The ancient Silk Road connected a complex network of trade routes from East to West.
Trade caravans, diplomats, merchants, religious messengers and warriors risked their lives to travel this road.
Among them was Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant who embarked on the journey for trade and good fortune.
At a time when silk scarce, Marco Polo spoke of the abundance of silk in Azerbaijan:
“In Shamakhi, silk is produced in very large quantities. Even merchants from Genoa and Venice come here to buy silk.”
In the ancient world, silk was not only a luxury product but also an international currency:
Kelagayis are made by dipping stamps, with patterns carved out of wood, into hot wax and leaving an imprint on white silk.
The silk is then dyed using a complex dyeing method.
Getting the color right is a meticulous and labor-intensive process.
Becoming a “boyagchi” or colorist is considered to be a prestigious role for an artisan.
Historically kelagayis were handmade only by male artisans in various regions of Azerbaijan.
The most notable regions were Basqal, Ganja and Sheki.
Traditionally kelagayis were worn by women of the region as headpieces – “kel” in the root of the word means head.
Scarves or kelagayis were markers of status or an event, where colors and motifs told a story:
Red was worn for bridal ceremonies and black for funerals or by older women.
Dating its roots to tradition it is still customary in modern day Azerbaijan for the groom to gift a silk scarf or kelagayi to his fiancée with the engagement ring.
In 2014 kelagayi was included in the list of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO for its symbolism and craft.
In modern Azerbaijan, only a handful of artisans and kelagayi making ateliers remain.
Every kelagayi is handmade in our atelier by local artisans of Azerbaijan.
We believe that creativity flourishes with passion, discipline, love and hard work.
In 2016 we launched a new project dedicated to preserving the art and craft of kelagayi and improving the economic well-being of local women.
Drawing inspiration from Azerbaijan's rich heritage, our mission is to empower women by training and hiring them to work in our atelier as skilled artisans.
Our artisans go through rigorous training and those who develop a passion for the craft stay on to join our team and build their artistic skills.
We take pride in providing comfortable and safe work conditions for our artisans.
The well being of our artisans is at the core of our focus - We believe that a truly luxury product should be created in a safe and sustainable work environment.
Environment and recycling
We try to not damage the natural habitat and environment of the village.
We recycle our wax and use non-toxic dyes. For dye information click here: https://www.dharmatrading.com/dyes/index.html
We use 100% natural silk, sourced locally and globally to insure high quality and variety.
Exclusivity and MH Collections
Every year we develop a new collection inspired by Azerbaijan’s rich heritage.
We work with local wood workers in developing our unique patterns.
Each new pattern is its own work of art – carved out of wood.
Our scarves come in limited quantities and sometimes we are unable to repeat a pattern, making the scarf completely unique.
HELP US BUILD A SUSTAINABLE WORK ENVIRONMENT:
Creating and maintaining an atelier for handmade products is a challenging and costly process.
Support us by purchasing a kelagayi.
You can also make a donation by clicking here.