When I sit for lunch at a trendy Midtown Manhattan restaurant with Jessica Macias, founder of Maison Numen, she immediately strikes me as someone who breathes style in the most authentic, never deliberate way. Her outfit—distressed denim and a blouse—is casual but feels luxe and is expertly complemented by stacked pieces of jewelry and a supple leather bag that show her head is in the details. Splitting time between Caracas and Miami, there’s a Latin American spirit, warmth, and openness to Jessica, who doesn’t rush to give me the spiel about her company, an e-commerce site that sells fine home decor, all of which she’s carefully curated from exceptional, and many times untold, artisans from around the globe. Instead, Jessica is eager to explore the Peruvian-meets-Japanese fusion menu and to get to know me and my travels better.
It’s this inquisitive nature and appreciation for culture, as well as tradition, blended with her willingness and patience to seek out the best of the best that is indicative to the success of Maison Numen. Macias’s inspiration for creating the site was simple. “Home decor has always been my passion. During my honeymoon in Asia, I felt the need to show the world the hidden treasures that you can find when traveling, objects that express the culture, the savoir-faire, and the traditional craftsmanship of different countries,” she says.
All of Maison Numen’s goods are therefore one-of-a-kind accessible luxuries rich with quality, origins, and cultural transcendence that seamlessly weave into the everyday home. The name Maison Numen comes from Macias’s love of the French language, utilizing the word maison, or home, and combining it with the Latin word “Numen,” which means “the inspiration that a person has before creating something,” she tells us. The 38-year-old, who calls herself a serial entrepreneur and also owns a medical assistance company in Venezuela, lived in Paris and served on a Latin American art board at the Centre Pompidou after leaving a career in finance, where she managed the emerging markets in Venezuela and New York. In 2014, Macias started traveling around the world, and since then, she’s spent considerable time in 13 countries over the past four years, including Italy, Peru, Mexico, Morocco, India, Spain, Colombia, Japan, Guatemala, Indonesia, Vietnam, France, and the UK.
Her goal in these travels was to highlight and source objects that weren’t generally exposed to international markets. “My starting point was, and still is, the excitement that beauty sparks—and what a better way to connect with that emotion than through my roots?” she says. It’s what ultimately led the Venezuelan-born Macias to begin Maison Numen with backstrap weaving and Amazonian basketwork—some of her now best-selling items—along with other Latin American decorative pieces.
Today, the direct-to-consumer online shop has both decorative and utilitarian pieces that range from marble bowls made in Denmark; intricate, delicate glassware from Italy; a silver hammered teapot from Morocco; luxe Alpaca throws from Peru; and embroidered wool pillows from Turkey.
And while each piece is remarkably special, it’s the story behind them that gets Macias most excited. “In our products, our customers are capable of seeing the stories of our ancestors, the labor dedicated to their creation, and the passing down of knowledge and skills from generation to generation—but also the reinvention that happens to these products and techniques themselves to keep those traditions alive,” she says.
“The backstrap loom weaving technique is a perfect example of this, crafted by artisans from Nachig, in the Southwestern Mexican state of Chiapas. The pieces are woven on a backstrap loom, a method that has been widely used throughout Central America since pre-Columbian times. The weaver works sitting on the floor or a bench, counting the weaving points, as if they were singing mantras, pulling a bar to and from her stomach. It is due to this that a weaver is often described as ‘giving birth to her fabric.’” Making tablecloths, blankets, placemats, and textiles, its process Macias describes as “just amazing.”
She’s also enamored by the Italian glass-blowing technique. “These fragile, beautiful, and delicate pieces are made by a team of handsome, strong Italian men doing a difficult and dangerous technique utilizing fire,” she says. “More interesting to know is that this knowledge of glass-blowing is passed from generation to generation…there is no school to learn about the process,” she adds.
Her work often takes Macias to the most remote corners of the planet, like deep into indigenous communities in isolated places that are only accessible during the rainy season, when the river has water to get you there. “Sometimes we are contacted by the artisans and makers themselves, though, which is an honor because it inspires us to continue with this meaningful project.” But not just anyone can have their work carried on Maison Numen. “For us to select a maker, they need to have five key brand attributes: quality, origin, tradition, sustainability, and savoir-faire. For us, it’s important that the pieces are aesthetically pleasing and they fit into a contemporary lifestyle,” Macias says.
Though she’s found more of a rhythm now, there are inherent challenges to running a global business with many of your producers in remote, challenging locations. “One time when we were in Mexico, we visited a small town in Oaxaca where a woman produces textiles and we didn’t realize that they don’t speak Spanish there—only their town dialect—so we had to run and find a translator to learn more about their technique. That was rather funny and part of our learning experience during this beautiful journey,” Macias says.
Ethical, transparent sourcing is of utmost important in the journey as well. “To choose a maker is tricky for us because I make sure that our makers work with raw materials and they don’t source them cheaply—for example, we avoid working with companies that source their materials in India and produce them in China because it’s cheaper. The makers that we work with in India are from there and so are their materials; that’s why our pieces are original and unique.”
Making a financial impact with her craftsman in various regions of the world is also a huge driver for Macias. “Our goal is to get that impact around the globe,” she says, which is why she has her eyes on expanding her collaboration with artisans, and even a possible brick-and-mortar store that will allow customers to interact with the pieces.