Mexican Sisters Nailea & Denisse, founders of Arudeko, share the family stories behind their ultra-chic textile brand
There’s hardly a relationship as close, shape-shifting, and special as that between sisters. And if sisters decide to become business partners, like Denisse and Nailea Torres did founding their brand Arudeko, fun and fireworks are to be expected.
I met them over a three-way Zoom call, me watching the snowfall outside the window of my London flatshare, them gloriously bathed in the warm light of Mexico City, where they were both born and bred in a family that sounds as united as it is inspiring. Denisse and Nailea’s childhood was filled with their mother’s love for art and museums, which she visited with her daughters when they traveled, and their father’s passion for Mexican culture and entrepreneurship.
“Dad always taught us it’s much better to run your own business than being dependent on other people’s decisions,” Nailea reminisces. “He was a big inspiration for us growing up, and he even came with us the first time we went to Oaxaca to find artisans to collaborate with.”
Their parents had always been into interior decoration, constantly moving furniture, redecorating, and buying crafts, so when Nailea got back from her Master’s in Milan, it was once again their father who encouraged the sisters to look at the tools they had - their knowledge of textile, their shared passion for design, and the wealth of Mexican artisanal crafts at their disposal - and forge a path for themselves.
Nailea and Denisse brainstormed about what they liked, what each of them was good at, and how they could put the two together. As part of their textile design degrees, both had learned about the pedal loom technique and they decided to start from something they knew. Their first trip to Oaxaca to find artisans to work with was a revelation: artisanal wares were everywhere, yes, but that also meant the competition was extremely high.
“At the beginning we had no idea what we were doing,” Denisse laughs, “but we understood very quickly that if we wanted to make something of our business we had to diversify, taking existing techniques but using them to produce our original designs.”
It was 2016 and Arudeko was born. The name of the brand itself is an acronym that fully represents the sisters’ ethos: Ar stands for artesano, U for union, and Deko for decoration, positioning the brand as the unifying strength between the artisans’ craftsmanship and contemporary design.
Over the years, Nailea & Denisse’s relationship and business partnership has evolved and grown stronger, but the lines are sometimes blurred. If both are found at the workshop together, a pillow fight with discarded prototypes to settle business disagreements might not be entirely unrealistic!
“At times it’s hard to stick to a professional behavior,” Nailea confesses with a cheeky smile across the screen to Denisse, “because I would never shout at anyone as I do at my sister! But we’re getting better at respecting boundaries and feeding off each other’s strengths and abilities.”
While Nailea is the client-facing and marketing guru of the partnership, Denisse is the more manual of the two and is most often found at the loom with the artisans, “But I’m completely useless at anything else, and I do feel like my sister sometimes gets frustrated I’m not as organized and composed as her,” she laughs.
Their close relationship with artisans and their families is the foundation of Arudeko’s work, so much so that the very first craftsman they started collaborating with almost five years ago, Manuel, is now their Production Manager and scouts regularly for new talent around Teotitlán del Valle, a small village near Oaxaca City where Arudeko’s production happens.
“We were spoiled with Manuel and his family back when we started. The quality of their work, the natural dyes they use, the precision of the weaving are absolutely unparalleled,” Denisse remembers fondly before Nailea adds that this confidence in their artisans’ work is what allows them to experiment with new designs and materials, as their newest collection of cushions now available on the Nopo clearly shows.
The collection features a technique the sisters took from Moroccan and Indian rug making, the Persian knot, applied to the Mexican pedal loom for the production of cushions instead of rugs. The beginnings were hard for them and the artisans, and it took quite a bit of prototyping and a few happy accidents before the collection was ready.
The first product was the Za Guibá cushion cover in blue and black. Denisse remembers sitting at the loom with the big expanse of blue sky lightly streaked by yellow shades of sunset, while clouds drifted lazily through in the late afternoon. The production environment itself was what gave the cushion its name, as za guibá means “clouds” in the local language, Zapoteco.
This is actually a perfect example of how the mastery of the artisans coupled with their willingness to learn, helped the sisters try out something new: rather than closing the knot like in traditional rug making, they allowed the fringes to flow open, which gives the cushion its characteristic poly-texture and movement.
With Ritmo Azul and Ritmo Gris, they again took the Persian knot but decided to trim the fringes right down, to create a pompom effect, which adds overall depth to the design. “We thought it might not work, because the threads on the pedal loom are not as tight together as the ones found in carpets, but again it was a big vote of confidence from our artisans that they went along with our crazy ideas!”
The excitement of experimentation and the beauty of handmade also shine through in their Básico Nero cushion, started off as an accident of production and turned into one of their bestsellers.
“Our communication with the artisans has definitely improved over the years, but sometimes there are still small misunderstandings that often lead to happy results,” Denisse admits. “We sketched Básico Nero absent-mindedly while working on something else, and even the black and white interwoven section at the top was accidental, a variation in texture we had actually designed for another product, but ended up applying to this. ”
That’s what we love about Arudeko’s work: in Denisse and Nailea’s creations, the magic of handmade is palpable in designs that come alive off the page in beautiful and unexpected ways, thanks to the artisans’ expert hands.
If you’d like to get a taste of Arudeko’s soft world of pillows and rugs, head over to their collection, now exclusively available on the Nopo.