We are excited to welcome Mili Suleman of Kufri to our Temple Studio family. I have watched Mili's line grow over the years with much admiration. Her enthusiasm and respect for an ancient craft that is the backbone to her collection of woven textiles is a joy to see. Born in India and raised in the Middle East, Mili came to America as a first generation immigrant in 1992. When she ventured out with the idea to create Kufri, her knowledge of handwoven textiles was limited but in no way did this stop her journey. Today Kufri works with weavers in India towards a goal to preserve the craft and employ artisans while creating beautiful fabrics that are imperfectly perfect. Below is a quick Q&A I had with Mili, offering you a further glimpse into the uniqueness of Kufri.
Mili Suleman of Kufri
You launched your collection of textiles a few years ago, but for over 15 years now you have been working as an interior designer. Can you tell us a little about how you start designing a room and at what stage of the design process do you bring in the fabrics for color and pattern?
I always start with fabric before anything else. It sets the mood and atmosphere. It's what I find personally most inspiring, and it's why I decided to launch a fabric collection. I also find that our passion for fabric is contagious and spills over to our clients. When we're presenting a design or scheme, it is always the textiles that clients gravitate towards first. I think it's because they can actually hold the fabric samples and immediately get a sense for the feel of the space. It instantaneously conveys the tone of the room we are trying to create!
John Robshaw's book, Prints, helped Mili begin to explore handloom weaving.
What do you think was the most difficult hurdle that you have crossed in your design and production experience with KUFRI?
For design, it took me time to figure out what clients will wanted from KUFRI, why do they keep coming back, what sells the most. This type of knowledge just comes with time. I get the itch to try new things, but ultimately I know the 80/20 rule applies here like in so many other things.
As for production, learning which units were not producing on time or didn't have the same work ethic, had to be eliminated. There was time and money that got flushed down in the beginning, but again, it's all part of the learning curve and cannot be rushed. We have been working with the same four units for years now.
The colors in your new collaboration with Commune are all so serene. What was your inspiration for this palette?
The initial color direction came from Commune, but then we integrated these incredible earthy, slubby yarns, which automatically made the overall look more subdued and "mottled" which is very KUFRI. So even though there's color, it feels serene, like seeing the earth from above.
So I would say there wasn't any specific inspiration except that it was designed in March 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic, so we were all wanting something optimistic, nature-driven hues... it naturally went in that direction in the studio.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
What I enjoy the most is the variety in my work. Overall as a business, I enjoy that I set the pace and I can dictate what my next move should be. My independence is everything and I believe I have created that to some extent.
What is coming next for KUFRI?
More incredible woven textiles of course! I'm editing the line and removing what's not working and adding some beautiful new weaves... you'll see them starting Fall 2022, with a more robust collection Spring 2023. I'm also getting more inquiries for Custom Woven textiles, it's always fun to do a one-off for a design project.