The Stories are a collection of destinations explored through their culture and craftsmanship. Each month a new locale comes into focus through original travel films, photography and interviews for an immersive storytelling experience.
The sound of the loom is the signature song of the town of Buldan, a well-known weaver's enclave in the inner Aegean region of Denizli, Turkey where the tradition is believed to date to Roman times as far back as 800 BC. For much of the past, cotton sourced from nearby fields traveled into the village where nearly every home had a hand loom and at least one family member contributing to the making of local peshtemal garments and towels. Today, much of the work is done by modern machines in large, regional factories, while only a small group of weavers, from ages twenty to ninety-three, continue to make the homespun creations by hand or by mechanized work benches.
En Isomoto manages production for Chiso, a Kyoto-based, Yuzen-dyeing fabric and kimono house founded in 1555. His role is to ensure the continuation of the invaluable artistry of traditional dyeing techniques, including the hand-crafted, bespoke silk kimono masterpieces that his team of designers, draftsmen and craftsmen specialists create over a period of four weeks to eighteen months, depending on the intricacies of the design.
Kosuke Suzuki is a Japanese master teaching his son, Riki, the craftsmanship skills necessary to continue the two-hundred year-old tradition of Maiwai ceremonial garment design. The hand-painted and hand-sewn kimono and hanten jackets made in their Kamogawa atelier are meticulously crafted by applying methods honed through years of observation and deliberate practice.
TAHA'A, THE SOCIETY ISLANDS
Ilanda Hioe is a vanilla farmer on the island of Taha’a in the Society Islands of French Polynesia. She cultivates vanilla on a piece of land that her family has owned and farmed for over one hundred years. The vanilla orchid and its beans grow plentiful on the island with Hioe and her family tending to the vines in a traditional manner, never employing unnatural techniques to hasten the growth or the drying process.
FAKARAVA , TUAMOTO ATOLLS
Hugo Dariel is a second generation pearl cultivator on the Tuamotu Atoll of Fakarava in the French Polynesia. The culture of pearling made its way to the atolls just over thirty years ago, with Hugo's parents serving as the pioneers on Fakarava. Although the pearl produced by the Polynesian black lip oyster, pinctada margeritifera, is relatively new to the pearl cultivation world, it is the only cultured pearl that nature works in mysterious ways to produce in a spectrum of hues, shapes and sizes.
Moshen Ghaffari was born into the tradition of Mohammadi rose water production in the Iranian village of Qamsar, near the town of Kashan. Today, he is both a rose water producer and a museum owner preserving the traditional methods of the local, unique, double-fired distillation process. Mohammadi, is the local name used for Rosa x damascena, the same rose varietal used in Turkey and Bulgaria. However, studies carried out by professors at the Tehran University claim that due to the natural and climatic conditions in the Qamsar fields, the flower has a higher concentration of the essence necessary to make the finest and most sought after rose water in the world.
Esengül Artisoy is a rose harvester living in the village of Senir near the city of Isparta in Turkey. Esengül, whose name means “roses in the wind”, was born into a family of rose farmers. Her family no longer cultivates their own roses, but the rose harvest, starting in May of each year, is her favorite time of the year. The season is short and the blooms are plucked before the sun dries the precious oil contained within rosa x damascena - one of the two types of roses in the world which produce the oil. The Turkish farmers and harvesters are responsible for some sixty percent of the world’s annual rose harvest.
YUCATÁN PENINSULA, MEXICO
Mathieu Brees is a chocolatero, or chocolate maker, living on the Peninsula de Yucatán, Mexico. Brees, originally from Belgium, fell in love with chocolate at an early age, and wanted to explore the Central American, Mayan roots of the beloved confection. He settled at the outskirts of Mérida, Mexico twelve years ago to realize his dream of owning a bean to bar cacao tree plantation and artisan chocolate foundry. The plantation that Brees operates along with his partner, Belcolade, specializes in the rare Criollo bean. Criollo is less disease resistant than the other, more common, varieties of Trinitario and Forastero cacao, and its, therefore, conservation is an important aspect of his work. Criollo is considered to be the purest and noblest form of cacao imparting rich and complex tastes to dark chocolate.
Mohammed Abdullatif is a master tanner from the venerable city of Fès, Morocco. Abdullatif is an elder in the tanning trade that has flourished in the city since the ninth century when the sultanate was founded. The old Medina quarter, where he has lived his whole life, is also the center of the leather trade consisting of three ancient tanneries, recently restored at full capacity, with the support of UNESCO. The traditional techniques employed by the craftsmen are a physically rigorous affair and especially odious to some, although the resulting leather quality is undoubtedly a testament to their artisan skills and passion, passed down from their forebears.
BENI FOUDA, MOROCCO
Abdusalam is a farmer and Berber tribesman living in the remote Rif Mountains of Northern Morocco. The Berbers who are indigenous to these lands, are believed to have lived in the area since 10,000 BC. Throughout history, the Riffian Berbers have traded their handicrafts with Moorish and Arab urbanites of the Maghreb, but largely made their living via a pastoral, self-sustainable, farming lifestyle on the abundant lands that surround their villages.
Jean-Jacques Houyou is an artisan fabricant, or craftsman, making shoes in the French Basque Country. Just over five years ago, he made the decision to focus the twenty-six year old atelier solely on the making of traditional espadrilles. The shoes, fashioned from natural cotton, jute and rubber, are a style of footwear closely linked to his Basque ancestry. This style is recognized worldwide today, yet Houyou owns one of only a handful of ateliers in the region, continuing the tradition in hopes of preserving a culture of craftsmanship for future generations.
Pinar Del Río, Cuba
Hector Luis Prieto was thirty-six years old in 2007 when he was awarded the prestigious honor of Hombre Habano, an annual award for the best quality production of tobacco in the cigar industry.As the youngest Hombre Habano in history, having won the award multiple times ever since, Prieto’s San Juan y Martinez plantation provides Cuba’s Habanos S.A. with one of the most exceptional tobacco blends, grown exclusively for the country’s premium cigar brands Cohiba, Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta.
Pinar Del Río, Cuba
Hirochi Robaina is a fifth-generation tobacco farmer in Vuelta Abajo, Cuba’s illustrious, tobacco-growing region situated in San Luis, Pinar del Río.
Following the traditions of his ancestors, and most notably of his grandfather Don Alejandro Robaina, Hirochi is at the helm of La Finca El Pinar Robaina, perhaps the most famous tobacco farm in the region, if not the world. Initially known for the high yield of quality tobacco for the wrapper, which is the most difficult to produce, the plantation now focuses its tobacco production on the Vegas Robaina premium cigar brand, exclusively distributed by Habanos SA, the Cuban state-owned tobacco company.
Île De Ré, France
Brice Collonier is a saunier, or salt worker, collecting salt on the French island of Île de Ré in a tradition that dates back to the twelfth century when it was introduced by Cistercian monks.
Brice is amongst a new generation of salt workers that have rediscovered this craft that was nearly abandoned on the isle. He carves and reshapes the landscape continually, according to the winds and temperature, resulting in the cultivation of two natural, hand-crafted products - the highly nutritive, grey-hued gros sel and the rich in flavor, pure white fleur de sel.