Fashionable and deeply nuanced, the term sustainability is increasingly popular, but how can it be pragmatically defined, practiced, monitored and accredited in the handmade rug industry? Where and how can fair trade, the green movement, social mobility and the circular economy all be considered side by side? These panelists and their organisations are committed to improving the working and living conditions of weavers and artisans globally, addressing the root causes of child and bonded labour, promoting transparency in supply chains, encouraging considerate material and manufacturing choices and respecting fragile eco-systems without forgetting economic viability. This discussion tackles the need for a holistic, responsible approach to a complex term.
Ben Evans, the chair of this discussion, is Editor of HALI magazine—the only specialist arts magazine dedicated to antique carpets and textiles—published quarterly from London since 1978. Ben has built on this publication’s international acclaim and outstanding reputation for in-depth articles, launching COVER magazine to represent the contemporary market in 2005, and establishing book-publishing projects, cultural tours and events.
Michael Christie is a noted writer, commentator and theorist in the field of handmade rugs and carpets. He is known for his irreverent and direct writings as ‘The Ruggist’, guest and featured columns in trade publications such as HALI and COVER magazines, and the recent editorship of Rug Insider magazine. Christie’s authoritative voice is the result of long experience within the rug trade. He says: ‘By adopting the modernist’s perspective—one well informed by the past yet simultaneously willing to disregard that which is now far outmoded—we have the ability to sustainably advance carpetry.’
Susan Inglis is Executive Director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council. Resident expert with the organisation she helped found in 2006, she has led SFC to work with industry leaders to gauge the sustainability of furniture products and practices and educate all sectors of the industry. Inglis is also founder of From The Mountain, a company that imports hand-spun cashmere yarn from Afghanistan, providing safe income for over 100 women there. ‘It is urgent that we take immediate steps to minimise carbon emissions, reduce other pollutants, and remove unsustainable materials and harmful chemical inputs from all furnishings product platforms,’ she says.
Reto Aschwanden is managing director of Label STEP, the fair-trade non-profit organisation based in Switzerland is committed to the wellbeing of weavers and workers in the handmade carpet industry. Believing in fair trade as a grass-roots instrument for social and economic development, he admires the handmade rug industry for its creativity, history and cultural significance. Reto joined Label STEP in 2005 and regularly travels to Afghanistan, India, Iran, Nepal and Pakistan to meet producers, workers and weavers. ‘For this industry to thrive,’ he says, ‘not only today but also in the future, it must meet the needs of all people involved.’
Scott Welker, Vice President of International Business Development at GoodWeave since 2008, has a background in international brand management, business development, and operations. While living abroad for a multi-national CPG company, he developed import and distribution channels within mature and emerging markets across the globe. He later managed all aspects of a multimillion-dollar e-commerce entity. He has provided operational and marketing expertise to a number of national and international nonprofit organizations.