EnShalla turns food bags into chic totes
Ever since we came across these gorgeous bags, we have been in love with En Shalla and the wonderful couple behind the brand, Daren and Maryam Boner. So we thought it would be nice to hop on a Zoom and get Daren to tell us the story of how the En Shalla brand and the Food Bag Project came to life. As it turns out, it's as much a design story as one about experimenting and giving discarded materials a second life, while investing in Moroccan craftsmanship.
Hi Daren! So, can you tell us about how you founded En Shalla and then The Food Bag Foundation, these two distinctive and beautiful projects?
Yes. So, I met Maryam in 1991. She is from Morocco, I'm from London.
When I was visiting Morocco, I noticed these slippers, but local artisans often lacked consistency in their work, or maybe the leather quality wasn’t great. And I loved the idea of handmade in Morocco because the skill and workmanship we saw was great. So, we thought why not try to bridge that gap?
So first we started making luxury babouches and selling them. We could tell they were becoming trendy because we had Japanese cool kids buying them.
At the time, handbags and accessories were taking off quite a lot. We came to Morocco 17 years ago and the initial idea was to take a classic Moroccan product and twist it. Working with artisans here, but viewing things through my eyes, a London mentality. So, we started twisting things around, changing up the materials. As simple as that, a simple and fresh vision.
That’s how we got going with En Shalla and it’s been growing ever since, you know, it’s our baby.
And what a beautiful baby that is! So how did you start your upcycled range?
Well, when we first came here, I noticed that people were recycling everything. Coming from a Western background, I found that fascinating, we waste so many things, but here everything gets a second life. Nothing goes to waste.
Out of necessity, people are constantly recycling materials to re-use them. I found this very refreshing since I first got to the country in 1993 and we decided to embrace this for the brand as much as we can.
But despite that, there is still lots of plastic around to work with, all the time. So that’s how we started working with these industrial food bags, about five years ago, as a base for some designs. I was interested in the grid-like weave, created like pixelated designs.
Yes, we picked up on that from the language on your website explains how these industrial bags give you a formatted form of canvas.
Exactly. Which is like the kind of embroidery or cross stitch patterns we do when we are kids, so it was almost like going back to school. I started messing around with those and incorporated these bags within En Shalla and they sold really well.
But then I could tell that this side of the business was getting its own kind of identity, and the customers who were buying these bags weren’t necessarily buying from En Shalla. And then we decided to start working towards a foundation, which we are still in the process of creating. We want to start an education fund to support children’s education via the profits from these upcycled products.
We’ve noticed an evolution since I first discovered your ‘food’ bags. You've done some super fun brights, mixed colours and very graphic. Are you finding people are driven to this product easily through social media?
Yes, we only launched the dedicated Instagram about a year ago, but we are seeing it gain momentum recently which is exciting.
When I look back, I’m not from a fashion background but everything I made had to have a visual impact. Our bags are getting better and better, because we’ve learned to make them more and more practical, that’s been what we have been working towards with En Shalla.
Visual impact has always been my first goal rather than practicality.
So, it’s true, the Food Bags Foundation suit me because they’re like blank canvases, that I can transform into pieces of art and I love that. I’d go as far as saying it's endless what we can do with them.
We totally agree. They look so good, a perfect collection for the coming summer! Do you have any images of the food bags when they are filled with the rice or couscous? We really enjoyed learning the reason behind the three sizes of your bags is because it corresponds to the kgs amounts of food the bags carried in their original life.
Yes. Each bag comes in 3 sizes: 10kg = Small : 25kg = Medium : 50kg = Large. These are the amounts of food the bags carried in their original life and we love to keep this concept.
You know, in the beginning, we got a bit too complicated and so now there are three size handles, three size bags: it's easy, it's clear.
The result is architectural in design because it's so clean but then also its ethical and artisan made. I like mixing all these aspects in these collections.
We couldn’t agree more. Thanks so much for your work, we can’t wait to take our bags out!
Lovely. Thanks so much. Nice talking to you!