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  noun 1. The act of immersing oneself in other cultures without crossing national borders. 2. Local cultural diversification. 3. Traveling on a budget. 4. A website that will allow you to accomplish all the above from the very seat in which you sit.


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India via NYC: the gorgeous textiles of Magnolia's Linens

Asema Ahmed

It is no surprise to us that so much hype is currently surrounding NY-based Magnolias Linens. Working directly with artisans in India—where some of the world's finest textiles are hand-crafted—Magnolias offers an exquisite selection for their clients, who range from illustrious hotels (Plaza) to celebrity brides (Chelsea Clinton). But don't be intimated; President of the company, Asema Ahmed (above), is happy to work with anyone in search of the perfect detailed linen. Her high-end linens capture the trend of nontraditional weddings on the rise: white is boring, color is fun.

A sense of luxury and national pride are qualities perhaps passed down through Asema's lineage; her grandfather, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, was India's fifth President. Following family tradition, she was set to enter the medical field—her parents' field. But after discovering how lacking American textile offerings were compared to the variety available in India, she changed life direction. Her skill also developed out of personal need—her own wedding was the company's first event. With the help of her mother and sister, the business has been booming ever since its launch in 2003. It's a success for the family, as well as their heritage: giving back to India was one of Asema's goals, as well as sharing the country's immense talent with U.S. consumers.

Asema, her mother Dr. Anjum Ahmed and sister, Talaiya Ahmed Safdar photographed for Home & Garden Magazine

"I think people have an idea of what fabric comes from India, but we wanted to show that it can look like anything," Asema told NYU's Alumni Magazine. "It can be any nationality, any concept; it can look classic, traditional, ethnic, whatever. So one of our goals was to show all the beautiful work that comes out of India and how skilled the different artisans are."

Imports from Asia possess certain stigmas—certainly they often entail any level of exploitation. But pricing was never the main objective for Asema in seeking her company's textiles from India; the cost is appropriate, and savings exist due to her direct relationship to the artisans, not from cheaper labor. The fabrics are not coveted for their savings, anyhow; being high-end fabrics, they aren't necessarily cheaper than comparable imports. It's their quality and uniqueness that are attracting so much attention.

Some of Magnolias' offerings.

In the future, Asema hopes to bring the business to India. Not that the textiles are needed, but her broader sense of wedding planning will speak to brides and grooms looking for a more international flair to their event. According to the President herself, quoted in Hi! Living Magazine, "We will be doing the most amazing weddings!"

Enticed? Check out Magnolias' official website: magnoliasgroup.com >>

[images © Magnolias Linens, Home and Garden Magazine]

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Tuscany, Paris, NYC: the poetry of Linda Simone

Welcome our newest poet to the BH archive: Linda Simone (read more about her here). She lives in New York but travels to Europe... oh, aren't we jealous. She also has a particular sensibility for those subtle human relations, fixed in unexpected times and places. Enjoy.

Pieve Ligure, Italy
1. Mediterranean Lullaby:
We scoff at mosquitoes,
choose to sleep under sheets
cool as gelati
screenless windows thrown wide
to the rhythmic feet
of the sea.
Read "Mediterranean Lullaby" >>

Pieve Ligure, Italy
2. Villa Marina:
we're parched by hot Ligurian sun–
thirst quenchable
only by wines –
dark as eggplant.
Read "Villa Marina" >>

Pieve Ligure, Italy
3. I Ragazzi:
At first glance, three men,
escapees from breakneck
schedules, wee-hour weekends.
Here in Liguria, they loll,
dis each other
Read "I Ragazzi" >>

NYC, United States
4. Passing Madame Tussaud, Times Square:
One silver hand scrapes pavement
on 42nd Street. The other, golden, stretches
toward skyscrapers.
She’s the Madame in my 'hood.
Je m'appelle Tussaud.
Read "Passing Madame Tussaud, Times Square" >>

Paris, France

5. Thanksgiving, Paris, 3 a.m.:
Under the imperfect blanket
of night, when I
can't sleep—hot, as if the soleil de Paris were beating down
on my head—you
turn to me, whisper
Read "Thanksgiving, Paris, 3 a.m." >>

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