I asked one of my Christchurch Creative clients, Matthew, the director of Matthew Wailes for his take on luxury rugs. From discussing the rise in demand for this type of flooring to new and existing collections, he offers news, views and expert advice. Matthew Wailes has more than 30 years’ experience working with the interior design and decorator market. He leads a team, which specialises in the design production and installation of the finest hand and machine-made carpets and rugs, for residential and commercial projects.
How would you define the term luxury rug?
Good question; I guess that the definition of luxury is something that would not be experienced or purchased every day – a treat; something you remember, remark upon & appreciate; a luxury item would be admired every day. We tend to think of luxury within rug as meaning a sumptuous, soft, deep silky pile. However, I tend to think of craftsmanship, design, texture, fibre & colour. We create our rugs to very specific customer requirements, taking position within & complimenting beautiful interiors; beautiful luxury!
Why are luxury rugs becoming so popular for interior designers?
Here, in the UK, we have seen a dramatic shift with how flooring is used within the home; Over the past 20 years or so, we have seen the majority of wall-to-wall carpets being replaced with solid surfaces within the lower floors of residences. This has given rise to a huge market for area rugs. We now have product entering the market from many different regions of the world servicing the demand. Within our own market area, a very specialised niche has emerged. This utilises the relatively untapped skills & craftsmanship of carpet makers in the creation of bespoke products. This in turn gives huge flexibility to our interior designer customers. Therefore, they can include luxury rugs as an integral component of their interior schemes.
How do you work with interior designers on projects?
We work with our clients on a project-by-project basis. The initial consultation will be to assess & determine specific requirements; Design, texture, colour, fibres etc. Budget of course may also play a part. We therefore have many different options, either in production methods or the type of fibres we use. In fact, this allows us to tailor luxury rugs to suit. Our usual process is as follows:
- Design selection
- Colour & fibre selection
- Visual presentation
- Custom sample for approval
- Product production
When working with custom products it is of vital importance that very stringent procedures are in place; we need to follow and check the production path at all stages to ensure we meet customer expectations. After all, we are creating an item that will hopefully be present within a home for many, many years to come. We want our customers to take delight in our creation. So, this is why we only work with the very best partners within our industry.
Tell me about your recent collaboration with the artist, Jan Erika:
Jan and I were introduced by a mutual friend around 18 months ago; we had been following each other on social media for some time. There was mutual admiration for the creative aspects of our respective products. Both of us felt that Jan’s work would translate beautifully into area rugs. We then set about collating her work into a shortlist of designs. You can now see six in this collection. It was very important to us both that we were able to take her original art and make the conversion to product without losing authenticity; I think that we have managed to achieve this extremely well on our luxury rugs; bold designs with vivid colours and abundance of texture – truly striking!
What was Jan’s inspiration behind The Earth Collection?
Jan has a love of the natural world, as do I – it was very easy to agree on the theme; you can see Jan’s inspiration from nature in every piece.
Do you have a favourite luxury rug design in The Earth Collection?
I love them all but I think my favourite would be Navajo; it is a beautiful design with amazing use of colour. But there is something more within; Native Americans have an ethos deeply rooted within their natural environment. This is similar in many ways to Buddhism. It’s an understanding that we are merely one component within the intricacies of our natural world. And we need to live harmoniously with all if the equilibrium is to be maintained.
You have led the way for using Upcycling in your LuxuryEco carpets and rugs collection. How did that feel?
I am not sure that we have led the way as such; upcyled materials have been used in the production of floor-coverings for some time now. However, we are trying to pioneer the use of plastic ocean waste material specifically for our bespoke, handmade products; this hasn’t really be exploited before. I think this is partly due to the complicated processes that are required to turn clear plastic waste into fibre which can be used for custom dyeing and production. It is extremely gratifying to know that every piece we produce reduces the quantity of waste in the oceans in some way.
Why was this so important for the luxury rugs market?
It is important for every product within every market; the quantities of waste that human beings produce is truly staggering. In fact, every one of us should be making an effort to reuse and recycle our waste, use sustainable materials, use materials and production methods that leave a very shallow ‘footprint’ behind. We happen to produce bespoke rugs for the ‘luxury’ market. However, this should in no way impair our belief that waste materials can be reused in the creation of our products. There seems to be a really positive ecological ‘surge’ within the carpet and rug industry. This is driven by the demand for green and sustainable materials. Therefore, the greater the demand the greater the need for everyone to get onboard.
What’s your connection with GoodWeave?
I have been visiting Nepal now for over 20 years. It’s a wonderful country with wonderful people, but like many other countries around the world there can be exploitation within industry. Traditionally, hand woven carpets and rugs in regions such as India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc have been produced within small, relatively poor communities. Child labour has, and still can be an issue. Low cost production means potentially higher profits. So, children and their families have been targeted as a means of exploiting low cost labour within supply chains which are typically long and complex. I think this clearly needs to be addressed. GoodWeave directly addresses this issue. They have both manufacturing and importing licenced partners, all of whom are dedicated to the eradication of child labour.
As a charitable organisation Goodweave depends on their licenced partners to generate the required funds that allow them to operate; feet on the ground, inspection facilities, transit housing and schooling for children lifted from labour, support for their families. It is a far from simple operation. We are very proud to be one of their licenced partners. This way, we are delighted to dedicate a portion of our import costs towards the vital work that they do.
I hear you are working on another new project – tell me more:
Anti-allergy technology has been around for some time now within our market area; treatments & fibres that kill or inhibit replication of dust mites, fungus etc; the main causes of allergies. In the early stages of the pandemic last year we, together with one of our manufacturing partners, submitted our anti-allergy/wool product samples to a microbiological testing facility here in the UK. We wanted to see what outcome would be obtained against viruses, including Covid-19. We found the results were extremely positive In fact, the majority of the virus was eliminated very quickly after coming into contact with our fibre and all of the virus neutralised in less than 30 minutes.
Further developments were then made to combine our unique anti-viral/allergy (AV) fibre with Upcycle fibre. This way, we would have a product with both health & environmental benefits. The result is our new SoteriaAV luxury rugs and carpets brand. So we are now manufacturing bespoke handmade products using this new fibre blend.
We have also launched a range of SoteriaAV Facemasks, again using the AV/Upcycle blended fibre. We see a multitude of applications for this fibre within the interiors industry. You can also wash the fibre multiple times without reducing its efficiency. This is because the technology is incorporated within the fibre itself rather than being simply a surface layer.
Why do you think this will revolutionise the way we think about hygiene in commercial properties and residential homes?
One thing that has been unavoidable for us all during the past 12 months is an increased awareness of the importance of hygiene to help curb the spread of the virus. I think that any product of this type that can be incorporated into our daily lives will increase in demand, both within the commercial sector and residential homes. Although Covid-19 is generally transmitted from one person to another through airborne particles, it can also spread through contaminated surfaces. As yet, it is still not entirely clear how long the virus remains ‘live’ on different materials. However, we have designed our SoteriaAV products to provide another layer of protection within homes and commercial properties. I would imagine that, given the choice, customers will opt for anti-viral products wherever they are available. This could be in the form of fabric, luxury rugs, carpets, etc.
When will this new collection launch and what can we expect?
We are in the process of launching the SoteriaAV brand right now. We have promotional introduction packs which we will send to customers over the coming weeks. These contain a handmade rug sample, fabric face masks and full information. Further products are on the way!
Looking for key trends in bathroom decor? I spoke to Sofia Charalambous, the co-founder of Bathroom Origins, about this just last month. Read my blog to find out more here.