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Meet Alia Kate of Kantara: Moroccan Rugs in Silver Lake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alia Kate.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Alia. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
I started Kantara over ten years ago while I was living and working in Morocco. Over the last decade, I have worked with the same weaving cooperatives in rural Morocco and thanks to my longstanding relationship with the artisans, I am able to design and curate a diverse collection of ethically sourced Moroccan rugs for both residential and commercial interiors.

From the first moment I saw how the rugs were made, I was hooked. I was struck by how deeply integrated weaving is within the fabric of daily life for these women, how time-consuming the process is, and how central these rugs are to village life in Morocco.

With Kantara, I am committed to not only fostering the economic development of the women artisans through sustainable trade but also to preserving a craft that has been passed down from generation to generation.

I have a showroom in Silver Lake, where clients make appointments to view the rugs in my collection. For those that have specific styles of Moroccan rugs in mind, I offer a custom order concierge service which allows clients to weigh in on everything from size and color to materials and overall design.

Kantara, meaning ‘bridge’ in Arabic, honors the tenacity of the women weavers that I’ve worked with closely for the last decade. It is my hope to create a sustainable link between these incredible artisans and my clients who are looking for high quality, fair trade, and bespoke Moroccan rugs.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The language and the logistics of traveling alone in Morocco as a single woman have not always been the easiest, but with time they have become some of the highlights of my visits to Morocco. It would be far easier for me to source all of my rugs from the rug bazaars in Marrakech but because working directly with the artisans is such an important part of Kantara, I’ve learned to navigate on my own, and with ease, throughout the country.

On buying trips, I usually rent a car and travel from one village to the next, collecting rugs as I go. While French and Arabic are the official languages in Morocco, once you get to the Atlas mountains, most of the women and children speak one of the Amazigh (Berber) dialects — Tamazight in the north, Tachelheyt in the south. Even though I’m fluent in French and Arabic, I quickly learned that it wouldn’t be enough. Over the years, I have learned bits and pieces of the Amazigh languages to bridge the gap.

On my last trip, I took some more daring routes (I must say, I was warned!) and ended up on dirt roads for hours– at times fording through deep standing water that had flooded the roadways– all the while hoping my little Fiat rental would make it to the other side. It’s always an adventure on the road and in the rare instances when I’ve needed a helping hand, I’ve been humbled at the generosity of those I’ve met along the way.

On buying trips, the artisans open their homes to me, and welcome me in to break bread with them (in some cases, make bread with them), sip mint tea, and sleep in rooms filled from floor to ceiling with rugs woven by older women in their families. Thanks to my familiarity with the country and my ability to communicate with the women, my visits to the weaving cooperatives are some of my favorite parts of these trips.

Kantara: Moroccan Rugs – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Kantara is a fair trade design company specializing in Moroccan rugs for both residential and commercial interiors. Each region in Morocco specializes in its own unique weaving style — there are Beni Ourain, Beni Mguild, Azilal, Boujaad, and Marmoucha rugs; high pile rugs, low pile rugs, and kilims; vintage Moroccan rugs, and contemporary, abstract Moroccan rugs to name a few.

At this point, our artisans can make any style of Moroccan rugs to precise size and design preferences. I have worked directly with these artisans for more than a decade and can guarantee that the rugs are of the highest quality and fit for residential and commercial interiors. I believe strongly in working directly with the artisans as this is the only sustainable way to support the economic development of the ladies that do the incredibly challenging work of weaving these rugs.

At a time when fewer and fewer young, rural Moroccan women are choosing to learn how to weave, ethical sourcing is an even more central issue in ensuring the longevity and preservation of this age-old cultural tradition.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is defined by how much production I can funnel back to my artisan partners.

While I always maintain a stock of vintage Moroccan rugs in my showroom, the new production is where my passions lie as it not only allows clients to specify the exact rug for their space, but it also supports the economic development of the artisans in the most direct way. Oftentimes, these women are the sole breadwinners in their families, and when I send large orders back to my artisans to make rugs, I can see how the benefits ripple out to the wider community.

Last year, my ladies finished working on a large order for the Bryant Park Hotel’s Célon Lounge in New York. They skillfully completed these complicated designs in record timing, often with six women sitting side by side, weaving on the same rug. In spite of high illiteracy rates among the artisans and limited educational opportunities, they are still able to produce high-quality weaving that takes into account very intricate geometric calculations.

Pricing:

  • I always keep an inventory of at least 30 rugs in stock in my Silver Lake showroom, which is open by appointment only. Typical prices for rugs in inventory are $1100 for 4’ x 6’; $1600 for 5’ x 8’; and $1900+ for larger, more complex rugs. We also have a fair number of smaller rugs, throws, and runners that fall in the $300-$800 range.
  • Custom rugs usually cost around $35-$65 per square foot depending on the complexity of design and size. Lead time for production is 6-10 weeks, depending on the time of the year. For interior designers, architects, stylists, and realtors, we offer trade discounts.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Anna Beeke (@abeeke), Thao Nguyen, Shop on the Mesa (@shop_onthe_mesa)

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