Last week at ALT for Living in Soho, Analisse Taft-Gersten welcomed 20 principal designers from top firms to a lunch and panel discussion about the art and ethical sourcing of handmade rugs. Rug designers Rosemary Hallagarten, Malene B, Tania Johnson and Robin Gray shared in a panel moderated by Nina Smith of GoodWeave, a non-profit organization that ensures the ethical creation of rugs.
From left: Smith, Gray, Hallagarten and Malene B
Gray shared that when she first traveled to India she not only fell in love with the textiles but also the people. “I had a desire to support the weavers,” she said.
Hallagarten has been working with GoodWeave for 10 years and wanted to work with artisans and work with real people and feel a connection with them, rather than having her product mass-produced quickly. She also said that by working with GoodWeave, designers are keeping ancient weaving traditions alive. “Without GoodWeave the rugs would be produced in mass-market factories somewhere in China.”
Malene B, who described her rugs as “statement pieces” or works of art, said, “Each carpet has a story and I’m passionate about working with different people from around the world and I want to connect the consumer to that story.”
Malene B and Tania Johnson
Johnson decided that her two main issues when designing rugs were who could translate her design the best, and who would be ethical—and GoodWeave helped her with both. She explained that she got a list of GoodWeave certified factories and went to visit them, and watch them produce her work and it was an incredible experience.
“Anyone can say they are committed to good and ethical practices,” said Smith. “And, some certifications really don’t mean anything. As designers, you need the proof, you need the certification.”
Smith shared that before GoodWeave began in 1994 there were approximately one million child laborers working in Southeast Asia, and now the number is around 200,000.
GoodWeave not only finds these children and removes them from the situation, but goes on to support them. They are returned to their families or placed in rehabilitation centers and GoodWeave pays for their further education.
Smith explained that one of the most important things you could do as a designer is educate the client as to why a rug costs what it does. Things can be sourced cheaper online but you have no idea how it was made, and often children are victims of trafficking and work in the poorest of conditions.
“When you buy a rug with a GoodWeave label,” said Smith. “You can ensure it was produced ethically, and a portion of the money goes back to support and educate those rescued children.”
At the end of the discussion Taft-Gersten went on to talk about the ALT for Living and GoodWeave sponsored rug competition. Three winning designs will be featured in Cover Magazine and then head to production by ALT for Living.
The rugs will then be for sale and designers will receive at 10 percent royalty while 10 percent also goes back to GoodWeave. The rugs will also be making their way to Germany for the Domotex show early next year.
All rug designs must be submitted to ALT for Living by June 1 and will be judged by the panel. For additional information on the completion email ALT for Living.