From Denmark to Nepal—Masters of Their Crafts Unite

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By Paige Alexus
Ever since Danish design brand Menu was founded in 1976, they’ve stood strong behind their founding creative principles—that is, focusing on simple, honest, useful, and high-quality modern design. Thanks to a recent surge of interest in their work, their products can now be found in 70 countries worldwide.

Menu has consistently worked with makers across the world but most recently, they’ve launched the Nepal Projects, in which they’ve worked directly with woman artisans from small Nepali communities to produce a collection of Menu-designed products. The opportunities that the project has provided for these women have allowed them to practice their craft with results that have enabled them to provide for their families and to send their children to school. Scroll further down to see how it came to fruition and the exquisite products that have been born as a result.

From Denmark to Nepal—Masters of Their Crafts Unite - Photo 1 of 8 - The collection's Square Bed Throw is designed by A Hint of Neon and carefully woven by Nepali craftswomen.

The collection's Square Bed Throw is designed by A Hint of Neon and carefully woven by Nepali craftswomen.

Menu strongly believes in making sure that design matters, and that most importantly, it should be cultivated in a manner that improves lives. Whether that’s in the way something is produced or how it’s used in daily life, they seek to create solutions and opportunities that make a difference. When their Director Bjarne Hansen first imagined starting the project, he decided to work with Danish aid organization Danida, which pointed him in the direction of the Nepali people with a hopeful goal of helping put an end to the trafficking of women and girls. When he started visiting communities there, he was immediately stunned by how skilled the women were at their crafts.

From Denmark to Nepal—Masters of Their Crafts Unite - Photo 2 of 8 - Being the first development project that Menu has taken on, they worked intently for three years to build a system that would truly be beneficial for the Nepali women. Taken in Nepal's capital Kathmandu, women are shown here dyeing wool with a technique developed by the local community. Next, the wool will be woven into throws and blankets.

Being the first development project that Menu has taken on, they worked intently for three years to build a system that would truly be beneficial for the Nepali women. Taken in Nepal's capital Kathmandu, women are shown here dyeing wool with a technique developed by the local community. Next, the wool will be woven into throws and blankets.

From Denmark to Nepal—Masters of Their Crafts Unite - Photo 3 of 8 - The Menu team was pleasantly surprised to see how traditional production practices could successfully lead to the creation of uncomplicated, beautiful products—particularly from the women who specialize in weaving fine wool and cashmere. Shown here is a traditional loom that the soft goods of the collection are created on. Nepali women own and operate their own looms within their homes, rather than in a factory.

The Menu team was pleasantly surprised to see how traditional production practices could successfully lead to the creation of uncomplicated, beautiful products—particularly from the women who specialize in weaving fine wool and cashmere. Shown here is a traditional loom that the soft goods of the collection are created on. Nepali women own and operate their own looms within their homes, rather than in a factory.

True to Menu's ideals, each piece from the collection is crafted with an acute attention to detail and a clean, modern perspective. All of the materials used are sourced from the area and the packaging and labeling is produced locally.

From Denmark to Nepal—Masters of Their Crafts Unite - Photo 4 of 8 - As shown here, the artisans delicately handle colored paper sheets that line the architectural house boxes from the collection.

As shown here, the artisans delicately handle colored paper sheets that line the architectural house boxes from the collection.

One of the main aspects that makes Menu unique, is that they work with some of the world’s best designers, and collaborate with them to help them bring their visions to life, while sticking to their Scandinavian standard of "soft-minimalism." For the Nepal Projects, Creative Director Jonas Bjerre Poulsen chose to work with four game-changing design studios including Norm Architects, Note Design Studio, A Hint of Neon, and Afteroom. Each of the designers happily visited Nepal to meet the craftspeople and to see what their capabilities included. They quickly figured out ways of working hands-on together that would fuse their modern aesthetic with local production traditions.

From Denmark to Nepal—Masters of Their Crafts Unite - Photo 5 of 8 - Menu took great pride in recruiting design collaborators who would be the most flexible and understanding of the process, and who would thrive off of the unique experience to come. The chosen group of designers spent 14 days in Nepal where they met with locals and developed working relationships.

Menu took great pride in recruiting design collaborators who would be the most flexible and understanding of the process, and who would thrive off of the unique experience to come. The chosen group of designers spent 14 days in Nepal where they met with locals and developed working relationships.

From Denmark to Nepal—Masters of Their Crafts Unite - Photo 6 of 8 - The Square Bed Throw by A Hint of Neon is woven out of 100 percent Merino wool. Coming from the world of Danish fashion, founder and designer Kristine Engelbrechts really knew how to translate a quality material into a touchable and lush everyday throw.

The Square Bed Throw by A Hint of Neon is woven out of 100 percent Merino wool. Coming from the world of Danish fashion, founder and designer Kristine Engelbrechts really knew how to translate a quality material into a touchable and lush everyday throw.

From Denmark to Nepal—Masters of Their Crafts Unite - Photo 7 of 8 - Note Design Studio's Modern Houses and Traditional Houses are architectural boxes that are constructed of cotton shells and paper lining. They're available in a range of hues and come in sets of three or four. 

Note Design Studio's Modern Houses and Traditional Houses are architectural boxes that are constructed of cotton shells and paper lining. They're available in a range of hues and come in sets of three or four. 

From Denmark to Nepal—Masters of Their Crafts Unite - Photo 8 of 8 - Afteroom's wool Teddy is completely made by hand and embodies the hopeful and cheerful purpose of the project. 

Afteroom's wool Teddy is completely made by hand and embodies the hopeful and cheerful purpose of the project.