An interview with Amreen Rahman, designer and founder of Kala Pata, a lifestyle brand that brings you beautiful handcrafted stationery and homeware.
Amreen’s journey began in the bustling city of Dhaka, Bangladesh where she was born and lived until she was 16. At that young age, she was sent to live in the UK and to study. Further education required her to move to Singapore for a few years, then back to London and eventually back home to Dhaka. If all those moves had not been enough, Amreen decided to relocate to Bangkok for a year before returning yet again to her hometown. Truly a global citizen, her latest destination is Singapore where she now lives. Amreen’s journeys have heavily influenced the designs we see in her beautiful range of stationery, lacquer boxes, trays, clutches and even phone cases that are KalaPata’s signature. From Peranakan motifs to the city of Samarkand, the heart of the ancient Silk Route, her unique designs evoke a sense of wanderlust. A feeling that we are able to enjoy with her gorgeous designs.
Ordinary People had the pleasure of sitting down for a coffee while Amreen told us her tale. We are pleased to be able to share her interview with you.
Tell us about yourself, how did this all begin?
After relocating to Singapore from New York, I was working with a design agency. I was very unhappy with the long hours and the kind of work I was doing. In my mind, this was supposed to be my “big break” but the reality was far from it. After a year of feeling miserable, I left that job and kept wondering what to do with my time.
It was around this time I discovered the Peranakan culture — went to the library and read up on it, visited the Peranakan museum and Baba house. Even ate at restaurants that were as authentic as I could find serving nonya cuisine. This gave me a little glimpse into their fascinating way of life.
Coincidently, we also had a lot of friends and family visiting us in Singapore and I was often left wondering where I could take our guests for them to pick up something from here. Where was that quintessential Singaporean brand?
The genesis of Kala Pata began as a search for the “quintessential Singaporean” brand. All the malls along Orchard Road were filled with the Jim Thompsons and the Shanghai Tangs of the world but I couldn’t really find a brand that had a distinct Singaporean story to tell.
Tell us about the Samarkand collection?
I’ve always been fascinated with the Silk Route but I was sitting on very complex subject matter that spanned across a number of continents and encompassed the cultures of many different countries.
My solution was to focus on the epicentre of the Silk Route — hence Samarkand.
The Samarkand collection takes its inspiration from the city of Samarkand which was at the heart of the Silk Route through Central Asia. The Silk Route was an ancient network of roads initially for trade but quickly became the beacon of cultural and artistic exchange between the West and the East.
The city became the beneficiary of a convergence of myriad world cultures throughout centuries. As a result, the city of Samarkand evolved to blend and encapsulate the magnificent art, architecture, textile trends from the Western hemisphere to Eastern hemisphere.
This collection pays homage to those brilliant eras when Samarkand city became the heart and soul of the world.
I absolutely love your cards and wrapping sheets (and your whole range actually). Everything is so vibrant! Can you let us know where you find your inspiration?
For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to cultures that have a very colourful tapestry. I am drawn to /inspired by everything from art and architecture, literature to textile even the patterns and shapes that exist in jewellery.
I’m sure subconsciously my upbringing in Bangladesh which has such a rich heritage (from literature to poetry to dance) has influenced me immensely. As has the time spent in so many different countries.
Certainly my formal education as a graphic designer makes me look at my environment and seek out beauty everywhere.
Lately, during my early morning tai chi lessons I find myself looking at trees and studying the delicate formation of patterns made with leaves.
What’s next for Kala Pata?
Working on taking Kala Pata beyond the sunny shores of Singapore and doing research for our next collection.
What would you say to any aspiring graphic designer/entrepreneur?
If you’re an entrepreneur always ask yourself what you’re trying to solve for by creating XYZ.
And know your why.
To all the budding graphic designers, learn how to draw not just on the computer but with a pencil on paper.
Know the rules before you break them and there are already so many people following trends.
Don’t just hop onto the bandwagon.
Thank you, Amreen!
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All images provided by Kala Pata.