Looking back on her career, Malene Barnett says her new company, malene b, was the natural outgrowth of three things: her textile studies at New York’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, her years as a designer, and a passion for exotic travel. As a student, Malene won a rug design competition and has retained the fascination with rugs. After a long period as a textile designer, she launched a company dedicated to creating authentic, global-influenced designs in hand-knotted, hand-tufted and flat-woven wool and silk.
From the beginning, Malene knew she would only use child-labor-free manufacturing facilities. “I’d seen the conditions in factories overseas, and the little children going to work, so I wanted to be part of an organization that shares my values,” she says. When she read about GoodWeave®, she said to herself, “This is what I want to be a part of.”
Global art and world culture drive malene b’s signature collection and custom work. Malene has traveled extensively to Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia, taking photographs along the way. A trip to India and an experience with mehndi, a henna-based skin decorating technique, resulted in one of her signature designs, “Mehndi.” A journey to Senegal and an opportunity to study traditional celebration dresses inspired “Wolof.” Malene loved the stylized figures on the traditional fabrics; and she worked in repeat to adapt the concept for her rugs. The multicolored “Papunya” was inspired by hand dot paintings of Australia’s Aboriginal people.
With years of textile design under her belt, Malene acknowledges that rugs have stolen her heart. “I love the possibilities of different textures, and I do love the timelessness of rugs,” she says. “They last forever!” Intricately bound with her commitment to the art form is a commitment to the rug artisans and their children. “I live and breathe what I do, and part of what I do is to try to inspire others to look out at the world.” she says. When she shows potential clients her samples, she lets them know immediately that the pieces are child-labor-free and that her partnership with GoodWeave helps fulfill her belief that all children, the artisans’ children included, have a right to an education.
For more information, visit www.maleneb.com.