On holiday in the South of France a few years ago, Biche Tyler discovered a magic cure-all soap from Syria and decided she had to share her discovery with her friends.
Good things come from sharing; something Tyler knows only too well. She opened Nôm Living (where she stocks that Syrian soap), her hip Vietnamese artisanal home goods shop in the East End of London, after a trip to her native Vietnam. She was inspired by the work of the craftsmen she saw everywhere, and in order to help the country's artisans maintain a livelihood she decided to share their talents with the outside world.
Working with artisans in Vietnam, she's developed a range of ceramics, lacquer ware, and textiles that are new and appealing to the western market. Tyler's company has evolved into a mainstay of London's Columbia Road, with a strong online presence and a recently relaunched Nom Living website, allowing her to donate a portion of her profits to helping rebuild schools in the poorest parts of Vietnam.
Photographs via Nôm Living.
Above: Made in Aleppo Syria, Le Savon d'Alep Royal is a natural soap composed of pure olive and laurel oils and handmade using traditional methods. Generations of Syrians have used it as an everyday soap and cleanser; it's also used as an antiseptic, a treatment for insect bites, and even as a laundry detergent.
Above: Vietnamese artisans use dried water grass for packaging the ceramics.
Above: The shavings of the soap reveal a vibrant green. "My daughter, who suffers from eczema, swears by Le Savon d'Alep Royal. She's tried endless types of treatments, from medical products to chemical-free soaps and creams," says Tyler.
Above: Tyler works directly with artisans in Vietnam and Cambodia to create handcrafted, functional, and sustainable products for the home. Hand-painted ceramic plates were common in Vietnamese households up until the 1990s, when the country was flooded with plastic imports.
Above: A mixed set of Rustic Glazed Stoneware, handmade in Cambodian ceramic workshops; prices range from £7.50 to £25.
Above: Made from coconut shells, Coco Bowls are coated in a natural clear lacquer and are water- and food-safe. They also work well as soap dishes or floating candle holders; £10.
Above: Cinnamon Boxes are made from the bark of a cinnamon tree and are used to store dry goods like tea, coffee, or sugar (the contents will absorb the cinnamon aroma of the bark); prices range from £15 to £25.
Above: Le Savon d'Alep Royal comes in natural bamboo lattice boxes, made in Vietnam; prices range from £15 to £25.
Above: Nôm Living is on Columbia Road, in the East End of London.