Dezeen Magazine

Menu blends Scandinavian design with traditional crafts to help Nepali women

Maison&Objet 2015: Danish design brand Menu has launched a soft furnishings collection produced in Nepal, to offer Nepali craftswomen an alternative to working in the sex trade (+ slideshow).


The Nepal Projects intiative came about as a partnership with Danida, a development cooperation set up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark that aims to help people out of poverty by promoting human rights and economic growth.

Menu said the initiative aims to help girls in Nepal use traditional craft skills such as weaving to help support themselves, avoiding the alternative of becoming a sex worker and being separated from their families.


"In Nepal, many girls and young women are being tricked into prostitution, sent to India and later excluded from their families," the brand said.

"A way to prevent this issue is to give the girls an opportunity to support themselves and their families from an early age. This can happen by giving the girls a decent job by utilising their immaculate weaving skills and the region’s natural resources."


Menu worked with four Scandinavian studios to create the collection. Danish studio Norm Architects, Stockholm design agency Afteroom, Swedish collective Note Design Studio and Danish interiors brand A Hint of Neon all worked closely with locals in Nepal to unite new designs with ancient craft techniques.


"This for us was much more then just designing new items," Note Design Studio co-founder Cristiano Pigazzini told Dezeen. "For the very first time we had the feeling that our skills and knowledge could do something really good, many not for all but at least for some."


Norm Architects designed a grey and light grey canvas laundry bag, with handles and a folded top, while Afteroom created a soft brown woollen toy bear.


A Hint of Neon created a set of hand-printed scarfs and cashmere throws and bedcovers in muted colours, as well as a Japanese-style knotted grey canvas bag.


Note Design Studio produced a series of cashmere and merino wool pillows, as well as a set of more structural house-shaped storage boxes. Available in varying shades of blue, pink and grey, and made from paper and stiff material, the "roof" of each box can be lifted off to store items inside.


"With our Nepal Projects we have unified our Scandinavian 'soft-minimalism' aesthetics with the skills of local Nepali craftspeople, helping to build local community through the production of unique design objects," Menu said in a statement.

"The handmade production makes it possible to produce high quality design without compromising the minimalistic, timeless expression that is the core of the new Menu brand."


The Nepal Projects collection was shown at the Maison&Objet design fair, which ran from 4 to 8 September in at the Nord Villepinte exhibition centre outside Paris.


Also shown at this year's fair was Lars Beller Fjetland's self-extinguishing Moment candlestick for Wrong for Hay, and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec's slatted Palissade outdoor furniture.