With a strong drive to fuse innovative design with traditional techniques, Creative Director and Designer, Jehanara Knowles, placed this passion at the forefront when creating interiors and furniture brand Kam Ce Kam. Taking inspiration from a childhood spent between New Delhi and London, Jehanara’s furniture and interiors brand finds beauty in simplicity, creating pieces with a strong emphasis on the purity of materiality. Jehanara has made a conscious effort to predominantly employ sustainably sourced and natural materials, using timber, leather, cane and stone as the main materials throughout the collection. Kam Ce Kam’s launch during London Design Festival 2019 was, unsurprisingly, a success and the company was quickly marked as one to watch. Speaking to Jehanara a few months after her launch, she divulged all there is to know about her brand, the impact of her upbringing on her creative inspiration and what she believes the future holds for design.
Jehanara, can you tell us a little about your background in interior design?
From a very young age I knew I wanted to be in the world of design. I was surrounded by it growing up with interior and furniture design parents. I went on to study architecture at Central St Martins and after graduating I started working with Shalini Misra, an interior architecture and interior design practice in London. About two years in and working on a lot of bespoke furniture design, I realised that furniture and accessories were my true calling.
How was the idea behind Kam Ce Kam born?
The whole concept of Kam Ce Kam is contemporary, hand-made in India. Through my childhood of living in India and seeing the work of local craftsmen and artisans, I was always fascinated by the skill and workmanship. Through my parents’ practice and other close designer friends who work in hand loom, ceramics, leather work, metal work and lighting, my horizons were constantly broadening and I really began to understand the unmatchable resources of India. I wanted to bring this to life through a contemporary lense.
Does the name have a special meaning to you?
‘Kam Ce Kam’ is a Hindi phrase which can have several connotations but is widely recognised as meaning ‘at the very least’. I saw it as a starting point: ‘at the very least, this is just the beginning for the possibilities that we have in creating with artisans in India’. It is also linked to the philosophy of ‘less is more’ – investing in fewer quality pieces.
What is your design ethos?
The philosophy of Kam Ce Kam is celebrating the contemporary hand-made. India is a country of such rich talent and materials and we want to reveal these as we develop the collection. The craft and materials I used in the launch collection are a collection of very ‘Indian’ trades which we wanted to contemporise. In terms of our aesthetic, I want to bring together cutting-edge, clean and modern design but merge it with the delicate nature of hand-made products to create pieces that tell a story and hold within them a rich heritage.
Do you have a favourite piece from your collection?
My favourite piece would have to be the Mera chair. It may seem like a simple piece but it took so many iterations and a lot of work to get it right! It has a very slender spoke-shaved frame with a double-caned insert and leather seat. It was inspired by colonial furniture but I wanted to put a very contemporary spin on it. It’s a chair you can lounge in, use as a statement piece in a hallway or a cosy reading chair in a bedroom.
What was the biggest challenge for you in launching your own furniture and interiors brand?
The biggest challenge when it came to launching the collection was being very careful in how we curated the pieces in the collection, looking at the purpose of each piece, how they worked together with the rest of the collection to tell our story as a new brand, why we used the materials and crafts that we did and how they would be used by clients all whilst staying true to our ethos. We ended up with a launch collection of 10 pieces, all of which tie in perfectly together and tell the story of what we do.
How do you think furniture and interiors will develop in the next decade?
We are seeing a big change in the creative industries, moving towards more sustainable and consciously developed products. I think this will continue to grow and hopefully brands that support this will become more accessible. I think we will also see an interesting shift in how technology and craftsmanship can be used together to create products that are high-quality, built to last and which facilitate the hand-making process.