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Narkis credits her lifelong love affair with textiles, particularly antique ones, to her mother, whose own dowry trunk from Greece was filled with hand-woven blankets, rugs, and folk-art garments. Her fixation with dowry quilts and elaborate needlework, however, began in India, where she first spied bright combinations of women’s garments derived from the intricate heirlooms. For a textile enthusiast like Narkis, the prospect of working with the material—the physical manifestation of a family’s love—proved irresistible.

Narkis’s fixation with dowry quilts began in India, where she first spied women’s garments derived from the intricate heirlooms.

Today, Narkis uses 100 percent cotton quilts to create unexpected juxtapositions of color and design. “I work collaboratively with my vendors to choose the placement of quilts to be made into a coat or jacket, thus giving them a second life,” she says. In deference to the prized nature of the quilts, Narkis doesn’t waste a single scrap, choosing instead to salvage any fabric remnants into vivid beaded necklaces. To finish off the look, the JoannaJohn collection also offers vibrant Kantha scarves, repurposed from old sari silk.

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