This luscious rug was produced by an emerging company called Q Mark in Pakistan, woven by Afghan refugees.
Q Mark and Pamir have woven rugs for in Pakistan for several years and are just now emerging with good, new productions. Hazara looms have put production on hold due to a migration of weavers back to Afghanistan.
In its dynamism, the Oriental rug industry now is reminiscent of the dot-com world in the 1990s: every day the established titans are being challenged by new innovators. Two relative newbies have caught our attention lately. Both have woven rugs for several years and are just now emerging with good, new productions.
The first is Q Mark International. Though known to only a few American dealers, their best products rival those of the well established. I asked Saad Sultan whether the Q was for question mark. “Quality,” he told me. Saad Sultan is the US representative of the company, one of the Pakistani cousins who run the family business. The others are supervising looms in Pakistan.
Saad is matter-of-fact about why the family entered the business of producing rugs. They lived near one of the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and saw an opportunity to form their own business. “We just wanted to give it a try,” he said. “We came to the business a little late.”
Surrounded by run-of-the-mill goods in Pakistan, that’s what the family produced for the first several years. It was only when Saad saw rugs on the walls of premier American rug stores that he realized how gorgeous the best Pakistani rugs could be, and how high he had to aim to equal them. That is when the family began weaving rugs of special merit. Until that time, the Sultans used natural dyes and handspun wool simply because “they were selling best.” Now they regard the old dyes and methods as tools with which to make the best possible rugs and carpets.
Pamir is a relatively new company making rugs in Pakistan with Afghan weavers. We like the unusual burgundy of this carpet’s field and border.
The second emerging company is called Pamir, named after the majestic mountains in the north of Afghanistan. Its co-owner, Ali Akbar Rahmati, is from Kabul, Afghanistan, but now lives on the West Coast of California. His mission is to divine what American buyers need, while his brother, Hamid Rezai, oversees the actual weaving on their 45 looms in Pakistan. Ali and Hamid are Hazaras, an ethnic (and religious) minority in Afghanistan, and they formed their own business, Ali says, to employ their fellow Hazaras who were struggling as refugees in Pakistan.
It has been a pleasure to watch their carpets improve with every shipment. They have overcome problems with poor wool (during a drought), inconsistent colors and inconsistent wash (that is, the finishing process that may include the use of chemicals). But from the beginning, the brothers had several good designs and two especially good colors: a great celadon and a very good burgundy. Their focus is on perfecting what they already do very well.
While Q Mark and Pamir are emerging from the pack, Hazara Looms, founded by Homayoon Mosenpour, is on hold. In the first edition of Oriental Rugs Today, we wrote about Hazara Looms, a start-up company then. We were enthusiastic because of the great promise his rugs showed and, indeed, Hazara Looms wove excellent carpets for several years.
Today Homayoon’s business is the victim of political events well beyond his control. After September 11, 2001 and the subsequent uprooting of the Taliban from Afghanistan, many thousands of Afghan weavers abandoned the Pakistani refugee camps and returned home to Afghanistan. Suddenly there are insufficient numbers of weavers in the camps to meet world demand for Pakistani rugs. Homayoon is considering relocating his business to Afghanistan as many producers are doing, but he believes the infrastructure of Afghanistan is so damaged, the political climate still so unsettled, and the availability of weavers in Afghanistan so uncertain, that he is undecided about what to do.
Hundreds of producers are in the same position. It is clear that Pakistan, as a supplier of Afghan woven rugs, will never be the same as before the defeat of the Taliban. We hope, at least, that many thousands of Afghan refugees will finally find peace back in their homeland.
Here is a footnote concerning Q Mark and Pamir, but really concerning most (though not all) “natural-dye” productions in Pakistan and perhaps in every country. Saad Sultan and Ali Akbar Rahmati affirm that they make rugs with natural dyes … and yet both suggest that perhaps certain colors are very difficult if not impossible to mix without a little compromise. Without ever having to say the ‘s-word’ (all right, synthetic), they seem to imply that they do whatever is necessary to weave rugs that fill our needs.