The Power in Collaborations; FROMM. Qatar to Milan
What initially strikes you on the busy street of Milan is the yellow band that announces a new furniture showroom, FROMM. If the bright colour does not get your attention, then you need to know that the store is not like any on the streets in Milan; it is a design collaboration that brings together talent from a small country in the Middle East with huge ambitions, Qatar, to the design capital of Italy, Milan. If that does not seem like much, then you should know that FROMM. is a women-led business with women talents and artists collaborating on a creative ambitious project.
When Alia Rachid, who conceived the idea of a design platform with a unique partnership of Qatari-Italian team a year ago, looks back at the timeline of the project, she still feels the exhilaration that she felt at the beginning of the design journey. And it must be this passion that makes this project a success in such a short span of time.
“From an idea that sparked amongst peers to where we are today, it has been an exhilarating journey that only started slightly over a year ago. Today, FROMM. has established its presence, expanded its team, and enriched invaluable experiences collectively, all with the single mission to inaugurate collections that are cultivated by the rich heritage of local design communities, while allowing space for innovation by providing the expertise in great design and impeccable manufacturing,” says Rachid.
Qatar might be small in its expanse but it is a country that is making a huge contribution in the art and design world through the support of its leadership. From new museum openings to art exhibitions within the museums to opening of incubation centres for the support of the artistic industry, Qatar has been leaning big time on its cultural side to create a value-based chain.
M7, a Qatar Museums initiative, is a new innovation and start-up hub located in Doha’s Downtown Msheireb area and it is within this creative hub that FROMM. is spreading its wings from.
“With FROMM., we hope to usher in a new era in design culture that focuses not only on the end product for the final user but the design process, orientation, and collaboration, behind each collection. It is this focus that enables FROMM. to create these collections that allow innovation of traditional heritage to exist in any environment or living space,” resonates Rachid.
And it is this very design process that makes us identify the designers and the stories behind each of the products that was revealed during the launch of FROMM, in Milan.
The Launch Collection
The Shurouq Collection is the first collection from FROMM. and is inspired by Qatar’s nature and heritage.
“Its design focuses on originality and multifunctionality. The furniture pieces are aesthetically beautiful and can be utilised in various settings bringing an international angle to Qatari heritage in living spaces, from residential to professional hospitality, such as corporates and airports,” says Rachid.
“The word ‘Shurouq’ is an Arabic word that translates to ‘Dawn’, which not only embodies part of the inspiration behind this collection but also where FROMM. is as a company. FROMM. is only at its dawn and has a long journey ahead,’ she says as she launched her first collection.
The furniture collection that was on display at the showroom in Milan, is like Rachid explained rich in its materiality with luxury at its core. There is a touch of Qatari elegance with the ivory furnishings, while the wooden curved support gives the design a newness, with a touch of panache added to the sofa design.
While the seating furniture are simply aesthetic to the eye and elegant in design, it is the Maktaba, that leaves us wonderous. It is a coming together of classic lines interpreted in a cool contemporary wood and steel.
Meeting the Designers
Maryam Al Suwaidi, a Qatari artist, has completed a bachelor’s in fine arts (interior design) and MA in Urban planning and Design, from Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Arts in Qatar and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Design. If you are from Qatar, it is not easy to have missed her work, as she has participated in many art exhibitions and has a unique strong voice that takes a critical view of social and cultural matters using the philosophy of conceptualism as the primary muse and tool. Her art works give the viewers much to contemplate and discuss on her layering methods, the different ideologies and the passage of time that she incorporates in her thought and design process. It is therefore very interesting to see this same process incorporated on a functional piece of design.
“My journey with FROMM. was a whole new experience in my artistic career. As a visual artist, I know how to translate my thoughts into artistic visions. But through my collaboration with FROMM., I’ve learned how to translate those artistic visions into daily practical elements that are not only used as mere furniture pieces but also reflect the artistic beauty of our identity and culture,” says Maryam Al Suwaidi.
It is here that Al Suwaidi specifically remembers the support from the Italian side of the collaboration that made her understand the process in making the perfect furniture, keeping in mind, the shape, the functionality and finally the look of the piece designed.
In conceiving and designing the Sofa “Baida”, armchair and pouf “Haima”, and tables “Majra”, Maryam Al Suwaidi was inspired by the natural elements of the sand dunes and their dynamic shape that can be likened to the complexity of one’s identity formed by individual characteristics, historical and life factors, social contexts.
Qatari artist Shua’a Ali is another well-known artist with her long years of experience delivering creativity in and around Qatar with her latest offering being a public art installation at the Msheireb Downtown Doha, which is a coming together of diverse materials in all forms, shapes and colour.
“My creativity has largely fuelled my passion for art and design culture. FROMM. has provided me a great platform to take this a step forward by facilitating and guiding me to translate this creativity and diversify my creative practices through multiple artistic mediums,” says Shua’a Ali about this new opportunity presented to her.
The Coffee table “Maiz”, side table “Tawla”, console “Derj”, wall unit “Maktaba” and the floor lamp “Laite”, are the five pieces designed by Shua’a Ali, with the exception of the floor lamp, which was co-designed with Ellaquadro. These pieces are characterised by the prominent presence of an arch, inspired by the design of the traditional Qatari architectural buildings. Ali’s signature of stacking can also be seen in the wall unit, which is a SCALE favourite design.
FROMM. seems to have its design ethos in place; of engaging and connecting young aspiring designers to professionals and companies worldwide, to develop and create a global design system with consumers as clients, designers as creative thinkers, suppliers, and retailers as partners. An entire value chain that will benefit the fledging design industry in Qatar.
All Images Courtesy FROMM.