In 2008, Andrea Kolb ventured to Marrakech to work on the restoration of a riad in the Madina. While there, she worked alongside Moroccan artisans and craftsmen, learning and understanding their ancient crafts. This experience, inspired the founding of Abury, now a fashion and accessories label that produces leather and embroidered bags with artisans in Morocco. We caught up with Andrea to go behind the making of Abury.
Describe your brand.
Abury is pioneering fashion by combining traditional, old world crafts with avant-garde design to create a new luxury style that fosters intercultural exchange and preserves world crafts.
How and when did you start your brand?
In 2008, I traveled to Marrakesh to renovate an old house in the Medina. On site, while working with the craftsmen, I found myself captivated by the immense handicraft heritage of the Moroccan people. These men and women passionately and skillfully carved, tinkered, blew, sewed and embroidered their way into, frankly, what can only be described as magic. Sadly though, some of these skills were vanishing as a taste for fast consumerism reached their shores. With them, the beauty, wisdom, identity and stories were also at risk of being lost to the past. I realized that these cultural gems could be revived if explored in a new way, by infusing the old world appeal of handicrafts with a spunky twenty first century spirit. Doing so would allow many to earn their sustenance practicing their heritage and thus allow for a more inclusive and harmonious world economy. The aim for this collaboration is to pave a way for tradition to find not just relevance, rather delicious appeal on an international stage. And a dream was born.
Speak about your previous work experience and how it helped you to create your own brand.
I studied economics and cultural management. Before starting my own marketing consultancy in 2001, I gained some working experience with different marketing and communication agencies. For me the most important thing to learn on that way was to lose the fear of risk taking and not believing in the own ideas. On my journey, I met many people who had started something and I learned that it is not always going straight, but in the worst moments, you still have to believe in your vision, because if you don?t believe in your idea, why should anybody else. This is what I learned from my mentors and role models: ?You walk in the pictures that you paint.? At a certain point I started painting my own pictures. Obviously, it was somehow helpful to have a rough idea of financials and marketing, but I think at the end for me, the life experiences have been more important.
What (or who?) are some of your endless inspirations?
One scenario I find really inspiring is the absolute solitude and silence. If you manage to clear your mind, there is so much happening in it. I also love running, no music, just in the nature, in the morning. This for me is also pure inspiration, as nature usually always is.
One person that will always inspire me is my grandma, she had this loving aura that made you feel always warm and cozy and good. I would love to be like that. I think one of the most important things in a small company is a great corporate culture and atmosphere. And she is always my reminder for that!
How does travel inspire Abury?
Abury is all about combining traditional culture with avant-garde design. So, at the beginning of each collection we travel. We travel to the countries, meet people and dive into the culture. Traveling is the basis of Abury, exploring, learning and sharing. And then, we stay and with time we go from tolerated visitor to become a friend and finally a local.
You work with artisans in Morocco, tell us about how this came about and a bit about the process?
One of the main goals of Abury is to preserve traditional crafts. We got an endorsement of the German UNESCO commission that Abury was an innovative approach to preserve immaterial cultural world heritage. It all started with me living in Marrakesh and working with artisans on the restoration of a riad, this is when the idea was born to use design to inspire change through avant-garde design. This exchange of knowledge between the old world and the cutting edge allows for a new context to emerge, leasing crafts a new life and lending design an emotional component which has been missing in recent times. We give grants to designers to live and work with a community for three months. The designer is embedded in a craft culture to learn and to share ideas with each other and to create a collection together, bringing the best of heritage knowledge and wisdom to high design and sustainable solutions.
Your collection continues to grow, what creative endeavors are on the horizon?
We are just planning the next collection of a new culture, which will be in Asia. We are focusing on the launch of the Abury Design Experience, an annual designer contest that will be launched in November that offers designers the possibility to go to a craft community for three months to work with the locals and design their collection for Abury. We have received positive feedback from amazing fashion schools and we have formed partnerships with KPMG, Positive Luxury, PREMIUM Exhibitions and suppliers like NHB (the best postproduction in Germany), the Moroccan tourism office and others. You can view a video and our crowd funding project that explains the idea here.