“Hands Made the Past and Hands Make the Future”
You may have noticed, the 21st Century is “knuckle crunchingly” different than the last one. Institutions have the choice: change or die. (This article expands on Intersetion of Craft & Technology, in the October issue of Rug News and Design Magazine)
In the midst of the current retail revolution, Obeetee, one of the oldest rug manufacturers, has quietly been positioning itself to be the Design Leader for the 21st Century in the hand-woven carpet industry – perhaps in the whole carpet industry.
Its recently announced partnership with Parsons School of Design is one example of how Obeetee works closely with leading design thinkers and academic institutions to create the future of the handmade.
As the foundational rug partner in Parsons’ newly-created Textiles MFA Design program, Obeetee provided students with the opportunity to understand the rug industry’s market and supply chain, as well as develop skills and product at the highest, most reputable and traceable levels.
The MFA Textiles students were charged with researching, reimagining and conceptualizing what rugs can be in the 21st century. The fruits of this partnership were on display at Obeetee’s showroom for an exhibition titled “21st Century Craft & The Future of Rug Design”
Taking risk with innovative change is what Obeetee does. Obeetee has been persistent in bringing new technology to the ancient craft of weaving. They are leaders in manufacturing processes and supply chain management in the world of hand crafts.
Among its firsts: industry’s first ever water effluent treatment plant; first in carpet industry to introduce Multi-effect Dyeing; first carpet company in the hand loomed rug industry to secure the SA8000 Standard. Accomplishments include zero tolerance for child labor, weaving instruction for women, and sponsored schools for children.
OBEETEE and THE DESIGNER MARKET
At Obeetee North America, the Board of Directors provides insight to and incursion into the design and hospitality worlds.
Board members include Graham Head, until recently the iconic head of ABC’s Carpet division, and Paul Austin, whose consulting firm aims to “help iconic brands connect to their customers through meaningful, inspiring, and authentic brand storytelling.” .
With the “Proud to Be Indian Campaign” introduced two years ago, Obeetee engaged fashion designers with “rock star” reputations in India, Tarun Tahiliani and Abraham & Thakore (Link to RNAD July 2019) to design a collections of modern Indian carpets. The carpets were introduced to the New York high design world at receptions on ABC’s 6thFloor in 2018, Coincidently, Obeetee North America, hired Patricia Ben-Zvi as CEO. Patricia has years of experience in retail brand management.
Spring of 2018, Li Edelkoort, the doyenne of fashion forecasting, captivated the guests at one ABC event with a presentation on spotting trends. She had recently accepted a position as Dean of Hybrid Studies at Parsons School of Design.
ENTER PARSONS MFA TEXTILES PROGRAM
Given her title, it is clear that Parsons intended for Li Edelkoort to tear down silos and cross fertilize creativi
ty between different disciplines. She intended to ““bringing the hand to the machine and the machine to the hand.”
By the fall of 2018, the MFA Textiles was up and running, directed by Preeti Gopinath. Perhaps, Li was the connecting link between Parsons and Obeetee. There was a meeting between the two organizations with the question of the table, “What can we do together with Obettee as the manufacturing partner in the Textiles Industry Partnership course”. It was agreed that throughout the course students focus their research and practice on creating the most innovative and luxurious products within sustainable parameters. See RNAD – October 2019.
MFA TEXTILE STUDENTS IMMERSED IN RUGS
The Textile MFA program is a variety of disciplines ranging from electrical circuitry to basic accounting to dyeing and weaving. Protected from the restraints on creativity placed by commerce, the studio experience becomes a cauldron of skills and ideas. The first semester of the Textiles for Industry Course is business 101 learning the fundamentals of running a textile. Then comes 15 weeks of looking into the future, starting with research on existing markets by visiting showrooms to understand the current market and learning the basics of rug produced by hand: hand knotted, hand tufted and flat woven.
Li Edelkoort pushed them to think about color trends and outside the box. Obeetee made available their contacts and their expertise
In May, the class presented their findings and plans for prototypes Obeetee. Obeetee’s Chief of Marketing and Chief of Design were on hand. And then the final step: a month in Mirzapur at Obeetee for four students. Their job was to test their original ideas and prototypes against the real world of rug production. The Internet was alive with communication between Mirzapur and various places around the globe as the other students were on summer vacation.
Back at Parsons in the fall, the final adjustments were made. The final presentation was made on September 16 in the Obeetee showroom.
THE WEAVERS THE MOST VALUABLE ASSET FOR THE 21st CENTURY
As it turned out it was Obeetee’s experienced weavers who gave the best innovative advice to the students creating products for the 21st century.
The students came away believing that Obeetee’s weavers with centuries of accumulated knowledge and experience in the ancient craft of weaving were Obeetee’s most valuable asset