and virtual teams. Because MADE x HANDS was born during this time, our team is organically virtual and international. Across just marketing and product, we have talent in Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Los Angeles, Chicago and multiple cities across India. And so that's been amazing, being able to build a business despite the challenges of a pandemic.
What are your hopes for MADE X HANDS and the impact it will have?
We want to consistently inspire those who seek out exceptional, original decor for their homes. And with our pioneering commitment to natural dyes, natural materials and handmade, MADE x HANDS gives consumers choices that are better for the planet. We also want customers to feel seen, and feel like their culture is reflected in the products they buy. MADE x HANDS will be a breath of fresh air in an industry that is stuffy, stagnant and stifled by it's lack of diversity. Our tribe values design, sustainability and diversity; and now they have a brand to call their own.