Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Carpets with a Conscience…

It is possible to create high fashion designer rugs with an ethical state of mind.
Armadillo&Co founders Jodie Fried and Sally Pottharst are two such designers with a conscience, weaving fair trade practices into their hand made rugs.
In fact, their entire brand is built on the principle of Fair Trade and every single purchase from their luxury range donates back to building facilities in the weavers’ communities.
“Our artisans are our extended family,” says Jodie. “We treat them all with the care, respect and love one would a father, a mother, a sister or a brother.
“The intricate tradition of carpet weaving has been passed down through generations, so many of our people are indeed families.
“They are all carefully selected for both their hands and their heart – that is, not just their skills but their sensitivity to our design vision – and every individual is treated like one.
“They are paid above average wages and they are integral to their local community’s livelihood.
“Most importantly, they are carrying on a lineage that deserves preservation. We believe handicraft like theirs needs to be in good hands.”

On top of this, Jodie and Sally work closely with the local school near the artisan villages under the Indian organization, Care & Fair – an initiative against illegal child labour in the carpet production industry in India, Nepal and Pakistan.
“We are ardent supporters and vocal advocates of this cause. Absolutely no child labour is in any way employed in our rug making,” says Jodie.
“At Armadillo&Co, we voluntarily collaborate with this vitally important organisation and we are consciously active when it comes to community involvement and evolvement and happily contribute financially to local education.
“Our most recent and very rewarding project was purchasing play equipment for a local school.”
Jodie says when purchasing any rug or carpet made in India, to look for the ‘KALEEN’ label which is issued by the Carpet Export Promotion Council of India. This orgnisation guarantees that child labour was not used in the manufacture. So naturally, all of the Armadillo&Co rugs made in India carry this label.
We spoke with Jodie before the design duo debut their exclusive `Designer Collection’ at Decoration + Design tomorrow in the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Armadillo&Co designers, Jodie Fried & Sally Pottharst
You are about to launch the new designer collection at D+D – why did you decide to venture into a custom-designer range?
We wanted to create a range of bespoke rugs especially for the trade market for interior designers and architects. We also wanted to bring in elements of colour and texture. All our colours are deep, earthy tones but still have a beautiful vibrancy. With combination of 23 colours and 7 designs, the options are endless!
Travel must also be a large part of your business for inspiration and sourcing – where have you travelled recently, why, tell us your stories and what you have sourced so far?
Sally and I travel to India regularly and are always developing new products and designs. A lot of the inspiration comes from the weavers themselves and working with them in person on the looms. Our best developments are normally happy accidents!

You draw on your love and Sally’s childhood for the Masai collection – was it quite an emotional experience designing this collection? Are you proud to support the African culture and economy? How has your contribution helped the local communities?
We have been wanting to draw on Sally’s heritage of Zimbabwe for quite sometime, but never found the right weave to render this. We have had a pile of inspiration drawn from this culture and we are thrilled to finally have the platform the bring out the Masai and Serengeti range. I have the feeling we aren’t finished yet and there might be more to come.

What gap in the market do you believe your product/range fills?
Beautiful hand crafted rugs that are quality in detail, fibres and finishing, but are also economical and durable.
What do you hope to gain by exhibiting at the show?
We would love to see our new Designer Collection range exposed to interior designers to assist in helping them find and create the perfect rug for the clients and projects.

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