Azerbaijan’s rich cultural and handicraft heritage has spawned a myriad of young artists and designers. We have picked authentic workshops, studios and manufacturers which create unique objects: from toys to jewelry.
To keep up with the global trend of returning to cultural roots and seeking purposes in local identity, brand creators revive traditional techniques and give them new, modern meanings.
Natavan Aliyeva is a fashion designer, collector and owner of a gallery displaying one of the country’s largest collections of Azerbaijan’s clothing from 18th-19th centuries. Aliyeva created her own clothing brand – “Natavan” – in 2011. “At some point I realized that nothing was eternal. Sooner or later we will leave this world. Only knowledge and history – things which carry traditions of our ancestors and our roots – will live forever. Having fallen in love with Azerbaijan’s history, our history, I started gathering this collection. You can say that the clothes I have designed are a continuation of all that national beauty I’ve been gathering many years. Because any item can serve as a source of inspiration for someone for hundreds of years” – this is how the brand owner describes her passion. Some items are made of Kelaghayi head scarfs. Along with being symbols of beauty, dignity, loyalty and respect, these head scarfs also reflect ancient history, culture and traditions of the Land of the Fires. Worth noting that Kelaghayi head scarfs have been included into representative list of UNESCO’S intangible heritage.
This project was initiated by Theresa Hamlin from the United States. While living and working in Qusar, she started a family business on production of Azerbaijani socks. Theresa was initially inspired by gifts she brought back to Minnesota and which were fondly loved by her close ones. After that she embarked on a search for women in different parts of Azerbaijan who preserved the tradition of knitting these colorful socks. Thanks to this project, women in rural parts of Azerbaijan get a decent salary while being engaged in the craft passed from one generation to another. All these socks are knitted at home, which allows these women to work in comfortable conditions and earn money for their families. Each pair has a unique design. This handmade product is popular even outside of Azerbaijan. We recommend checking out the project’s Instagram page – to get to know the crafty women behind it.
Shamsa Jewelry is a brand, producing silver jewelry. All of its items are designed and hand-crafted by jewelers from Baku. The concept is based on references to Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage. Inspired by architectural and historical monuments, designers created collections dedicated to the Momine Khatun Mausoleum and the Palace of Sheki Khans (Khan Sarai). The brand’s jewelry reflects the finesse and elegance of the Shebeke patterns. The brand also works in the filigree style. Filigree means jewelry items made of intertwining silver threads. The designers revealed that they were initially inspired by earrings, which they had inherited from their grandmothers.
The brand was created by artist-ceramist Sabikha Khankishiyeva. Having received master’s degree in ceramics at the Baku Academy of Arts, Sabikha entered the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in London. That played a decisive role in development of her craft and foundation of the Sabikhan brand. The workshop produces and promotes ceramic items, which preserve the cultural heritage of the country and its national identity. For creators, the items’ design symbolizes the unity of hands, heart and mind, which infuses new life into ancient techniques. Sabikha is inspired by both the research work, while she studies the history of Azerbaijan’s handicraft, and by the region’s rich nature, which is reflected in the ornaments and decorations of the Sabikhan brand’s items.
Sacria Atelier is an Azerbaijani concept fashion art project. It was created by a family couple Shamil and Fidan from Baku. Four years ago, the atelier launched production of handmade women’s handbags and backpacks in a small basement. Today the brand’s produce is popular both at home and abroad. Its designers create outlooks and patterns of textiles by hand. Carpet-weaving art has been the main inspiration for the collection, as well as national design elements like Gyol, Buta, Damga, Shebeke – in modern-day interpretations. Some bags carry the names of the capitals of Azerbaijan’s regions – “Ganja”, “Shaki”, “Shusha”, “Shamakhi”, “Gazakh” and others. The designers are inspired not only by Azerbaijani national patterns, but also use those of Hindu Vedic traditions, Mesoamerican and Aboriginal techniques.
The brand of wooden toys with minimalistic European design. Toys are made of eco-friendly materials and help to develop a child’s imagination. Simple forms such as birds, mountains, horses and rainbow are used as a basis. The brand’s Instagram account puts one into the atmosphere of a fairytale. Here, pencils turn a piece of wood into a hedgehog, while a star in one’s hand turns into a magic wand. All toys are pleasant to the touch – smooth curves and natural materials are liked not only by children but by adults as well.
The Salamakhina brand is a modern interpretation of classical national scarves. A silk scarf acts like a canvass for designer Alexandra Salamakhina – she deconstructs traditional images and the country’s cultural codes. In of the collections, she portrays Baku’s landmark buildings of the early 20th century – the Hajinski House, the Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Mukhtarov Palace and the Ismailiyya building. The brand’s designer uses particular patterns of these monuments’ sculptural and colorful décor, reinterprets them and creates a unique style for the scarves. All the key elements are drawn by hand and then get digitized. It is styling, not copy-pasting – an ideal imitation, which creates something new based on a traditional style or historical epoch.
The brand’s Instagram account carries a short yet a very precise description in its bio: “Handmade coziness for our electronic friends”. The Deremeena brand produces cases for laptops, mobile phones and other digital gadgets, as well as wallets, cardholders, travel wallets and many other things. Nargiz, the Deremeena brand’s creator, graduated from architectural university and worked in design for a long time. In Azeri language, “dərin məna” means “deep meaning”, while “dəri” means “skin”. This is how, having delved into etymology, Nargiz created a charismatic name for her brand. She seeks inspiration in national Azerbaijani designs, colors and patterns, as well as finding textiles and forms similar to patterns of a carpet. The names of those cases vary – from slang words like “balaşka” (which stands for “baby” in Azeri) to the designer’s favorite spots, where she spends time with her friends, like the “Kefli” wine bar. The workshop happily takes individual orders, customizing design and adapting sizes to any preferences.
Authentic brand from Baku, producing beautiful clocks and handmade mirrors. It was created by Jabir Imanov – a prominent entertainer and ex-member of a legendary “KVN” comedy team “Guys from Baku”. Jabir designs accessories and interior items, personally taking part in the process of designing. The workshop’s craftsmen are inspired by the traditions of carpet-weaving in different parts of Azerbaijan: Karabakh, Nakhchivan, Shirvan, Guba, Gazakh and Ganja are all represented here. Geometric, zoomorphic, floral and anthropomorphic elements are reflected in the items’ décor. These colorful and inspiring items will become a colorful accent in any interior design.
Designer and brand artist Aysel Badalova from Baku produces handbags which look more like pieces of art. Velvet, beads, crystals and ceramic parts are used in production of these handbags. As a result, these handbags look more like jewelry. Aysel was inspired to create this collection by the Qajar art.