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Reincarnation, Indian Style by Ian GrantLahore Rug

The 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.

First 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.

Agra RugWhen 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 start creating 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.

This 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?

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