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National design award proves gift of the year for Zakera

Beautifully designed stationery and gifts for key cultural festivals, holidays and special occasions have earned one De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) graduate a prestigious national award.

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Zakera Kali Haq, who graduated from Design Management and Entrepreneurship MA in 2013, was crowned Gift of the Year 2018 winner by the Giftware Association at a ceremony at Birmingham NEC’s Vox Centre during February’s Spring Fair, the UK’s leading gift and home exhibition.

Launched in 2017, Zakera’s online boutique Peace & Blessings has been making waves with all-inclusive stationery celebrating cultural and religious events such as the Muslim holiday of Eid, the Islamic pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah and Chinese New Year.

The Leicester-based mother of two, who was born in Malawi and grew up in London, said: “Winning this award was completely unexpected but incredible.

“One of the companies I was up against is an international brand, so I was definitely suffering from imposter syndrome on the night.

“It’s a fantastic recognition of the thought and care that goes into our products, both in terms of being true to the values of the communities we represent and using responsibly-sourced materials.”

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Operating out of studios in both Leicester and London, Peace & Blessings creates design-led products, bringing together traditional craftsmanship with the latest production techniques.

Zakera said: “We pride ourselves on an aesthetic that is reflective of the many second and third generation communities in the UK who continue to celebrate festivals of their faith and culture.

“For example, our Hajj pilgrimage planner and journal is bound in faux leather and handmade in the UK with a combination of traditional artisan methods.

“It features a checklist for travelling, with space to write seminar notes and any other relevant information in preparation for the pilgrimage, as well as enough room to document your journey and record your experience.”

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Zakera is a co-founder of Insight Consultancy, which is based in DMU’s Innovation Centre and has been helping businesses to thrive for 10 years. She also teaches a module on the Design Management and Entrepreneurship MA she graduated from at DMU.

“Despite being my passion project, both Insight Consultancy and my education have given me the aptitude to approach Peace & Blessings in a professional way,” she said.

“It’s been a collaborative process between myself, colleagues at Insight Consultancy and members of the communities we design for.

“DMU has also played a key role, shaping so much of my life over the past 10 years. The university’s ethos of inclusivity and sustainability has definitely had an influence on my work and designs.”

Peace & Blessings has also won the London Stationery Show’s LaunchPad Competition, leading to a free stand at the inaugural Manchester Stationery Show and magazine features in Stationery Matters and Greetings Today.

Its products have featured on the Islam Channel, which broadcasts in more than 130 countries, and are sold online through Haute Elan and Not On The High Street.

Peace & Blessings can be found online, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Posted on Thursday 15th March 2018

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