New East Digital Archive

This London start-up is backing real Central Asian design

This London start-up is backing real Central Asian design
Image: ASHKA

11 October 2018

Alex Ahn has just three rules when choosing designs for his latest start-up venture: every item must be simple, useful and inspired by the past. Growing up in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat, he was drawn to Central Asia’s nomadic tradition. Now he wants his products to play to the same principles of life on the steppe.

His brand, ASHKA, works with British and Central Asian designers to create and sell new items inspired by the region’s past. Some products draw on Turkmen alaja threads, Kyrgyz shyrdak felt rugs and even the design of a bus station in Shymkent, Kazakhstan. Others reinvent region-wide traditions.

“High street and luxury brands are increasingly accused of cultural appropriation,” he says. “ASHKA aims to tell a full story about each product we sell. Our purpose is to promote the brand of Central Asia though modern design and storytelling rather than stereotypical images.”

The online store is now reaching out to UK shoppers with a crowdfunding campaign designed to give ASHKA a platform at London’s street markets, as well as funding more online collections.

“I am thrilled that this initiative can put Central Asia on London’s design map.” says Kazakh product designer Galym Kairalapov, who worked on the collection.

To see ASHKA’s first collection, visit the brand’s crowdfunding page here.