The Shenouk Story

shenouk is led by me, Sherine Freeth, an ex-career girl turned stay-at-home mother who fell into this textile journey quite by accident.

Born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and Egyptian father, I was raised in Boston and later called New York, London, Bahrain and Dubai home.  My childhood was a continual patchwork of trips abroad to visit friends and relatives and share adventures with a close group of family friends (referred to lovingly as The Cairo Mafia) with a penchant for exploring beautiful places.  My sisters and I spent long summers in Sweden, Easter vacations in Egypt, and seemingly endless hours spent trotting behind my mother in airports as we went from alpine adventures to beachy escapes, passing through enchanting cities along the way.

This multi-cultural upbringing instilled in me a passion for travel, a big influence in my shift from a career in finance to fabric fetishist.  On so many of these trips, I’d seek out – or stumble upon – little treasures that I would sneak home, which, over the years, have gone from humble trinkets to more meaningful treasures.  A Wissa Wassef wall-hanging from the outskirts of Cairo, kilims hand-picked from Istanbul, a pair of vintage elephant stools from Cochin, hand-painted serving bowls from Siena and more than a few Balinese sculptures from Ubud:  all of these pieces are beautiful, but they are also gratifying markers of where I have been, which I find makes them even more special.  These pieces have their own stories, stories originating in places I’ve loved visiting and I don’t so much own them as look after them for a time.

One fateful February weekend in 2014, I took a quick trip to Jaipur with my heavenly friend Anouk (Sherine + Anouk = shenouk!) and the seeds for a new adventure were sown.  What started as another overseas indulgence became an all-consuming passion — and as I got to know the artisans behind the fabrics that I so coveted I realised that there was a real and valuable artistry to their work.  The items that I was frantically ferrying home were like nothing else that was available in Dubai at the time, and as a city renowned for its never-ending consumption of goods – luxury or otherwise – that was quite surprising.  My happy dabbling went from table linens to bedding to an array of home accessories in just short of a year and I realised that shenouk was here to stay.

More than anything, I love that shenouk can bring a piece of a distant, spectacular land into someone’s home.  I love knowing that each painstakingly made item has its own small story to tell because it wasn’t churned out of a factory but created inch by lovely inch, by real honest people.  I love that shenouk can find its way into the lives of families and become a part of their fabric, be it by decorating their kitchen table or feathering their bedtime nest. “We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend” said one of my favourite authors, Robert Louis Stevenson.

I sincerely hope that shenouk can be that friend.

(photo credit: Zaki Freeth, aged 10, 2019)

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