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Carpet Diem – Hossein Rezvani

By Ruth Eberhardt, photos by Hossein Rezvani and Marcus Witte

Hossein Rezvani is known as the man who reinvented the Persian rug. The Hamburg-based designer with Iranian roots reconnects with a centuries-old tradition and makes it fit for modernity. He lends the “mother of all rugs”, as the Persian rug is sometimes called, a contemporary design whilst preserving its cultural heritage. Each rug from Rezvani’s collection is unique, handmade in Iran in an elaborate process.

Extraordinary ideas often emerge when we would least expect them, or when there’s a question nobody knows to answer. It was in exactly this kind of situation which, a few years ago, made Hossein Rezvani come up with an idea that captured the spirit of the times while creating something new. Rezvani, who has a degree in Business Administration and whose family has been in the rug trade for four generations, was having dinner with friends. “Everybody was wondering why the mother of all rugs was so immune to innovation and failed to go with the trend. To be honest, I didn’t know either”, he remembers. The question weighed heavily on his mind – “until I walked into my father’s office about a week later and said: Dad, we have to reinvent the Persian rug and breathe some life back into it! He just replied dryly: Well, let’s do it then…”, recalls Hossein Rezvani the dialogue with his father, who supported his vision from day one


Hossein Rezvani would soon realise why nobody had come up with this idea before and why it was so revolutionary. “You must know that Persian weavers are very proud of what they do”, he explains. Every city has its own pattern, its own history, and its own tradition. “Breaking with these was the main problem!” According to Rezvani, it took one year to find 25 weavers who were willing to implement first samples for him. But they didn’t follow the instructions. The odd design in red and blue turned into an interplay of yellow and green, because the weaver felt it looked much better that way. “It took us about two years to find weavers who’d really do what we wanted”, says Rezvani, pointing out that Iran isn’t the right country to commission industrial contract work to. It’s more about family tradition than just a job. In short: it was “a very long and tedious journey, but it’s paid off for all of us”, he says. According to himself, he now employs some 500 weavers “who just can’t wait to get new designs”. It’s important to Rezvani that his weavers work in good conditions and that their income is above the average wage.


Hamburg-based Rezvani designs his rugs himself, mainly on the computer. An illustrator then transfers every detail onto a sheet of paper sized like the original rug by hand. Rezvani, who spends half the year travelling, gets most of his ideas on his journeys. “The world we live in has so much to offer. That alone is one of the greatest sources of inspiration.” The second most important source are classical rugs. “I love antique rugs”, says Hossein Rezvani. They often provide the basic patterns for his modern designs. Rezvani’s work is rooted in a firm conviction: “A product that combines so much history and tradition should also show its roots in its reinterpretation”, explains the designer, who has already received various awards for his rugs.


While the Persian rug is getting a new and fresh look, the centuries-old manufacturing process remains unchanged: Rezvani’s rugs are made by hand and to high quality standards, using refined materials such as cork and highland wool from Iran and silk from China, dyed with natural colours, and woven with up to one million knots per square metre. That’s an awful lot, which is why – depending on its size and knot density – it takes a single weaver up to several months to finish one rug. “To me, the weavers are the true artists. They’re the ones who implement my ideas”, says Rezvani. They all live in Isfahan, a stronghold of the Iranian rug weaving industry, which is known for its exceptionally refined rugs. Some 25 employees visit the weavers every day to see if they need wool, silk, scissors, or other materials. “We’re a large family, and we can only create a good product if everyone’s happy”, says the Hamburg-based entrepreneur with conviction.


A great deal of sensitivity is required during the final step: rug laundry. This is where the rug gets its final treatment: any excess wool or silk is removed, the sides are hemmed, and the rug is trimmed – all by hand. “Using the scissors in the wrong place, applying too much pressure, or penetrating the fabric too deeply can destroy several months of work within seconds”, says Rezvani, describing the last step in the process: “To me, that’s still the trickiest part after all these years.”


This kind of rug is more than a furnishing item or a home accessory. In fact, it expresses an attitude to life. For Hossein Rezvani, rugs in general, and the ones he designs in particular, have a very personal dimension to them: “With rugs, I associate childhood memories, warmth and security, memories of my Persian roots, and especially of the country. A rug is an expression of culture, history, tradition, and pride. They’re firmly anchored in our centuries-old culture”, he says, adding: “And my rugs combine tradition with modernity. I was born in Germany, but Iran is in my heart. It’s exactly this combination that I live by, and I also try to express it in my designs.”