Full disclosure: when I was preparing this story, I was sitting on the couch next to my husband, perusing the KUSHAAN website with approximately 32 tabs open, consisting of all my favourited products...
With a glance over my shoulder, I could sense my husband rolling his eyes at my potential acquisition of more cushions. As women, we often get a bad rap for adorning our couches and cushions with a comical number of decorative pillows (and yes, I am guilty). But when they are as stunning, unique and well-crafted as KUSHAAN’s … Not only are they impossible to resist, but they’re also a fast, inexpensive and dramatic way to transform the look of a room.
The brainchild of Dubai-based mother-of-four, Kate Keenan, KUSHAAN draws inspiration from global treasures such as antique Iznik tiles, exceptional Indian craftsmanship and embellishment, heirloom European ceramics and the colours of Morocco.
Handwoven, hand embroidered and distinctly unique, the brand’s collection is the antithesis of mass-produced goods, by supporting global local artisans and their trades.
We caught up with Kate to find out about the collection, how she manages the business with four children and her tips for styling a space.
Photography | Abbi Kemp
Tell us a little about KUSHAAN...
KUSHAAN is a textile company that specializes in master woven ikat from Uzbekistan, a highly skilled dying and weaving technique that has been used throughout central Asia for centuries. We also stock a range of exquisite hand embroidered suzani panels. These sumptuous, artisan-made textiles are then crafted into handmade cushions for homeowners and designers alike. KUSHAAN also supplies the handwoven ikat by the meter to the interior design trade.
What did your career involve prior to KUSHAAN?
My background was in photography – from organizing photo shoots for GQ magazine to managing a photographic studio to running my own commercial photographic business that focused on family portraiture. Although it was a wonderfully flexible career that I could pour my energies into it in between moving countries or having babies, I think I always knew deep down it wasn’t the right path for me. It certainly never gave me the same feelings of satisfaction that I get from running KUSHAAN. The serendipity of life is amazing though as the photographic skills I gained throughout those years have been so useful in setting up KUSHAAN as I am able to take all the photographs for Instagram and other marketing purposes.
What sparked the inspiration to launch your own business?
After I had my fourth child I ‘retired’ from photography as I eventually came to terms with the fact that it just wasn’t for me. I was searching for what to do and I really delved inside to find where my passions lay as I knew any successful business would have to be driven by passion. I have always had a big obsession for textiles which had nearly pushed me in the direction of Interior Design years earlier. I have also always been creatively so inspired by the incredible aesthetics of artisan cultures in faraway lands such as Turkey, India and Iran. I went to a friend and mentor with two business ideas. She had some great advice and was pivotal in me choosing this path.
My initial startup idea involved designing my own prints, however as I dove more and more into the world of ikat I could see so many possibilities for this gorgeous textile. Although I have some beautiful print designs in development these have been put on hold as I could see the potential and the benefits of the brand staying focused. I am also loving not just the product but the very act of building a business. Creating a valuable resource for designers and homeowners alike is a big driver for me.
How did you make the transition into your own business?
I just launched straight into it headfirst which I actually think is the right tactic. It was so exciting for me to feel so driven and being able to build a business doing something I loved. The unwavering support from my husband was also pivotal in getting KUSHAAN off the ground. Especially as I am running this business solo at this stage, it has given me such confidence to have that constant support.