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The House of Tai Ping Carpets

Inside the luxury brand known for its blend of traditional craft and modern vibrancy

by David Graver
on 17 June 2015
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In light of the forthcoming "Anthology" collection—which draws from and revitalizes some of Tai Ping's most renowned designs—we met with the company's Global Creative Director, Jean-Pierre Tortil. The brand, which was formed in 1956 and owns its own factory on mainland China, continues to produce beautiful collections with innovative patterning, textiles and designs. All of which are made by hand and from scratch. Under the House of Tai Ping banner, a handful of other brands were acquired over the last few years—Cogolin (handmade in the South of France), Edward Fields (a legendary Americana brand that heavily influenced mid-century design) and Vicara (handmade in Nepal)—attest to Tai Ping's role as the premier Chinese carpet producer. Tortil shared with us insight on everything from heritage to expansion, and shed light on pieces that are really "the fifth wall" of a home.

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In 1956, many Chinese people immigrated from the mainland to Hong Kong. During this time, Sir Lawrence Kadoorie and six friends saw such an influx of culture, craft and skill that they sought to share it with the world. "Let's preserve all the savoir faire," Tortil explains on this motivation. "Kadoorie set up a workshop in Hong Kong, and utilized the workers know-how—which was originally hand-knotting carpets." These were traditions already revitalized by innovations made in the '30s and '40s, but the process was still all done by hand. An engineer joined the team and invented a system that everybody in the carpet world uses, still to this day—again, however, based upon the traditional knowledge of the craftspeople. There was, however, a shift from hand-knotting to hand-tufting, though both techniques are still used. The company began to grow and became recognized for their expertise and meticulous nature. Today, they employ the largest number hand-tufting experts in the world.

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When the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China mended, Kadoorie moved the factory to Nanhai and employed more local workers. The team at House of Tai Ping produced and continues to produce everything from scratch. They get raw wool, then spin and dye yarn (producing over 100 types) from it. A walk through the factory reveals artists and designers, tufters and weavers. All of their products are design-driven—incorporating motifs from the past, their heritage and extensive archives. However, many of their new works were made in collaboration with current designers. "This is an aim to build the future archives and feed the company. It gives a greater vision for the future," Tortil notes. Most of these latest pieces resemble works of modern art, as texture and gradient play key factors. There's a successful blend of the old and the new.

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Perhaps no story explains this better than an anecdote Tortil shared about the Tai Ping logo. "About 10 years ago, our logo was designed by Monocle's Tyler Brûlé. He had learned of a story from 1958, when we were producing a big order for Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. It was a rug so big that it couldn't be made in the workshop. Tai Ping built a massive tent on their grounds to house this big piece, but at the end of one day, a typhoon started. The workers spent the entire night protecting the rug, holding the tent down." This passion and the nuances of the story not only inspired Brûlé's design, but also represent the roots of this company: skill, expertise, desire and heritage. In fact, Tai Ping is one of the only luxury brands born and produced in China that has a global presence today.

Explore the entire House of Tai Ping collection online, where prices start at $10,000.

Images courtesy of Francis Dzikowski

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