As an interior designer, I am on a constant search for unique products and interesting artisans to introduce into my projects. When I discovered KUFRI textiles hand-woven fabrics and pillows by Mili Suleman, I was immediately impressed by its craftsmanship and ethos.
Mili and I began to collaborate with samples and swatches as designers and showrooms often do, and soon realized that the KUFRI showroom is a mere two miles from my studio in Dallas, Texas. Not only was I excited to have access to her showroom locally, I was intrigued to learn more about Mili’s background and passion for hand-weaving, and we continued the dialogue which I share with you here.
Tell us about the KURFI story.
Like most creatives, I was dabbling in various mediums, and have been since childhood. Growing up in Oman, all the grown women (my mother and aunts) went fabric shopping and designed their own clothing. It’s a cultural (Indian or Asian) thing. I think that dynamic planted the seeds in me for color, pattern, textiles early on without me knowing. After I came here, I graduated from TCU in Sociology and went back to school for Graphic Design. I spent a while designing all kinds of packaging and print pieces for clients but I wanted something more tactile, something that involved travel and also something more complex so I could lose myself in it for a long time. I’m a lifelong learner and I love increasing my knowledge over time in a given industry.
What distinguishes KUFRI Textiles from others in the industry?
There just aren’t many lines that specialize in handloom weaving, period. But also, we offer a thoughtful, versatile range without it feeling overwhelming. Our hallmark is textured weaving – I love the tactile feel of our fabrics. All this comes at a price-point that’s very do-able for a handwoven item. The icing on the cake is that we stock everything in Dallas, which is different from other handwoven lines that don’t stock as much or are do made-to-order.
What inspires new textile designs for you and what is up and coming on your loom?
I’m always thinking about what I would like to see in my home if I were to re-do space. I also look at what’s lacking in the line and would we be able to do justice to it bringing it into our collections or is there enough of it in the market already. Inspiration can hit me in small or big waves – a new friendship, a great book, or a trip to escape. On the loom, we are experimenting with wool textures, at the moment in natural tones. We are doing that, just to see how textures and tones lay on each other. It’s all about subtle movements for us in weaving.
Describe the artisans and individuals who make your beautiful textiles and how the human hand plays an intricate role in your designs.
The artisans are spinners, dyers, weavers and finishers. Most are men, but we also work with women and experienced artisans. They are gifted, plain and simple. I am allowing them to speak through my designs. Sometimes we will create and weave a new design in our Dallas studio, but the prototype to our prototype, woven in India, might have a minor change in some way that will give it so much more depth and character.
We worked with an American mill to sample some of our fabrics as machine woven (as a contract fabric) for a hospitality project. It was amazing to see how the same design just lost all its “life” when turned into a machine woven contract fabric. It’s just not the same. There is movement and depth when the human hand is making something. And it’s not perfect. That’s what makes it beautiful and unique.
We love your studio. How is this space related to inspiration and your creative process?
The studio-showroom is 2000 sq ft. Only 500 sq ft is like a showroom-of-sorts, and the rest is all studio. The entire space is always evolving. Having the showroom allows us to “see” our fabrics in a different light. Every year we change the look of the showroom. The studio-side changes based on our needs. For example, this year we are adding 20+ new fabrics, so we will need more inventory space. My own evolution as a creative can clearly be seen in the showroom – we started with blush walls nearly 5 years ago, then changed them to jade tones; now it’s F&B’s Clunch, which is a lovely neutral. I’ve matured, lol and so has the line.
Where can your textiles be found?
In Texas, we represent ourselves and anyone is welcome to visit our studio-showroom at 1152 Mississippi Ave, Dallas, by the Design District. We have so much more than just yardage in our space – pillows, throws, ceramics. Always something new.
If you can’t make it in person, please visit our site kufrilifefabrics.com — there is so much there to discover! We will gladly send samples.
Elsewhere, we have partner showrooms – Harbinger in L.A., Temple Studio in NY, WareCo in Atlanta, Deb Design Source in Scottsdale, and individual reps.
What is it that you love most about your work and designing textiles?
I love the variety and the challenge. It’s a process of discovering myself but also ensuring we deliver products that resonate with the market. There’s a balance, which is very much in my nature.
I love the places textiles take me and the people and cultures I get to experience. I also like to think that KUFRI plays some small part in helping preserve a very important craft.
What sage advice do you have for someone who is a creative at heart but might still be building up to being able to create for a “living”?
I would say spend a lot of time pondering and looking 3 to 5 years into the future. That’s how much time I put into long-term planning towards something like changing industries or roles, or any major decision. Allow your mind to “roam” because it will bring forward your true nature which will guide you towards things you enjoy doing, and then one day you’ll be able to follow your dreams. I have to add some old Indian advice; Start saving to create a reserve!
EXCLUSIVE ON THE MILIEU INSIDER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ELIZABETH MARY LAVIN, COURTESY OF KUFRI TEXTILES
PRODUCED BY SHANNON BOWERS, MILIEU EDITOR-AT-LARGE