by Ian Grant
latter half of this decade has seen an about-face in the rug industry.
Innovation is the name of the game. In many ways this change can
be traced directly to the influence of the Indian rug market.
Through their slump in the late 80's and early 90's - as the Chinese
and Pakistanis passed them by - to this day where we find many
of their productions to be the cream of the new rug world, the
ride has been a very bumpy one.
a little history. Most "rug people" agree that the Indian rug
weaving industry started when migrant weavers from Persia set
up places like Agra and Jaipur around the 1400s. Using mainly
Persian designs and adding their own changes, the Indian rug market
grew into a flourishing business. They became especially
well known for some great "Court" pieces, woven for Indian nobility
and kings or given as gifts to visiting royalty or dignitaries.
By the 1800s the palace rugs of Agra were on a par with the greatest
pieces out of Persia and Turkey. The Indian rugs were most
often woven in rich golds and reds and used mainly larger, more
flowing patterns, which helped to distinguish them from their
Persian counterparts. By the 1900s Indian rugs were fetching
top prices at auction houses around the world.
In contrast to the Indian rug production of the
1800s and 1900s, the post-World War II Indian rug had a somewhat
bedraggled image. Up until the middle nineties, the majority
of Indian rug manufacturers were competing with each other in
a very limited arena there were only four or so major types of
Indian weaves and similarly few main patterns that their rugs
could be woven in. The bottom line for them was who could
produce the most cost-effective rug consequently quality suffered.
With the majority of their rugs now being thought of as the lower
end of the hand made rug spectrum, things were looking pretty
tough. The Chinese and Pakistani rug productions came more fully
onto the scene in the late 80's and the early 90's with finer
quality and more colorful pieces at a better price point.
all of this was going on in the early 90's some people were forecasting
the end of the hand made rug industry. The theory was as
the rug weaving countries got more and more foreign investment
and stepped into the world economy, it would be harder and harder
to get people willing to weave rugs when better paying jobs were
available. Many in the rug industry didn't completely believe
in this forecast, but the theory seemed pretty sound. If it were
to come to pass, India would be one of the first countries to
feel this effect. The Indian rug industry was on shaky legs in
the eleventh round.
Instead of rolling up shop and going home, a number
of manufactures took to innovation. Through joint business ventures
with both American-Indian companies and European-Indian companies
the Indian rug industry started to move again. Manufacturers realized
that the rug market was feeling a little stagnant. Invention seemed
to be the mantra of so many other successful industries where
as the rug industry always took its lead from the weaving styles
of the past. The more far seeing rug manufacturers decided to
their own new designs and weaves, creating styles that could be
exclusively theirs and thus give them a corner on the market.
In many ways, this newly emerging Indian rug market still borrowed
from its past. Taking some of the designs of the famous Agra rugs
of centuries ago, adopting parts of those ancient designs and
using a lot of the same strong golds, burgundies and navies, the
new weavers used the old Indian rug market as a base on which
to build their own new rug weaving era. This let to stiff
competition at every level of the market. The so-called
"high-end" manufactureres now fight to stay ahead of each other
and so on down the line. Now all the manufactures need to stay
on their toes in order to stay at the cutting edge and profitable.
all points to one main thing as far as the end consumer (that's
you), is concerned--choice. India's innovation has spread to all
major rug weaving countries. Pakistan, Turkey, China and Egypt
all are now reinventing their old materials and creating new products
to keep pace with the fast developing Indian rug market. Competition
is creating a whole new generation of rugs available to the merchants
who import these pieces to the United States. As rug dealers,
our options on buying trips to the coasts have opened up beyond
our wildest dreams. As buyers your choices are innumerable. Instead
of being able to choose between one red and navy rug or another,
you can now pick from a vast array of different colors, different
patterns and different weaves, all of which have their own place
in any number of homes. After all, nobody wants to have their
neighbor's rug. All you need are some highly skilled rug merchants
to help you through the maze and pick out the piece that is best
for you. Guess who we would suggest you go to for such a service?