Birch Lane Goes To India
For its summer Passport collection, the Boston-based online retailer travels abroad to find authenticity and global inspiration
Travel is a never-ending source of inspiration. Whether a quick jaunt down the highway or a trip around the world, the wandering eye inevitably yields a burst of creative energy. When Birch Lane, Wayfair's year-old lifestyle brand, set out to design a new India-inspired collection, there was no question that the team would travel straight to the source to experience the landscape and collaborate with local makers.
"We find that designing our collections alongside the people who actually make them is the way to get great products—the collaboration is happening in real time, and the creative process is much more effective in person," says Birch Lane founder and design director Meredith Mahoney, who each season seeks to create an inspiring and accessible array of home goods for their shoppers.
Infused with contagious energy, deliberate detail, and vibrant color, the new Passport collection echoes India's storied heritage. Intricate botanical motifs engraved on the exterior of the Agra Fort were translated onto placemats and linen napkins. Embroidered textiles sold by street vendors largely inspired the line's selection of patterned quilts. Bone-inlay accents, block-printed linens, and tasseled throw pillows round out the collection, all designed with the help of their trusted artisans. "Without their skills, creativity, and longstanding construction techniques, we would not have the products that drive our brand," says Mahoney. "The Birch Lane designers have a vision for the product we sell, but our makers bring it to life."
This global collaboration is equally as important as the relationship Birch Lane has with its growing customer base. The company is just as determined to bring responsibly sourced goods to its e-commerce site as they strive to provide worldly design to American homes. "India has such a rich heritage of patterns, colors, and design that is intrinsic in its culture, and most people don't get to experience it firsthand," says Mahoney. "We want to give that experience to our customers."
The design trip wasn't only spent perfecting designs, however. The small team took the time to bask in the majesty of the Taj Mahal, marveling in the honeycomb-carved marble in the pishtaqs, and letting the colorful chaos of New Delhi engross their senses. Quieter moments, such as enjoying tea with their host family each morning and sharing American chocolates with their head seamstress, proved to be just as memorable and impactful.
"It's humbling to meet people who have carried on cultural traditions for generations—hand-knotting rugs or block-printing fabrics—and [to see] how important those skills are to the identity of their communities," says Mahoney. With an eye to authenticity and quality, the brand's potential is truly global in reach.