IKEA Turns to Regional Makers and Artisans for a Handcrafted Summer Collection

The new LOKALT line of housewares features expressive designs from Jordan, Thailand, and India.
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This summer, IKEA is launching a vibrant new collection of handmade textiles and ceramics designed, inspired, and produced by regional artisans. Titled LOKALT, which translates to locally, the collection "will be a modern take on traditional handicraft," says Maria O’Brian, a creative leader at IKEA’s design headquarters.

Named after the Swedish word for locally, LOKALT puts a modern spin on traditional handicrafts while creating better opportunities for vulnerable communities in Jordan, Thailand, and India.

Although IKEA is known globally for its subdued, factory-produced minimalism, the new collection adds to the company’s growing repertoire of handmade crafts that appear downright lively. "The collection is full of quirky details: ceramics with a tribute to a Thai way to serve food; home textiles with glimpses of everyday life in Amman; and shapes inspired by the Indian heritage," says O’Brian.

To bring the collection to life, IKEA brought on four young designers: Amman-based Tania Haddad; Ploypan Theerachai and Decha Archjananun from Bangkok; and Akanksha Deo of Delhi. The designers collaborated with social entrepreneur organizations in each region to create job opportunities for members of vulnerable groups who are skilled in handicrafts. For LOKALT, they teamed up to produce tufted cushion covers, rugs, ceramic bowls, and woven baskets.

The ceramics, produced in Thailand, are made of locally sourced clay, and are inspired by the Thai tradition of serving food with two hands.

This LOKALT serving plate was produced by makers hired by Doi Tung DP in Northern Thailand.

The new line is the latest from a program by IKEA that provides regional artisans with jobs and an income: Since it began in 2012, more than 30,000 jobs have been created. Thanks to the program’s forward momentum, the LOKALT line will be available in 25 countries—the highest number reached by any of IKEA’s social entrepreneurship programs to date. 

Designer Tania Haddad has created a series of cushion covers and throws inspired by her home town of Amman.

The LOKALT Throw features hand-embroidered elements ubiquitous in the old Amman.

Among the businesses that have partnered with IKEA are the Jordan River Foundation, which creates jobs for Jordanian women and refugee women living in Jordan who have been impacted by the Syrian war. Industree Producer Transform employs artisan Indian women living in rural areas, and Diamond Handmade recruits women weavers in Uttar Pradesh. Doi Tung DP creates jobs for villagers in northern Thailand.

Finger imprints are left on the surfaces of LOKALT ceramics to emphasize that the collection is handmade.

"I looked for designers with a modern expression because I wanted to show that handicraft doesn’t have to look traditional or old-fashioned," says O’Brian. "It can be modern and even avant-garde."

"We really wanted the products to reflect the place they come from," says O'Brian. "Each product has a story to tell and really, they all are statement pieces. Throughout the process of creating the collection, the designers and artisans have felt so proud that their culture will be showcased all over the world." 

The LOKALT collection will be available globally starting June 2021.

The LOKALT baskets and lampshades are handcrafted from banana bark fibers, a waste by-product from banana farming.

"I’ve worked with social entrepreneurs right from the start of my brand, but when you’re a small business you only reach a limited number of people," says Haddad, who has worked with refugees in the past. "In Jordan, there are very, very many craftsy women who want to work and it’s great to bring that opportunity to them."

"This rug is inspired by the traditional Indian kantha embroidery," says Akanksha Deo of the LOKALT Rug. "The curved shapes that look like enlarged embroidery is in fact part of the hand-woven design."

All LOKALT rugs are hand-woven with sustainably sourced wool.

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