A new wave of design talent from Central Asia selected for the Homeware Accelerator
Following several successful terms of the Designer Accelerator programme in Africa, the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) has launched its newest Homeware Accelerator dedicated to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
The Accelerator team looks for young, dynamic fashion and homeware brands with commercial potential in Africa and Asia. The selected designers and entrepreneurs work with local and international mentors to harness their creative capacities to develop exciting new collections. The premiere edition of this eight-month programme will support five designers and design studios to grow their businesses and access international markets.
The Designer Accelerator supports local, sustainable labels to expand internationally and create employment opportunities for artisans. Beginning December 2021, the eight-month programme will provide homeware brands and designers tailored support to develop their business models, enhance their sustainability credentials and amplify their creative capacities.
The chosen designers will receive support in a number of areas including production and creative direction, accessing new markets, and building a sustainable enterprise. Such opportunities enable emerging entrepreneurs to strengthen their communities and export their high-quality, hand-made goods to eager customers around the world.
Since 2009, the EFI has been reshaping the creative industry with the support of the European Union. A new chapter unfolds with the commencement of the Homeware Accelerator. This is the first time EFI works with brands from the region, extending the range of the Designer Accelerator programmes to include an edition specific to homeware and interior design. In Central Asia, EFI programs will invest in human capital to harness the potential of cultural identity as a tool for development, poverty reduction, and identity creation.
Five finalists – UYA Nomad, Camel Wool, ORO, Tigran Erdman, AIKEN – were chosen to take part in the first edition of the EFI’s Homeware Accelerator programme.
Kyrgyzstan-based UYA Nomad by designer Altynai Osmoeva offers minimalist pieces that reflect world heritages and artisan lore from all over the world.
ORO, founded by Murodjon Sharifov, is a design studio located in Tajikistan committed to the creation of experimental projects that intertwine art with Central Asian traditions.
Tigran Erdman, an Uzbek design studio, is the product of Artem Erdman, an industrial designer that works with numerous raw materials including plywood, wood, and silk.
igerim Akenova’s AIKEN is a Kazakhstan-based label that has pioneered sustainable practices in the country.
Lastly, headquartered in Turkmenistan, Camel Wool by Shasenem Garlyyeva offers all-natural dye-free products made using 100% camel wool, a staple in Turkmen culture.
Since learning about the Ethical Fashion Initiative in 2013, it has been my dream to have EFI in Central Asia and to be a part of it! I’m honoured and delighted to join the EFI Accelerator Programme to learn all of the skills I’ll need to assist my brand’s sustainable initiatives become stronger, reach an international level, as well as being a catalyst for the growth of a community of craftsmen and designers! – Aigerim Akenova, AIKEN
I have joined the programme to build the capacity of my team of design studio, ORO, which consists of 23 young designers who work with local artisan groups to promote their work through our studio and into the local market. I hope the Ethical Fashion Initiative will help me to support homeware brands in expanding their products and brands internationally. – Murodjon Sharifov, ORO
Tigran Erdman, Uzbekistan
"Having lived all my life in a country with a huge handicraft heritage, I myself have gone from a craftsman to a product designer. My task as a designer and artisan is different: to reveal and rethink the craft and national potential of Uzbekistan, and to adapt it to modern design challenges and other markets. Everything has development. This is the reason for participating in the Accelerator." – Artem Erdman, Tigran Erdman
Camel Wool, Turkmenistan
"Thank you for choosing us for this programme and for giving us the opportunity to develop in this area, teaching us how to promote our products in the future… I hope that the Accelerator will help us and provide an opportunity to present our unique products on the international markets of Europe. We look forward to productive ideas and cooperation." – Shasenem Garlyyeva, Camel Wool
UYA Nomad, Kyrgyzstan
“Working with natural and handmade raw materials by artisans is at the core of my ethos. It is incredibly important for me to collaborate with artisans and design new contemporary products that are made from eco materials, locally sourced and handmade. (…) Sustainability in my view is what will allow centuries-old traditions and knowledge of handicrafts to continue its existence through the collaborative practice of art by artisans and designers.” Altynai Osmoeva, UYA Nomad
About the project
For the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI), lifestyle choices impact livelihoods. EFI acts as a bridge, connecting marginalized artisan communities in emerging economies with discerning global lifestyle brands, creating meaningful work and fair, decent working conditions.
We develop and sustain social enterprises, designers, artisans and micro-producers in fashion, interiors and fine foods. We build on tradition, heritage and craftsmanship, and inject modern production and business practices to improve quality, consistency and productivity while leaving intact the intrinsic value of the product’s provenance.