Plain Tiger Spotlight: KORISSA

A tangible tribute to the power of Fair Trade

By Renee Fortune

There’s something magical about objects of beauty that are crafted by hand. They just feel different. And to appreciate something handmade is to honour the work of someone you will never meet face-to-face, but whose work embodies hints of who they are and what they hold dear. 

Nora Kim and Angela Hamilton are the co-founders of KORISSA – an interior decor brand based in Long Island, New York. All the pieces in the KORISSA collection are handwoven and produced by artisans in Bangladesh, who work for organisations that operate according to fair trade principles. At its most fundamental level, KORISSA is a flourishing example of the power of fair trade and every piece embodies; in twists and turns, a story of hope and determination.

In 2017, While working for a family business in Bangladesh, Angela encountered a social entrepreneur who worked for a non-governmental and World Fair Trade organisation dedicated to poverty alleviation and social upliftment. Inspired by this powerful message, Angela joined forces with Nora to bring the items made in Dhaka, Bangladesh into the ultra-modern metropolis of New York and beyond. 

Sharing her perspective on the importance of embedding sustainable practices into the design process, Nora explains that: “KORISSA makes the greatest possible effort to preserve the culture and history of our artisans. We invest time and resources into learning about traditional techniques and the unique elements that artisans in Bangladesh have perfected over centuries.

We collaborate with our artisans to integrate traditional hand-weaving techniques into the production process, using mostly hand-dyed natural fibres to create jute and seagrass baskets and plant hangers. For our fabric items, we work and design closely with artisans to create products using ethnic patterns, textures, and techniques, such as jamdani patterns or Batik. For terracotta products our artisans use locally sourced clay with traditional hand-etching techniques and whitewash finishes. 
We introduce or suggest new techniques or methods to improve the marketability of our products in the global market only under the condition that it is acceptable to the artisans and does not degrade the value of our products or disrespect their cultural heritage in any way.”

The KORISSA collection is a Shangri-La for lovers of earthy, crafted home decor and accessories. The range abounds with texture, with textiles like seagrass and jute exuding a sense of organic beauty – a ‘back to earth’ aesthetic that can work just as well in a ‘country-chic’ setting as it would in a contemporary space. 

In the range you’ll find baskets in several different colourways, some of them featuring geometrical designs and intricately woven detailing that’s unique to each piece. Everything you’ll find in the range is handwoven by teams of women who were former housewives from impoverished rural communities. Today, they work as professional artisans, painstakingly applying age-old techniques to their craft and using indigenous fibres to create pieces that strike the perfect balance between function and form.

KORISSA is undoubtedly a product of its time – a brand on a mission to solve a problem that is unique to the twenty-first century. Climate change is an environmental reality that concerns all global citizens, and along with the sustainability imperative that all countries share, there is a greater call for social justice, particularly in long-forgotten and neglected places like Bangladesh and its many rural villages. KORISSA has stepped boldly into these environments and created a sustainable way to uplift people and the planet; producing interior design pieces that are exceptionally well-made and distinctive in their design appeal. 

In a world inundated with products of machine-powered, mass production, going back to a time when the things we owned and cherished were made by humans just like you and I, provides us with a reprieve from consumerism’s obsession with ‘the next big thing.’ This is what the co-founders of KORISSA discovered for themselves first-hand.
$99.00 USD