Anna Wahdat is a woman working in a traditionally male profession and comes from family in the rug trade. With her label " On the Rugs" she is bringing innovation and freshness to the Oriental rug business and successfully opening up new target markets in the process.
The new face of retail in oriental rugs
For all the points they have in common, the two women have chosen very different, highly individual paths in life. Anna Wahdat grew up around carpets and rugs and developed a liking for interior design from a very young age. Her father and uncle are from Afghanistan and have had a business selling hand-knotted oriental rugs in Hamburg’s historic Speicherstadt warehouse district for nearly 40 years. As children, she and her sisters would often play among the stacks of rugs in the family’s showroom. Later, while on parental leave, Anna began putting together her own collection, carefully selecting individual pieces from among the same stacks. In 2015, with this collection of personal favorites in hand, she established her label, On the Rugs .
"Being able to draw on my uncle and father’s stock gave me courage and security and enabled me to take my time over developing and building up my label," she says. Despite having her own label, Anna Wahdat works very closely with the more traditional family business. "I still make selections from their stock, even though I now have plenty of contacts of my own." She also draws on her family’s contacts, such as when she works with other traders from the Speicherstadt district who specialize in particular styles or geographic regions. She values her father’s expertise. "His sales approach differs fundamentally from mine, but he has good instincts and a very clear understanding of what I can and want to achieve, so he's a great support."
A collection of carefully chosen personal favorites
One of the defining characteristics of On the Rugs is a strong preference for selectiveness over volume and range. Alongside this belief that less is more, Anna Wahdat attaches great importance to fair trade and transparency of working conditions in her rugs’ countries of origin. DOMOTEX has been part of the fabric of her life since childhood. "For me, visiting the show was always a chance to immerse myself in a completely different world. Now that I’m in the trade myself, I value DOMOTEX as an important annual fixture where I can meet up with industry peers and make new contacts." She is often accompanied at the show by her father and uncle, who introduce her to rug dealers and producers. Of course, she also uses her time at DOMOTEX to scout for out-of-the-ordinary pieces with interesting histories. She follows her own individual taste and intuitions in everything she does, whether making selections for her collection, conducting sales negotiations or advertising. Regarding the latter, it bothers Wahdat that a number of more traditional rug dealers still rely on print ads in the local press – the kind that scream with big red letters and big discounts. "I market my hand-made originals principally online in the first instance. The main thing is, I make sure I have really good photos of the rugs, which I then disseminate via channels like Instagram and Pinterest. The next step almost always involves direct contact. Customers can view the rugs and gain a tactile feel for the materials at her family’s showroom, at selected interior design stores in Hamburg, Cologne and Berlin, and at pop-up sales events featuring readings, food and music. On the Rugs also rents out carpets and rugs for a wide range of event types, such as film shoots, weddings and conferences.
Out-of-the-ordinary one-offs with fascinating histories
Wahdat also invites prospective buyers to "try before they buy" by taking several rugs home with them, to see how fit in with their existing decor."My clientele ranges from well-off retired couples to young families to hip young bloggers. The one thing they all have in common is a deep interest in design and quality interiors."
It’s all about balance
Wahdat's collection is not limited to any one style, and the price range is similarly broad. The On the Rugs website features Moroccan Berber rugs made of luxuriously soft Atlas sheep wool or recycled cotton displayed alongside classic Afghan rugs in pared-back tradtional patterns, flat-weave kilims in fresh colors and designs, and exquisite silk rugs featuring intricate floral ornamentation. Wahdat: "I prefer one-off creations with stand-out features, such as an unusual use of color or an intentional knotting defect." She also treasures the vintage aspect. "There's too much new stuff being produced in the world. That's why I like to give beautiful old things a second, or even third, lease of life." Even so, her label also sells new rugs because they have formats and patterns that are often a better fit for European-style living rooms. Wahdat: "It’s all about balance."