Kafka Goes Pink: Lebanon's leading light in design
Fady Saliba understands the power of a good name. The Lebanese designer was living in Prague when he decided to launch his own lighting and homeware company and decided to name it Kafka Goes Pink, after one of the city's most famous inhabitants.
"In Prague there are shops named after Kafka, there are cafes named after Kafka and there are streets and museums named after Kafka. But I remember reading The Metamorphosis and thinking: how can anybody be in such a beautiful place and be so macabre and so dark?
"Since I wanted to do something new, with a twist, I couldn't use a name like 'Earth and Sand', which sounds like a souvenir shop. I wanted something that was almost shocking. That's how I came up with Kafka Goes Pink."
The names of Saliba's products are similarly steeped in meaning - and fully capture the oriental exoticism of his creations. "I try to come up with names - and designs - that make people dream a little," he says.
The first light fitting he designed was called Sahar, after the first rays of light at dawn; Tarabish is a triangular table lamp named after the Arabic word for fez; Harem is sculptural and sinuous; Moon is perfectly spherical and Eve is shaped like a cuboid apple. There's also Nour, which was named after Saliba's eldest daughter and means divine light - although this has caused some consternation at home, where his younger daughter is impatiently waiting for a namesake of her own.
Saliba studied fine arts in Lebanon and Russia before embarking on a career as an interior designer. Soon after, an opportunity arose with the bathroom manufacturer Grohe and Saliba spent the next 12 years working for the German company.
"When I left Grohe I wanted to start something of my own. I wanted to go solo but I started thinking: what can I do that will make a difference? I wanted to create something with a story. And since I am Lebanese and I have lived my whole life in that country and love that country, I wanted to take something valuable from the past and make it into something modern for nowadays."
Saliba spent two years in Prague indulging his love of painting and fine-tuning the Kafka Goes Pink concept before launching the brand in 2007. His aim was to take traditional forms, such as the metal-cut lighting that is so familiar in this part of the world, and give them a contemporary makeover.
"I started with lighting because I love the idea of lighting. I was inspired by something that I found in my grandparents' home. It was made from earth and they used to put oil in it and burn it at night. It looked like a bulb, so I took the bulb shape and made it into a light."
As well as lighting, the Kafka Goes Pink portfolio now includes tables, stools and accessories such as trays, candle holders and bowls. Saliba also takes on interior design projects and describes his style as "theatrical and unexpected".
Next up, he will be experimenting with new lighting technologies. "Imagine the contrast between handmade copper products and LED lighting. I'm also trying to move ahead with the furniture because we have a lot of ideas but in order to mass produce small furniture items, I need a bigger set-up. There's a lot going on."
The one thing that will remain constant is Saliba's commitment to high-quality materials. For his lighting he has always favoured materials such as brass and copper, while his furniture is often inlaid with mother of pearl. And although he plans to branch away from an overtly oriental styling, he will continue to favour such "noble materials".
Production of Saliba's creations currently takes place in Lebanon, where he also has a studio. However, he travels extensively and is based between Lebanon and France. "I would be extremely excited about launching my own store in Lebanon, but I'm waiting to see if the Lebanese government settles down once and for all.
"I have a studio there. That's my way of always having a foot in the country, but I travel all around for business and culture. They might tell you there's culture in Lebanon, but it's not the case. We killed it. We killed our nature and we killed our culture. So in order to get inspired, I have to get out of the country."
Saliba remains the creativetour de forcebehind the Kafka Goes Pink concept and this shows little sign of changing - even if his daughters are eager to get involved. "They want to make their mark but I'm trying to resist - there'll be no Hello Kitty on my lamps!"
Kafka Goes Pink products are available at Bloomingdales and O' de Rose in Dubai. For more information, visit www.kafkagoespink.com
Published: August 6, 2011 04:00 AM