Taking the traditional Egyptian basket many consider waste, Studio Meem's latest line is infused with both modernity and heritage. We speak to the founder about the latest collection available now at Dokan Boutique.
One of our favourite furniture boutiques in the city, Dokan, is consistently surprising us with creatively eclectic new pieces; pieces doused in colour or with edgy forms, furniture that screams boho and has a healthy injection of Oriental. They've also featured several unique brands at their place such as Reform Studio's funky chairs made out of recycled plastics bags (he-lo upcycling!). On our most recent visit to the kitschy-cute store, we found that they were exclusively featuring pieces from Studio Meem's Off The Gireed collection, a line entirely based on re-interpreting that ubiquitous palm fibre crate scattered throughout Egypt's streets and decided we needed to discover a little more about the innovative line.
Studio Meem, a design studio started in 2011 by Manar Moursi, are the artsy architects behind the Off The Gireed collection. The concept came about as a result of founder and former architecture student, Moursi's obsession with the gireed baskets in the streets. "I was obsessed with this object," she says, "I was really inspired by the gireed basket and I wanted to do something with it." She delved into it, going around Egyptian streets, asking fruit sellers where they'd gotten the crates from, collecting them at her house and reading into the history of the crates. "I wanted to find out who the artisans were who made them, what the process was… everything," she explains. Apparently the often overlooked sidewalk staple "has a very rich history," Moursi tells us. "It's a tradition that's been going on for years." In terms of functionality, the palm fibre crates also suit the climate in not just Egypt but the Middle East, because whereas palm trees are abundant in our country, we import other wood.
Inspired by this innocuous object, Moursi wanted to use it as a starting point to re-contextualise it and transform it into furniture. "I thought the story of it was interesting," she explains. "And as a material I also liked the aesthetic of it; I liked the grid, I liked that it wasn’t perfect." She draws parallels to the Japanese wibi-sabi view, where "when things aren’t exactly perfect, they're more beautiful."
When she finally hunted down the artisans, she started experimenting with what the possibilities were in terms of creating something with the palm fibre material. "I wanted people to appreciate this everyday object that’s part of our street culture," she says of her reasoning, wanting to overturn the common feeling of many that it was an ugly, waste object."It's beautiful and it has a history." Wanting also to revive the craft and find a new way to incorporate it into our lives, she started working with the artisans, playing with different shapes and forms. "This is a dying tradition and I thought it was important to find a way to revive it but not necessarily the way it was used in the past – I wanted to find new forms for it."
The result are some beautiful pieces, visually bohemian at first-glance but instilled with Egyptian tradition, stunning not despite, but because of their flaws. From shelving units to glass-topped tables – "I wanted to incorporate other materials that would still show the gireed pattern" – Moursi created a range of pieces that reflect our history but have been reinvented in present, accessible vernacular form. Using 3D modeling to conceptualise the pieces, she then works with the artisans to bring it to fruition. "There's an art that goes into making them," she says, "These artisans are so skilled, and no one really appreciates the time and skill and labour [that goes into the creation of these items]." Though she uses wood to strengthen the structure, the whole line is based on showcasing the imperfect beauty of the gireed crate remodeled in various ways; "There are other patterns you can make with the gireed - you don't just have to make the typical grid," Moursi says.
And Off The Gireed's pieces are definitely worth appreciating. Channeling a boho-chic vibe and bringing our own country's culture and history into the mix, the furniture is visually pretty and its backstory only enhances its appeal. You can get your hands on these pieces at Dokan Boutique!