There was a sort of philosophy of mistrust in the rug trade, and a lot of the businesses were very much set up on that sort of, "Don’t put a price on it, do a closing-down sale, go for the deal" model rather than trying to build relationships with people.
We decided to open a small shop in Chelsea. A lot of people, especially young people, came in and said, "Oh, that’s great, that’s what my mother had, what my grandparents had." Clearly, it wasn’t very exciting for them, so we designed our own collection of contemporary rugs, Suzanne and myself, and that went quite well. They gave us the indication that that’s what people were looking for at that point. At the time, America was further ahead and people were doing contemporary rugs here. But in London, we were very, very much in the forefront.
And then we got London’s ten hottest interior designers – this was 1998 – to design one rug each. And we ended up with ten great rugs. Now we’ve got 35 different people designing for us. Suzanne, who is wonderfully creative, does our in-house collection. I’ve sort of retired from designing rugs, because we’ve got people who can do it so much better.Were you a "rughead" before you went to the Middle East?
So I left, and didn’t hear anything from him. And I was sort of pissed – here I am, offering this guy a collaboration, ready to put money in. And then three months later, he phoned me up and said, "Okay, we can start working together."
I asked him next time I was there, "What was going on?" And he said, "I had to go and check with my lama and make sure. You drive out into the mountains, and this guy is up in his temple. He took your business card, and thought for a while, and then he said, ‘This is the best thing that’s ever happened to you—work with these people!’" Now we’ve got 1500 people working for us in Nepal.What’s your best seller?
There’s a big difference between working with product designers and fashion designers. Fashion designers are the quickest and easiest. Product designers are very much thinking that it’s going to be part of their legacy. They can be incredibly ponderous. One particular well-known product designer, we did seven full rugs in the course of three years before he was happy with it. And each time he’d come in and go, "This is good, it’s almost there. But I’m just not quite sure."Who was it?Ron Arad.How did your wall hanging for the Obamas come about?When David Cameron came into office in England, we sent him one of our wall hangings, as a present. It was called "The Jubilee." It’s a Union Jack, and it’s got a dagger, and so forth. Six weeks before the Obamas arrived in England, we got a phone call from Downing Street saying that they wanted to do a custom tapestry for the Obamas as the state gift, from Britain to America. But we only had six weeks, so we decided to take the original one that we’d done and change it, make it more suitable for America – we put an eagle on it, and some flags, that sort of thing. It’s fun.Did they like it?Apparently they loved it. But they’d have to say that, wouldn’t they?
New York contributing editor Marc Kristal found himself overwhelmed not only by the urbanistic pleasures of Bordeaux, France- which dueled for his attention with the city's historic architectural legacy- but by what architect Olivier Brochet described as the region's special appreciation of l'art de vivre. Back home, Kristal is working with the Alliance for Downtown New York, documenting a six-month planning study of the Greenwich South district, just below the World Trade Center site.