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Sunday, November 1, 2009

November Issue Preview: malene b: Soulful. Creative. Living.

Written By: Staff Writer—Global art and world culture drive Malene Barnett's signature rugs in hand-knotted, hand-tufted and flat-woven wool and silk. Malene says her company, malene b, was the natural outgrowth of three things: her textile studies at New York’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, her years working as a textile designer, and a passion for exotic travel. Read an excerpt from MIMI's interview with Malene by following the "Read More" link ...

MIMI: Could you please tell us about your background and what led you to design?
Malene Barnett: My family is from the Caribbean, St Vincent and Jamaica. I was raised by my mother who is the jack of all trades. Growing up, in Norwalk, Connecticut my mother was always decorating and re-decorating the house for each season. She taught my two sisters and I the art of learning how to make things on our own. I’ve been fascinated with art ever since I was selected to participate in a creative arts program during the third grade. From that experience I continue with my art studies and I decided to pursue a career in the arts which led me to study Fine Arts at Suny Purchase. Then I continued my education in Surface Textile Design and Fashion Illustration and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Associates in Applied Science. I discovered the field of textiles while I was studying Fashion Illustration at FIT. I would wander the halls of FIT and observe the displays of students work and that’s how I discovered Textiles. I was near my last year in illustration and I knew that there wasn’t much work in the field plus I wasn’t the top illustrator in my class. I knew that I had drawing skills and a great color sense. So I decided to take a class in textile design and this is where I found a place to apply my love of drawing and color. What really appealed to me was that the art that I was able to create was not only beautiful but functional. Hence my design career was born.

MIMI: What led you to branch out on your own and start malene b?
Malene Barnett: I started malene b back in 2003 but the focus was home furnishings more specifically bedding. In 2008 I decided to focus on my passion which is designing carpets. I wanted to create carpets that incorporated my creative background and passion for travel. I wanted to create a company that not only produced great designs but inspired others to see carpet design in a different way as well as view the world in a different way.

MIMI: In three words, how would you describe your design aesthetic?
Malene Barnett: My design aesthetic is global, contemporary and bold! I just know what I like and allow others to express what they see.

MIMI: What inspired you to draw from Senegalese, Moroccan, and Kenyan cultures—among many other influences—for your various collections?
Malene Barnett: I love Senegal, Morocco and Kenyan cultures because they all reflect a different part of my African heritage. The diversity within each country constantly keeps my creative juices flowing…there is so much to be inspired by! For example one of my favorite West African dishes is Chebujen from Senegal ... plus I love Youssou N’dour. The art and architecture of Morocco always amazes me and the jewelry and the shaved head of the Maasai Women of Kenya inspired my personal style. Since I am personally influenced by global cultures I wanted to design carpets that reflect my modern design sensibilities as well as my passion for world travel.

Look for a full length feature story about malene b in MIMI's upcoming November 2009 issue, and be sure to visit for more information.

(Photo Credits: Laurie Klein)


Anonymous said...

What a lovely and beautiful woman---inside and out, inspired by so many different cultures. I am truly touched that she was inspired to wear her hair shaved by Maasai women. Just beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I love her hair

Kua said...

I love her story and I appreciate her journey! I wish her all the best - from one FIT student to another :)

MIMI, continue to keep us posted on all these fresh talents.