Aram Sharambeyan: Translating our Heritage into Today’s Life
We parked in front of what looked like a comfortable house on the outskirts of Yerevan, and entered into the headquarters of a worldwide clothing company. Since 1993, Sharan has been employing local women who use their traditional knitting, sewing, and other craft skills to make products that are sold in not only Yerevan, but Stockholm, Paris, Los Angeles and other world cities. As we toured the second floor factory space, we watched women hand knitting children’s dresses for their shops in Yerevan, Christmas ornaments for a store in Los Angeles, and myriad other products.
Then, on the first floor, Aram, the son of the company’s founder, treated us to coffee and told us how the company started, and was able to survive and get its footing with help from a USAID grant.
“We got that grant in ‘93, and without it, I don't think we would have survived. We used it to get office space, as well as basic things like a phone and printer paper--things you couldn't get in Armenia at the time.”
Despite the post-Soviet economic turmoil of the ‘90s, Sharan was able to employ over 150 people and, by the end of their 22-month grant, become a self-sustaining company. They started out making everything from furniture to knitwear, but eventually found a niche in the market for children’s clothing, and other small knitted items.
Aram told us their secret to taking the company global.
“We once did a collection with an designer from San Francisco. It sold very well in the U.S, but then we took it to Paris, and there were no buyers. We later realized that while we had to sell clothes made of cotton in America, people in Europe only want their children to wear wool. Since then, we’ve always partnered with designers in the countries we’re selling in. To be successful in another market, you either have to live in that country or work with someone who does."
Sharan is continuing to produce handmade clothes and crafts for its two stores in Armenia, as well as its many projects abroad under the direction of Aram’s sister, but Aram is now focusing on a new venture: a project to design contemporary furniture in a uniquely Armenian style.
Aram’s face lit up as he told us about it. “We’re translating our heritage into today’s life,” he said. “Many people don’t understand the value of our culture and how modern it can be. They think about it as something from the past. But I want to put Armenian culture back on the world map.”
So far, Aram’s furniture project has produced all of the wooden pieces in the Tufenkian Heritage Hotel in Yerevan, as well as many others that it sells by appointment only usually to Armenian expats around the world. For Aram, however, the most important thing about it is the opportunity to contribute to Armenia’s art and culture, and be a part of keeping his country’s heritage alive and developing into the future.
“It’s so exciting, it’s worth all the money you can invest, even if you lose money from it,” he told us.
Follow Sharan on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Sharan-Crafts-Center-305683769463151/
Visit Sharan in Yerevan, Armenia:
6 Sayat-Nova street
Hours: 11:00 - 20:00
48 Hanrapetutyan Street (Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com