Interview with Ali Esteghlalian, PhD, MBA and Leily Esteghlalian, BSN, RN Duke and Dapper, Inc.
Portland, Oregon, USA
By: Kohan Textile Journal
About Duke and Dapper Brand, History and Success Story.
Duke and Dapper is a supplier of high-end, decorative home textiles at affordable prices for home and professional spaces (offices, hotels, restaurants, coffee/tea houses, etc.) My sister Leily and I created Duke & Dapper earlier this year (4/2020) in Portland, Oregon where the business is currently based.
This entrepreneurial adventure emerged from our long discussions about our common passion for fine and luxury Home textiles, and our keen interest in creating beautiful and inspiring spaces at home or in other professional and institutional environments.
We both come from different professional backgrounds, Leily is a seasoned nurse and a floral and fiber artist (floral design, needlepoint, knitting, etc.), and I was formally trained as a chemical engineer and international business manager with several years of specific experience in the use of biotechnology (enzymes) in the textile and cotton processing industry. Through our extensive international travels, we became increasingly fascinated by the global fabric arts and the diversity of material and designs around the world. This fascination led us to create Duke & Dapper.
Duke & Dapper was launched as a home-grown business in beautiful Oregon which we call home, since our immigration to the US decades ago, and it is intended to grow and become a global player in the world of high-end decorative home textiles. Being a US-based company, we have access to a very large and discerning domestic market with incredible diversity which also reflects the diversity of the global markets that we intend to reach.
Our story began with producing decorative pillows using a variety of styles and fabrics some of which we had collected while traveling around the world.
We then ventured into the fascinating world of fine linens for dining and entertaining. We continue to innovate with form, function, design, style and colors, to create ‘out of the box’ designs and products. Our best sellers at this point are the innovative products that combine ‘exquisite quality (of fabric and workmanship) with whimsical designs (varied vivid colors & patterns)’ and are both functionally desirable (washable, double-sided, meticulously made, etc.) and visually appealing for the buyers and ultimate users.
At Duke & Dapper, we continually work on developing our distinct style by tastefully combining modern and old-world designs using fabrics with varied and vivid colors, and by including a diverse set of patterns and colors in each set. Our innovative whimsical approach to design has resonated well with our customers around the globe, especially during the current stay-home period where people are continually searching for creative ways to spruce up their homes and workspaces. Duke & Dapper products provide an easy way to add that unique and uplifting touch to people’s living and working spaces.
Duke & Dapper is a newly established company with a strong and ambitious plan for growth with the aim of serving discerning customers worldwide. We believe the world is currently going through a major transformation in terms of how people view life and how they want to live. In the post-COVID era, people will most likely prioritize qualities, such as togetherness, simplicity, healthy habits and sustainable ways to protect our planet from harm and disruption. Our philosophy at Duke & Dapper reflects these principles.
Our mission is to:
i) provide our clients with fine quality products that help them beautify their homes and workspaces to bring them together more often for a joyful experience. For example, our attractive tea-party placemats are designed to achieve exactly that! All you need is a simple table and a pot of tea, where Duke & Dapper’s beautiful tea-party mats will create a nice and visually appealing set-up.
Holding a simple tea-party is a great way to bring friends and family together to talk, enjoy a simple healthy drink, and connect with relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues. In our design process, we begin by conceptualizing the experience for the customer and then develop products that will help create it!
ii) minimize our environmental impact by optimal use of fabrics (less waste), and by reusing fabric cuttings and left-over swatches. We are also reviving old-world uses of textile (e.g., Bokchas and Furoshikis) for wrapping, carrying and storing goods, that help minimize waste and use of packaging material such as plastic and paper. Please see question #2 below for more details.
What is your range of products? Where are your main markets and export destinations?
We manufacture elegant decorative home textiles for home and commercial spaces. Our wide range of products include: Decorative and accent pillows; bolsters and lumbar pillows; table placemats that include cocktail mats, tea-party mats, and dining mats; dining napkins; table covers, decorative runners, and table scarves; kitchen towels and work mats; floor mats for babies, children and adults to rest and play; bed beautifying sets that include both bed scarves (decorative home textiles for the bottom of the bed) and accent pillows in harmony with the bed scarf.
Our Urban Men’s Collection includes many of the above products with a distinct style for the growing market segment where men are the primary buyers and purchasing decision-makers.
In line with our commitment to sustainability, we are also reviving two forms of textile arts both of which originated in Asia: Bokchas and Furoshikis.
Wrapping a gift or one’s personal effects in a Furoshiki or in a Bokcha is a sustainable, waste-free, and environmentally-friendly alternative to using paper or plastic for packing and wrapping. Furoshiki is a simple but attractive piece of fabric in different sizes for wrapping a gift, a personal item, or anything that needs to be carried by hand.
Bokchas are meticulously made wraps with or without a pocket. Since these traditional wraps are often made of very attractive fabrics, they can easily be used as a decorative piece on a table, sofa or armchair, and they will eventually become heirloom pieces that families will keep for years and pass on to the next generation.
Bokchas can also be used for packing and protecting personal items in a suitcase or for storing one’s valuable fabrics and heirloom pieces in the closet. Duke & Dapper offers a variety of premium-quality Bokchas and Furoshikis for packing and carrying gifts, light objects, and personal items, as a sustainable alternative to using plastic bags, wasteful packaging papers and plastics, and other non-recyclable packaging materials.
We have recently launched an African & Indian inspired collection aptly named The Shimmering Shores that consists of traditional cotton fabrics with African and Indian patterns as well as old-world chintz and batik designs, all meticulously lined and tacked ready to be used by modern consumers who enjoy the vivid colours of the East and complex patterns of the old-world. The culturalists who seek to add a touch of diversity and cultural awareness to their home decor will also enjoy this collection.
Tell us more about your slogan ‘Exquisite Quality combined with Whimsical Designs’ , and why you chose this slogan for your products?
Our number one priority at Duke & Dapper is to produce and offer high-quality products to the global market. Our Exquisite Quality is achieved by using fine quality fabrics and applying clean meticulous workmanship. The Whimsical Design aspect emerges from our philosophy.
We believe ‘life is simply too short to be boring’! We want people to give themselves permission to use colorful, playful and exciting fabrics to spruce up their homes and lift up the mood in their living and working environments.
People are often very serious and responsible in their jobs, they have to maintain tough schedules and work hard to provide for their families, and young students, as well as some mature professionals, study hard to obtain a good education that will help them find fulfilling jobs and advance in their professions. This leaves very little room for being playful and experimental.
So we want to give people options to be a lot less serious and a lot more whimsical and playful when it comes to decorating their home spaces or even work environments. That’s why we like to develop and play with whimsical designs! We want people to find their individuality and playful spirits in our range of products and use them to create a beautiful and happy space for themselves and their families.
Using decorative home textiles is a great way to express ourselves and our moods, and a great forum to play out our whimsical impulses and enjoy the excitement that they bring to our living and dining spaces. There are thousands of beautiful colors, inspiring patterns and absolutely gorgeous fabrics in this world, and we want to combine them in a playful way to help our clients beautify their living, working and entertainment spaces.
Great conversations with friends and family are always a good pastime, and whimsically designed textile products can be great catalysts as conversation starters. We want people to ask each other about the source of that colorful and multi-patterned placemat sets or the double-sided gorgeous decorative pillow on the sofa, or an elegant bed scarf that adorn the guest bedroom, and we definitely want the answers to include our name: Duke & Dapper
You pay special attention to sustainable and green products, from your raw material to packaging. Why is sustainability important and what is your sustainability policy at Duke and Dapper?
Sustainability is very important to us because we care for our environment and the future of our planet, and we also care for our customers.
In addition to our own commitment to protecting our environment, we want to be in a position to respond to those customers who prefer ‘green’ products. Therefore, we are committed to finding environmentally sustainable ways to run our business.
We have also learned that by spending time upfront to truly minimize our environmental impact through better purchasing decisions, optimal use of fabrics and accessories during design and sewing operations, optimizing our packaging options, and minimizing our waste, we are able to reduce our operational costs and simply improve our profit margins. In other words, we see sustainability as an empowering mindset that helps us run a more profitable business.
Is it true that sustainability and green products always increase production cost? Is it possible to control the costs and final price in a sustainable market?
Establishing sustainable production systems and running environmentally friendly business operations may have higher upfront costs. However, at the end of the day, to meet the increasing demand for green products, and to avoid excessive operational costs for cleaning up the adverse environmental impact of an operation, sustainable solutions are the way to go. In the long-run, choosing green technology options will prove a smarter business decision for operators, customers and the environment.
How do you evaluate the home textile sector in North America after Covid19 Pandemic?
While the business is currently very slow and everyone’s priority is to fare safely through this stressful period, we hold big hopes for the future. If we learned one thing during this period it’s the value of family and our ability to spend time with friends and family at home, and being close to our loved ones.
Once the current Covid related restrictions are relaxed, naturally, people will want to welcome their friends and family at their homes. Most likely, families will spend more time and money on decorating their homes and creating beautiful spaces in which they can spend memorable times with those whom they love. Also, during the post-Covid era, people will most likely resume their travels for both business and pleasure and will start to dine out more frequently and hold social gatherings at eateries, coffee houses, etc.
To create a fresh and inviting ambience for the customers, the hospitality industry as a whole, including hotels, restaurants, coffee/tea houses, etc., will also embark on redecorating and sprucing up their furniture, drapery, and table linens. We hope that the emerging need for renewal by the hospitality businesses will be a boost to our decorative home textile business as well.
How do you evaluate African and oriental fabric designs and why they are becoming a new trend in the US?
At Duke & Dapper, we love the original designs and patterns from Africa and Asia, and currently use them as a rich source of inspiration in our design process. We are planning to use and incorporate more of African and Asian inspired fabrics in our textile pieces and believe that there is a growing interest in the world of fashion and decorative home textiles in such designs. We would definitely welcome learning about reliable sources for purchasing authentic and high-quality fabrics with African and Asian patterns and designs.
Considering the increasing interest in global connection and the recent global awareness about the importance of embracing different cultures, we intend to take advantage of the beauty of textiles and artwork from various parts of the world and combine them with our modern designs to create uniquely attractive items that are both functional and visually pleasing.
Please feel free to add additional information, answers & questions, figures, tables, pictures, etc. to this interview, if necessary.
We are always open and available to work with interior designers and staging professionals from around the world to work on common projects. We also welcome the opportunity of collaborating with other leading home textile brands and global artists to develop new collections and to expand our reach around the globe.