Taking a Social Conscience Back to the Weavers
A rug adds personality to any room of your home and it brings welcome comfort under your feet. Most consumers buy rugs based on budget, feel, color and function and not by who makes them or where they come from. Rob Leahy, the owner of Fine Rugs of Charleston, is hoping to change that.
Leahy has been in the rug industry for more than five decades, traveling to Turkey, India and China and other rug-making countries to purchase and arrange for shipment of high-quality rugs to his stores. In 2007, he traveled to Afghanistan to assist their carpet weavers and, after getting a close-up view of their struggles, has since made it his mission to find solutions to problems that persist in the Afghan carpet trade, including sustainability.
The idea is to remove the middleman -- the manufacturers in Pakistan -- and send orders for these handmade rugs directly to the Afghan people.
“That is my legacy,” said Leahy. “I know a lot about rugs and I've used it to help the people of Afghanistan gain a better foothold in the carpet and rug business. It’s been rewarding, however, persistently frustrating, because Afghanistan seems to take two steps forward, three steps back.”
So to help move the business in the country move forward, he and three partners started Impact Carpet Associates, LLC six years ago. ICA is the recipient of a large award from USAID to help solve these problems.
“It is a jobs creation program that stimulates employment for women and returning refugees,” he explains. “Handmade carpets are still a craft and made, mostly by women, in their homes. It really does help the Afghan people at the village level when we're able to sell carpets for them.”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 is causing distress in Afghanistan and, like here in the USA, businesses are shut down. “We aim to help the weavers by selling their rugs here and sending the proceeds back to Afghanistan.”
According to Leahy, the monies will be used to stimulate the production of new rugs that will create jobs. These jobs will enable family businesses to grow, helping the Afghan economy become more stable. “The country is in critical condition, particularly for women, and COVID-19 made matters even worse.
To help, Leahy’s project is holding an Afghan Artisan Rug Pop-up sale, which will run in Charleston from June 26 through July 6. The event will be held at Fine Rugs of Charleston store at 1523 Meeting Street Road, and will showcase over 800 top-quality hand-woven rugs that range from the traditional to the ultra-contemporary. Each rug in the assortment was made from hand-spun wool using natural dyes.
For more information on the Rug Pop-up event or Fine Rugs of Charleston, visit the showroom at 1523 Meeting Street Rd, Charleston, SC 29405 or their website at www.finerugsofcharleston.com.