Last April, on a sunny afternoon, my mom and I went to have a little walk around the famous Patan’ Durbar Square. Even though, it has been 5 or 6th time for my mom, we still enjoy having a walk in this area, stop at the museum, walk in the small and hidden streets from Patan Dhoka (Patan’s main entrance) to the Bagalamukhi’s temple.
On this afternoon, we also stopped at « Of Silk and Salt », a cutie restaurant café which also presents a textile and lifestyle collection in their store. I had the chance to talk to the founders, Anne and Jérôme, a French-Swiss couple who had fallen in love with Nepal and in general, I would say, with the Silk road’s history.
This is the interview with Anne regarding the Lifestyle shop of « Of Silk and Salt » :
What was/were your inspiration(s) while starting your textile collection?
Of silk and salt is a concept inspired from the silk road and the ancient Himalayan trade road sometimes refereed to as « salt road ». Kathmandu valley is at the cross road of those two roads and is incredibly rich in fantastic artisans, culture, history…As a long time traveler, in love with textile, garment, antics, jewelry, handicraft and food, I liked the idea of telling stories through textile ( and food in our restaurant). The hippie trail is as well a big inspiration . I have always loved the 70’s, its music, its literature, its freedom, Its political engagement.
What is your favorite textile fiber?
I love natural fabrics, prints, hand loomed textiles, embroideries but silk always remain my favorite for it’s softness, resistance and subtle shine. Prints, embroideries, colors , mix and match are always attracting my attention : )
Your collection refers a lot to the « nomadic spirit », are you inviting us to the travel throughout this collection?
Yes, that is precisely the spirit. Textiles are telling a lot about people and cultures, and have been traded for centuries. They convey messages, symbolize trade and exchanges. Each textile bears its own story. Raw material can be from one region or country, transformed and embroidered elsewhere.Dhaka the most representative of all Nepali Fabrics is said to be called after the name of Bangladesh’s capital city because of its woven Technic typical of this area. A Nepali princess who traveled there felt in love with this fabric and brought it back to Nepal.Furthermore , despite Nepal being considered as a small country in the mountains, Kathmandu has always been connected to important trades’ routes. Many culture are present here: all Nepali ethnicity , Tibetan, Newar, kirarti to name a few, but as well small communities from Cashmere, India. Likewise, you find very ancient presence of Nepali in the Golden triangle region of Myanmar, Thailand and Sikkim.So if only looking at fabrics, inspiration is almost endless!
Have you faced challenges while working on the production part?
I have been lucky to be helped as soon as I arrived to identify the right people to work with. The amazing women of the NGO Seven Women, and an excellent man tailor living in my street ( luck!). For me it was clear from the beginning that my production will be small and that priority will be given to quality and finish. Delivery time will be secondary.I think that time from concept to actual production represents the main challenge but it is the price to pay for quality.
Can you name one design which has been created « out of the surprise » or came out as you never expected? If so, tell us about the story!
I am using second hand silk saris for some of my « upcycled saris » creations. It takes long time to select the saris that are both good looking and in good condition. So each second hand sari I select from bulks comes « out of the surprise ».One time, I found a silk sari that was partially embroidered, certainly by her previous owner. It was very unexpected to find such unique piece among hundred of saris I saw this day. I made a very unique scarf out of it. Since then, this scarf has been already sold.
Finish the sentences
I started « Of Silk and Salt, Lifestyle Store » because I have always liked to collect old and new fabrics while traveling. I have always been fascinated by the variety of fabrics produced all over the world and took the opportunity to make my own clothes done by local tailors each time I could.
My typical day starts with an Nepali organic coffee on my « Durbar square view » roof top with my husband and my cat making the plan for the day. We also have a restaurant in addition to the store, and sometimes guests staying at our Airbnb. So no routine. The daily activities range from spotting new fabrics in markets, visiting the workshop, testing new recipes for the restaurant etc. During free time, I either go to practice yoga, have a nice walk around beautiful Patan or do a bit of gardening. We have a great team of young Nepali who work with us. Spending time with them every day, coach them, talk about life or simply have fun together is essential!
Right now, I am loving looking at my plants growing on my rooftop, especially the edible flowers that would soon end up in our restaurant’s plates!
I am happiest when…. the sun shines!
I am inspired by a lot of things! I am always having too many ideas that come to my mind! But markets such as Mangalbazaar are full of treasures that are always stimulating my imagination : )
I would advise my younger self … have no fear, travel and enjoy every little things in life!
This is undeniable for me to say, yes you should visit this place! A nice experience to (re)discover the Silk and Salt route to find your « one-of-a-kind upcycled saari piece » followed by a nice coffee, a lunch, a brunch on the sunny terrace at the restaurant.
I would like to thank you Anne for being so prompt by doing this interview by emails. Me being in India this month and her, being in Thailand.
Do do have a look at the nomadic spirit collection « Of Silk and Salt », get to know their great work via their social medias : their Instagram account and / or their Facebook page along with their website.
Pictures sources from Instagram and Anne Chassaing