For the TILLTALANDE collection, IKEA worked with local women and refugees in Jordan. Here we see a female artisan in a headscarf working with yarn.

Co-creating change during a crisis

Through a network of social entrepreneurs in Jordan, we are creating jobs for Jordanian women and refugees coming mainly from Syria.

IKEA designer Paulin Machado leans against a sun-drenched stone wall holding a pillow from the TILLTALANDE collection.
Designer Paulin Machado, Designer at IKEA of Sweden AB, visited Jordan twice to meet the artisans and incorporate their techniques into the design.

A new collection made by refugees

Early in 2017, we teamed up with the Jordan River Foundation, an NGO and social enterprise, to develop TILLTALANDE; a new collection of carpets, embroidered cushion covers, and floor cushions. IKEA Product Design Developer Stina Engler and Designer Paulin Machado visited Jordan twice to meet the artisans and incorporate their techniques and details into the design. “A lot of people in the area are skilled craftspeople, and together with the people at Jordan River Foundation, we have developed a range of textile products. We have worked together with social entrepreneurs before, but this is the first time we work with local women and refugees in Jordan”, says Stina.

It was important to us to put the focus on the work of the artisans.

Paulin Machad, Designer at IKEA of Sweden AB

Earthy colours and beautiful details

On-site in Jordan, Paulin incorporated traditional techniques into the  design. “It was important to us to put the focus on the work of the artisans. We had great help from designer Faridon Abida at the Jordan River Foundation, who has insight into the different techniques and helped us find the right balance between design, production efficiency and making the items attractive for consumers in the region.”

Floor cushions from the IKEA TILLTALANDE collection in a mix of vivid colours with unique details.
Unique details and techniques from skilled artisans are highlighted in the design partnership.
One of the sketches Paulin brought to Jordan was inspired by the shape of eyes. “I was so happy to see how this triggered a lot of positive associations in the group of women. The eye is very symbolic in the region, and they could all relate to different positive connotations. They immediately contributed with ideas on how we could enhance my original design by adding beautiful handmade details such as tassels and colourful embroideries.”
A blue pillow with a big embroidered eye with eyelashes made from black tassels from the IKEA TILLTALANDE collection.
Handmade tassels in an orange hue are an example of the details used in the IKEA TILLTALANDE collection.

The collection has earthy colours reflecting the Jordanian landscape, but also a modern touch with black and white. Some of the designs they came up with together, like a pillow case with a print of a photo that is hand embellished by the artisans using embroidery. “We photographed a cactus outside the house of one of the women, and together we came up with the idea of using tassels as flowers.”

Paulin describes herself as somewhat of a textile nerd and enjoyed the exchange of knowledge. “I loved sitting next to these strong women and learning a little about the symbols and traditions in the weaving of the semi-nomadic Bedouin clan Bani Hamida. It has been passed on from mother to daughter for thousands of years as a central part of the Bedouin culture.”

We collaborated with Jordan River Foundation to help Jordanian women and refugees transition into jobs.

Meeting the IKEA safety regulations

In terms of product development, one of the challenges has been to make sure the traditional techniques pass the strict IKEA safety regulations. “After we had incorporated the Jordanian textile techniques into the design we worked together with them to make sure the products would pass IKEA testing at our lab in Älmhult,” says Stina.

Right now, 250 women and refugees have been employed to produce the collection and the team at the IKEA team are anxious to see the result. “We are super happy about how the products turned out and hope that this can be the start of making life better for the woman and refugees involved in Jordan,” says Paulin.

Spurred on by the circumstances in Jordan, our production team worked extra hard to make things happen quickly.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict, Jordan, a country of only 9.5 million people, has received nearly 700,000 refugees. One of the major purposes of placing production in Jordan is to support Jordan’s journey in integrating refugees with locals in the labour market through jobs. We will continue to collaborate with social entrepreneurs as a way of creating long-term and sustainable social change by creating job opportunities.