Editor’s note:

This is a special feature about Asli Musso, who infuses love into the borders of her company, Love Letters From Bosphorus. Asli produces beautiful artisan home goods where the culture of the East and the West meet in the waters of Bosphorus. Thanks to Yara Zgheib for bringing Asli’s story to life and sailing us across the ocean.

The Bosphorus is a place like no other in the world; it sits at the origin of civilizations and history, geographically between the East and West. A natural border that thousands of people cross every day as they move, with their stories, emotions, and aspirations, between Europe and Asia.

Europeans who went traveling in the 18th century to what was then the Ottoman Empire, discovered new worlds, colors, scents, and flavors. They wrote about them in their letters home. Centuries later, Asli Musso is sending letters too.

Women entrepreneur, cultural exchange, women in business, bosphorus

Letters from Bosphorus, written in textiles and made by female artists, designers, and craftspeople. A company that produces handcrafted Mediterranean home furnishings, with love.

Asli, your company creates and sends artisan home goods from Bosphorus to the US. How did you embark on your own journey from Turkey to the West?

I came to the US to get my master’s degree in finance and was amazed by the inviting and welcoming culture of the country; a perfect blend of micros and macros at every level of life that make life easy and exciting. I often call this country the United Cultures rather than the United States!

Was Western culture that different from the Eastern one you knew?

I came from a mesmerizing ancient and detailed culture; the first human civilization originated in the Middle East then migrated through Anatolia (Turkey) toward Europe and the rest of the world. Its depth makes it very enticing, but also a difficult environment for innovation; it is hard to crack through the surface and introduce new ideas.

Western culture, on the other hand, is more straightforward because it is relatively newer. I found it open to experimentation and innovation and more welcoming. In a way, the East was tradition, ethics, layers of history and cultures, while the West was the fresh move forward toward the creation of new ones.

Did you prefer one over the other?

No. Both are equally exciting and worth experiencing.

That is the foundation of Letters from Bosphorus, isn’t it? A company whose products bridge East and West.

Yes. When I returned to Turkey after four years in the US, I founded a company that produces artisanal home goods and furnishings. I wanted to create a brand that would revive the lost art of handcrafts, neglected by industrialization, and reintroduce it to the West. The image in my head is one of a love letter from Bosphorus, the imaginary line that separates the West from the East.

My mission was – and is – to capture the beauty of the Mediterranean and reproduce it in an interior.

Did you have any experience with textiles or artisanship?

Not at all! My first encounter with textiles was when I started the business. But I have always had a passion for color, beauty, and interiors. All our products are brought to life directly in my design studio and are the work of a passionate group of talented, exclusively female, artists, designers, and craftspeople.

How else is your business unique?

First of all, its products: they stand out immediately from others on the market with their bold and courageous look! They are fun and electric. Every piece is unique, unlike those of leading brands that just repeat the same designs over and over again. We believe life is too short for repetition! It needs a little bit of sweetness!

Second, the production process itself: We strive to create products that are both useful and fashionable, and in making them, we also honor our planet. We use only GOTS (Certificated Organic Cotton) materials and sustainable packaging material. We make sure we plant at least ten saplings in our hometown every year. And we grow our own organic food in our small facility garden!

And of course, the women.

Yes! We empower women by giving them a chance to put their passion into creating an object and making a living out of it. These women are mostly homemakers and otherwise unemployed and under-educated. This work gives them the freedom to explore their creativity and artisanship, and satisfaction and pride. The pride that I feel, too, from this fact is also extremely empowering. It keeps me going. I would not exchange it with anything.

At a time in which the rift between the United States and the world, but particularly the East, seems greater than ever, how are you and your business building bridges between people and cultures?

Governments come and go! They have their own business plan, which I understand, and function on multiple tactics, just like a company. But they don’t last forever.

Our followers are the people with common sense who are aware of this fact. They are voyagers, intellectuals, design-oriented people who are constantly hungry for new cultures and tastes, regardless of politics. Our success depends on this reality.

For more on Asli’s story, and to daydream a little over photographs of her vibrant Mediterranean furnishings, visit Letters from Bosphorus. That’s where I’ll be.

Yara Zgheib

Author Yara Zgheib

Yara is a writer, policy researcher and analyst, and lover of culture, travel, nature, art. She is the author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street and blogger behind Aristotle at Afternoon Tea. She has written for The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, The Idea List, A Woman’s Paris, and Holiday Magazine. Wearing her other hat, she consults with governments and the nonprofit sector on peace and security strategies, with an emphasis on conflict resolution, counter terrorism, and countering violent extremism. She is a Fulbright scholar with a PhD in international affairs, who has given courses on human security, but also art history, ballet and etiquette. Yara was born in Lebanon and has since lived in Glasgow, Washington, Paris, Saint Louis, and now Boston. She likes books and smart conversations, early morning yoga, evening walks.

More posts by Yara Zgheib

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