Abbas Carpets is changing tastes in Pakistan
What started as a small business in a tight-knit family has recently become a household name in Pakistan. Abbas Carpets is one of the largest and most successful carpet businesses in the country. Their newest chapter started with Haider and Ahmed Abbas â€” sons of the brother owners â€” joining the team, adding a new dimension of finesse and funk to an already impressive portfolio of quality products. I met with them to get the latest on carpets, family love, and how they’ve managed to make carpets as hot and glamorous as fashion.
With the help of his sons Ali and Tahir, Muhammad Abbas Mirza started Abbas Carpets in the 70s as an organized manufacturer. At the time, there were a limited number of designs â€” the ubiquitous bukhara being a dominant classical Persian motif. The Abbas brothers created a design archive to chip away at the shackling dullness of the existing woven-rug variety. “We’ve broken the monotony of classical woven intricate designs,” Haider tells me, “And developed that into the colour reform movement.” What Haider refers to as ‘the colour reform movement’ is the technique of making new carpets look like vintage ones. In other words, they are today’s version of vintage carpets. After collaborating with US-based ABC Carpet and Home, Abbas Carpets began fusing eastern dyes and motifs with western contemporary designs. (ABC had previously collaborated with carpet weavers in Turkey). “The collaboration has brought a new explosion of color and vibrancy to the industry,” says Haider. It’s true: looking at the stunning variety of their rugs, one is struck by the seamlessness with which new is made to look wonderfully, richly old.
Unsurprisingly, the carpet industry develops in rhythm with the home and textile industry; what has been fashionable in the textile industry has led to the proliferation of two very prominent Uzbek designs: Suzani and Ikat, notable for their bright floral patterns.
Their speciality is making new rugs look wonderfully,
With nine gorgeous collections â€” from modern, traditional and post-modern â€” Abbas Carpets is changing tastes in a country where people love sticking to what they’re used to. With dying, however, not much has changed and they still continue to use natural dyes as they always have. The list of vegetable-based dyes is fascinating: indigo, cinnamon, madder, walnuts, and even little baby pomegranates.
Carpet manufacturers are notorious for using child labor, so I went ahead and asked Haider about it. Haider told me this view no longer holds true. Children aren’t typically well suited for carpet weaving, I was told. It is older women who have the perfect combination of soft and malleable fingers which make for ideal carpet weaving. Haider laughs and reassures me that Abbas Carpets has been certified by two American companies, Good Weave and Rugmark, for complying with their international labor requirements for rug weaving.
A typical day at work for Ahmed and Haider varies, but if there aren’t any clients visiting from overseas, it’s mostly work all day. “We start the day with inspecting the raw goods we have received that day. We go through them all one by one to check if they’re up to our standards and if not, we return them,” says Haider. A wrap-up of any outstanding correspondence is interspersed with walk-in customers who they deal with personally. “We’re in the midst of establishing a retail brand right now, so we’re really paying a lot of attention to our social media presence, constantly updating our Facebook page with new products and slowly becoming a trendsetting design presence that exudes style and comfort,” says Haider.
After collaborating with US-based ABC Carpet and Home, Abbas Carpets began fusing eastern dyes and motifs with western contemporary designs
This is the first time in forty years that the carpet giant is developing a presence as a retail brand. It was this idea that spurred their spectacular presence at this year’s PFDC Fashion Week in Lahore. “Export till now has comprised 90% of our sales,” Haider tells me. “But we’re looking to change that and get deeper into the local market and really present ourselves as an approachable retail brand that has the potential to change peoples’ taste in carpets and open them up to new ideas for contemporary design and home decor.” Markets abroad have always been more open to new ideas. With the proliferation of technology in Pakistan, people’s staunchly traditional tastes are slowly opening up to new trends. With their stunning range â€” from sea green to burnt orange to blooms of fuscia â€” Abbas Carpets is propelling colour into people’s homes.