Creative Matters has recently been involved in many hotel projects that have called for handmade rugs. This has been fuelled by the desire among boutique hotels to create the ambiance of being a personal guest in a private home. Whereas in the past guest rooms may have had wall-to-wall broadloom, now area rugs harmonize with hardwood floors to create an intimate atmosphere.
In 2018 we were delighted to participate in a project that required 97 handknotted rugs. Until this year, we have assigned handknotted rugs to our trusted fair trade suppliers in Nepal and India. In 2018 however, we had the good fortune to work with a slightly different style of handknotting and create an incredible opportunity for Afghan women.
Anyone familiar with Creative Matters knows that, as a certified Label STEP Fair Trade Partner, we are committed to fair trade throughout our handmade carpet supply chain. STEP operates in all major handmade rug producing countries including Nepal, India and Afghanistan. It works to ensure suppliers comply with STEP fair trade standards which aim to improve the wellbeing of weavers and workers, eliminate child labour and assure eco-friendly production.
In Afghanistan, STEP cooperates closely with an organization called Turquoise Mountain which – among other priorities – aims to revive traditional crafts and create jobs. STEP, Turquoise Mountain and The World Bank work together looking for international partners committed to ethical production and fair wages who will join them in improving the lives of female weavers in one of the world’s toughest countries. We hold all of these organizations in high regard.
With such strong partners on our side and because Afghanistan is known for its long-standing tradition of producing exceptional handknotted rugs, we entered into this project confident we would be able to meet the highest standards for our client.
Our project required 97 rugs to be woven in the traditional Persian knot style with small batch spinning and hand dyeing. We were told that it would impact the lives of hundreds of female Afghan weavers by giving them fair trade work over five months. At Creative Matters we were very excited to participate in this opportunity. Our project lead was Vice President Ali McMurter who was assisted by designers Kayla Bartolotto and Kat Pezzano.
The briefing from the interior design firm included a request for 10 different designs for the public areas, two designs for the guest rooms, and another handknotted design for the corridors for a total of 97 rugs in this beautifully traditional Persian knot quality. Turquoise Mountain assigned the rugs to village-based groups. Not only did the project boost their wages, it also helped them learn how to improve their own working conditions at home and to better understand the needs of changing global demand in handknotted carpets.
By July, the guest room rugs were finished and shipped for installation in late summer. The corridor rugs followed in early fall, and the final public area rugs were received in November and December – just in time for the hotel’s opening.
For 30 years Creative Matters has been working with weavers in the developing world, so we are always aware that our business creates job opportunities and has the potential to improve people’s quality of life. What is so special about this project is that we were able to access highly skilled rug manufacturers and make a positive impact in a region that is plagued by violent conflict. In addition, The World Bank was able to quantify exactly how much work our project generated and detail the contributions the work made to a struggling society.