Chic with a conscience

June 06, 2013

At a recent event in one of SoHo’s most glamorous showrooms, Judith Glass learns how one organisation is working with top designers to improve working conditions for weavers in Asia.

At a recent event sponsored by COVER, in one of SoHo’s most glamorous showrooms, Alt for Living, Judith Glass learns how one organisation is working with top designers to help improve the lives of weavers in Asia.

Former model and designer Analisse Taft-Gersten bestows a sense of high fashion to the world of bespoke carpets and textiles. Her jewel box of a showroom is intrinsically haute couture. While retaining the feel of a raw urban warehouse so beloved of downtown New York retailers and so endlessly but unsuccessfully copied by the rest of the world, ALT is designed to make you feel as if you are inside the most glamorous walk-in-wardrobe imaginable.


ALT showroom

Analisse’s clients have come to expect impeccable taste, effortless hospitality and a fashionable crowd at any ALT affair. A recent informal luncheon held during ICFF week for New York’s foremost designers and architects certainly did not disappoint. The elegant event held in conjunction with GoodWeave  and sponsored by COVER magazine, was attended by local luminaries such as Robert Couturier and Amy Lau. The topic of the day was The Art and Ethical Sourcing of Handmade Rugs.

Nina Smith, Executive Director of GoodWeave USA, gave an impassioned presentation on the aims and activities of her organisation. According to UNICEF and the US Department of Labor, since its inception in 1994, GoodWeave has helped to reduce the number of children exploited on South Asian looms from 1 million to 250,000. The organisation is active in India, Nepal and, since 2011, Afghanistan.

Learning that carpet production is the largest legal source of employment in Afghanistan reinforces the scale of the industry that GoodWeave is seeking to reform. It has rescued more than 3,650 child labourers, and provided an education to thousands more. Its best-in-class certification standard is a solid assurance that no child was exploited in the making of a GoodWeave-labelled rug.


Ombre Silk Caviar rug, Rosemary Hallgarten

Nina Smith was followed by a lively panel discussion featuring international rug designers Rosemary Hallgarten, Malene B, Tania Johnson and Robin Gray. They shared the inspiration behind their own collections and explained why they and their clients are dedicated to having their rugs certified by GoodWeave. Carrying the GoodWeave seal of approval is no longer a matter of conscience alone – the organisation is ready to tackle the mainstream rug trade by debuting at Macy’s, one of the world’s largest retailers.


The rug designers at ALT


ALT is a reminder of how much money and glamour there is at the retail end of the industry. Floor-to-ceiling wooden shelving displays textiles and carpet samples as if they were Birkin bags or Hermès scarves or Jimmy Choo shoes. The floors are layered with a rotating display of carpets (Robin Gray’s Celestial Mirror Collection is currently featured) and eclectic groupings of contemporary furniture, lighting and accessories. Living Vintage, Analisse’s own line of linens and silks, is produced using silk screens from the 1940s to 1970s. This is SoHo, whose wealthy, label-conscious crowd would feel perfectly at home here, stopping by to commission a rug during an afternoon expedition to Prada or Chanel.

Malene B Papunya

Papunya rug, Malene B

Fortuitously, Analisse is married to James Gersten, the president of Culinary Concepts Hospitality Group, and a thematically appropriate lunch was provided by Spice Market. The delicious meal was inspired by traditional Asian street food as interpreted and elevated by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Robin Gray Ancestors

Ancestors rug, Robin Gray

As Vongerichten’s signature ginger margaritas began flowing freely, audience members accepted a challenge to design their own rugs. Participating designers are to include August Interiors, Juan Montoya, Adrienne Neff and Steven Sills. The winner of the competition is to be judged by the panel of successful carpet designers and the top three rugs will be produced by ALT for Living, to be hand woven by, significantly, adult artisans in Nepal. A significant percentage of the profits from all rugs sold will be donated to the excellent GoodWeave cause. We will, of course, publish the winning entries in our next issue.

Tania Johnson Wave Rug

Wave rug, Tania Johnson

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