2016 marks Designer Rugs’ 30th year in the business, during which time they’ve accrued a design legacy like no other. The highly skilled local team has produced rugs in commemoration of the Pope and the Queen, collaborated with Australia’s top design, fashion and art world talents, and created a cannon of woven work for a multitude of prestigious projects in Australia and around the world.
The founders – Eli, Nuri and Yosi Tal – established Designer Rugs in 1986 with the desire to manufacture a product not previously seen on the Australian market. Uninspired by the dull and unimaginative rugs being imported into Australia, they decided to create hand-tufted rugs that reflected the vibrancy of this country, it’s landscapes and creative talent. Despite having no knowledge of retail or rugs, they jumped in and gave it a go, and thirty years later their bold commitment to originality and design remains the cornerstone of Designer Rugs’ success.
The Tals opened a small factory in Marrickville, followed by a showroom in The Rocks, and while managing director Yosi says it was: “sheer luck and serendipity we survived in those early years,” Designers Rugs’ lucky break came when St Patrick’s Cathedral commissioned a custom rug to commemorate Pope John Paul II’s visit to Australia in 1986, and Parliament House commissioned a rug for the Queen’s Bicentennial visit in 1988. By the 1990s the fledgling company had caught the attention of leading architects, designers and artists adding the likes of Harry Seidler, John Coburn and Howard Arkley to a impressive role call of clients.
Designer Rugs’ reputation for collaboration continued to develop with collections by some of the biggest names in Australian design. Some of the first were by painter and tapestry-maker Alun Leach-Jones; and fashion designer Linda Jackson, whose rug ‘Hibiscus and Hacienda’ (1993) is in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum. The brand has always been passionate about creating a strong link between the manufacturing, art and design worlds, and the creativity of these diverse artists and designers has proved to be a constant source of inspiration for the team.
Recent collections have included artists and designers such as: Greg Natale, Minnie Pwerle, Alex Perry and Annie Georgeson, and a collection for the iconic English brand Wedgewood in celebration of its 250-year heritage. They have also collaborated with Oscar-winning costume designer Catherine Martin, a partnership that led to designing rugs for The Great Gatsby and Faena Hotel Miami Beach, adding richness to the fantasy and theatricality of Martin and Baz Luhrmann’s inimitable cinematic vision.
Designer Rugs’ extensive work with architects and designers across hospitality, commercial, civic and retail projects is not just confined to Australian shores. They’ve created custom rugs for a vast portfolio of international and local projects including the Australian Embassy in Paris and Tokyo, Laucula Island Resort in Fiji, Corrs Chambers Westgarth offices and Emirates One&Only resorts in Hayman Island and Wolgan Valley. Other prominent projects include the Emirates Birdcage marquee, as well as a restoration project for the State Theatre in Sydney for which Designer Rugs recreated the original carpet from 1928 – something that had never been done before. These projects have allowed the brand to work with a diverse scope of design styles, creative visions and even historical records, and have allowed them to build up a really incredible internal knowledge base and heritage.
Everyday brings new learnings as the talented in-house design team skilfully work with designers and architects to ensure their vision of scale, colour and detail translates effectively into woven form. No two jobs are ever the same and by working with many of the world’s finest designers and architects Designer Rugs are constantly challenged and motivated to innovate, keeping the output fresh and engaged.
Designer Rugs is committed to actively supporting education and innovation in the textile and design industries, hosting regular competitions in collaboration with UNSW Art & Design, TAFE NSW and International School of Colour and Design to provide students with unique opportunities and experience, as well as the bi-yearly EVOLVE competition for professional architects and designers, with the opportunity to win a trip to Milan, a rug and 10 per cent royalty for two years.
Their commitment also extends to philanthropic endeavours, including partnering with Vogue Living to auction custom-designed rugs by 10 interior designers and artists to support Camp Quality. The event yielded much-needed funds and kick started new collaborations with Akira Isogawa and Dinosaur Designs whose rugs continue to be some of the brand’s most popular.
“We don’t see ourselves as just a rug company;”, says Yosi, “we see ourselves as a design company that makes rugs. Our clients are looking for something special to create the final aesthetic, and our rugs and the stories embedded in them bring this element of personality to the room. Our true skill is helping to construct a product that meets that vision and as a result creates an emotional connection.”
Words by Sophia Watson.