Danish Design Start-up Ca’lyah Takes Inspiration from Tamil Nadu

Design start-up from Denmark Ca’lyah launches its signature collection The Tranquebar Series inspired by Tamil Nadu in South India.

The Tranquebar Chair and Stool (teak) are handcrafted in Tamil Nadu, India. Photo: Heidi Lerkenfeldt

With its distinctive embroidered pattern as its heart and a clean, modern silhouette, the Tranquebar Chair is simple in design from behind yet stunning from the front with its quilted seat and backrest. The embroidered upholstery in cotton velour tells a tale of its South Indian origin. And that is the very purpose of this new Danish design company Ca’lyah; to curate positive stories emphasising the locality of the craft through design. The furniture company comes with a seemingly utopian business model with strong social and environmental goals as each of its products is manufactured in countries using local craftsmen. Ca’lyah’s first edition called the Tranquebar Edition is designed by Copenhagen-based designer Boris Berlin inspired by his study visits to Tamil Nadu in India. Here he discovered the richness in colours, patterns, and the highly skilled artisanship which gave inspiration to the collection. The next edition will be designed by Danish textile designer Margrethe Odgaard and will be launched in fall 2021. Ca’lyah has the intent of bringing together renowned international designers with craftspeople from around the world.

The Tranquebar Process. Photo by John Norris.

The craftsmanship put to use in Tamil Nadu as Boris Berlin, the designer looks on. Photo by John Norris.

Nigel Majakari founded Ca’lyah not because he thought the world needed another furniture company, but to re-imagine design as a way to express positive values and to make a measurable impact. He produces design pieces with distinctive character and sustainable qualities combining Nordic design principles with design expressions from other regions.

“I have spent more than 25 years working with underserved communities around the world, dealing with social and economic development problems. Inspired by meeting and working with skilled artisans I wanted to find a way to bring them together with exceptional designers. With the incredible support of dedicated investors, I founded Ca’lyah in Copenhagen in 2019 with the purpose to curate positive stories realised through design,” says Nigel Majakari, founder and CEO of Ca’lyah.

“I am very aware of the complexity when trying to make a change. So, we are not saying that we as a company can solve everything, but we are devoted to creating a business model with strong social and environmental goals.” Nigel Majakari continues.

Nigel Majakari, founder of Ca’lyah. Photo by John Norris

The products in the Tranquebar Edition are manufactured by craftsmen and women in India and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Some of the furniture pieces from the Tranquebar Edition are made in Tamil Nadu, India, supporting the local craftsmen and women there. Other furniture pieces in the collection are manufactured in Bosnia-Hercegovina where it is possible to achieve a high level of sustainability in the production with certain wood species while at the same time supporting the handicraft workshops there”, says Nigel Majakari.

The Tranquebar coffee table. Photo: Jeppe Gudmundsen Holmgreen

For the Tranquebar coffee table, console table, and dining table, the stone bases are carved by hand in Tamil Nadu, India. Photo: Jeppe Gudmundsen Holmgreen

5% of income from the Tranquebar collection supports the Next Generation Craft Lab in Chennai, India. A project with emphasis on the empowerment of women in craft. Photo: Jeppe Gudmundsen Holmgreen

As part of its mission Ca’lyah aims to promote gender equality. Anna Sofie Juul, a highly skilled cabinetmaker at the Danish furniture company PP Furniture, volunteered to lead the development and collaboration process with the artisans in India. Through the process of designing and crafting the first prototypes in India, Anna Sofie Juul and Boris Berlin overcame stereotypes and many differences.

“Carpentry is one of the oldest skills and crafts known to humankind. Throughout history, woodcraft has and continues to be, predominantly a male-centric trade. This has been our experience in Denmark and in India, as it is in other places across the world. As Ca’lyah set out on the Tranquebar journey in Tamil Nadu we wanted to address the issue and explore new solutions to help create access for women in the industry. It is a long road, but we have made the first step, and the signs are encouraging from our craft partners in India”, says Nigel Majakari.

The Tranquebar series from Ca’lyah. Styling: Kiosk Studio Photo: Jeppe Gudmundsen Holmgreen

Styling the Tranquebar series. Stylist: Pernille Vest Photo: Heidi Lerkenfeldt

The Tranquebar Stool is a powerful pop of vibrant colours that form a surprising contrast to its otherwise clean expression. The visible joints and simple circles form a modern piece of furniture, while the colourways and embroidered upholstery transform the stool into a story about its own origin. Created where tradition meets innovation, the Tranquebar Stool weaves the rich heritage of the Tamil Nadu region in India into a modern design perspective.

The Tranquebar stool Photo: Jeppe Gudmundsen Holmgreen

The Tranquebar table series presents the rich heritage of the Tamil Nadu region in India from the perspective of modern design. The internationally acclaimed designer, Boris Berlin found his inspiration in the colours, the shapes, and the culture. Once his ideas and the distinctive pattern had materialised, he returned to India, where the granite stone base is handcrafted by traditional stone carvers.

Created where tradition meets innovation, the Tranquebar Stool weaves the rich heritage of the Tamil Nadu region in India into a modern design perspective. Photo: Jeppe Gudmundsen Holmgreen

The design process of the Tranquebar. Photo: John Norris

All Images Courtesy Ca’lyeh

Courtesy: Danish Design Agency