How did your partnership with Jaipur Living come about?
Jaipur Living is our family business. My sister Asha is the CEO and founder of the US division, Jaipur Living, and I am the design director of the Indian division, Jaipur Rugs. When I designed my first collection, it was a natural evolution for the brand to offer it to the Jaipur Living customer base in America.
What is the starting point when designing your carpet collections for Jaipur Living?
I went to college in the US and then often attended trade shows and client meetings. I loved learning from retailers and interior designers how rugs can work in the interior space. Through the Kavi collections for Jaipur Living, I wanted to both convey my creative vision of carpets that I thought would work in homes today, and express my personal vision. Before I started designing my eponymous collections, I made many rugs based on customer feedback. At the time, I was new to carpets, so I didn’t have a clear view of my own. Then the magic happened and I listened to my inner design voice. That was the beginning of my collections for Jaipur Living.
What is the inspiration behind your collections?
I am a very emotional person, and anything I have a deep connection with – whatever triggers my enthusiasm – becomes a source of inspiration. For example, for the Unstring collection, I was inspired by contemporary handmade textiles I saw in Europe, as well as some local hand-woven textiles from India. The changing colors of the threads and the randomness of their placement by the artist were really inspiring to me, and I wanted to portray that fun, interesting, personally woven feel. The resulting images were great, but the fact that human hands made them was equally impressive.
My experience in the industry inspired the Project Error collection. Back when we were wholesalers from India – before Jaipur Living was founded in 2008 – our customers were very specific: they wanted perfect symmetry, lines and color combinations. So no spontaneity to be found. Being an artist, my way of representing beauty was quite the opposite, and I wanted to break free from those limitations. Imperfection, non-alignment, the element of surprise were the trigger for my design ideas. Project Error became a shout-out to those customers, showing them that there is beauty in mistakes and that all of life can’t be perfect.
The Paratam rug from the Project Error collection, in particular, is inspired by my college days in Chicago, when I screen-printed late into the night. The imperfection of the pinch print on the screen print would produce random and fantastic patterns on the fabric below. I loved the clustering of completely unique shapes that still seemed to have a movement of its own.
Which rug design are you most excited to unveil?
The Ahiri from the Unstring collection, which will be released this fall. It is a unique rug with many layers hidden in it. My brother Yogesh had bought an antique Indian carpet with an unusual pattern. Inspired by the juxtaposition of abstract shapes in this traditional piece, I traced part of the pattern for my Ahiri design. Then I added abstract drawings of water ripples and clouds. Accents of red, blue and yellow emanate from the off-white base and if you look closely you can discover the abstracted pattern of the antique carpet.
How do your collections propel the brand forward?
Jaipur Living is a company that puts customers at the center of everything it does. It brings Rajasthani hospitality – warmth and care for our customers and their needs – all the way from India to the US. Similarly, the Kavi collections are inspired by feedback from customers and weavers over the years. As a company, Jaipur Living is forward-thinking, as are my collections, and that helps drive the brand forward.
How do your collections complement each other?
In style, scale, detail and colour. The Unstring collection captures minute details of warp and weft in a more subtle geometric grid, while the Project Error collection is abstract in nature. The Urban Pause collection, which appears simple at first glance, has hidden details, and the Aakar collection, with bold geometric shapes, is strikingly graphic. Each complements the other and they can all be used quite seamlessly in the same house.
What about the collections that feel fresh and exciting?
The use of natural and specialty yarns in the Aakar Natural collection: they add visual and textural interest. The play of neutral colors with accents gives the rugs an opulent dimension.
Tell us about the materials. Are certain ones used thoroughly and/or is there a material that is a highlight in a particular piece?
Most Kavi collections use hand-spun and hand-carded yarns that create a subtle and natural abrash in the rugs. This yarn is handmade in remote villages of Bikaner in northern India, keeping the age-old tradition of handmade yarn alive in a world where machines have made the process easy and cheap and where the thousands of women who produce it work . For example, the Aakar Natural collection includes it, along with undyed handmade yarn and fiber-dyed yarn, to create interesting visual effects in any rug. Combined with the sheen of bamboo-based rayon, these yarns play beautifully with each other to captivate the eye.
How do you see designers using your rugs?
They can dress up or undress an interior with their choice of a Kavi rug in combination with other furniture. They can decide to give a space a calm look where the carpet holds the room together without stealing the spotlight, or they can make the carpet a centerpiece and design around it. Eclectic and modern homes can incorporate the Kavi collections in an endless number of creative ways.
Can the collection be customized? What options are possible?
Jaipur Living customers are quite used to a lot of customization options with all Kavi collections. They can request a specific size — think squares, rounds, ovals, and organic or geometric shapes — even special sizes, such as 30-foot-wide rugs or oversized runners for stairs and hallways.
Two of your collections, Unstring and Project Error, have been nominated or won design awards. What does this recognition mean to you?
Unstring won Best Collection at the Carpet Design Awards at Domotex in Germany. The CDAs are considered the global benchmark of the carpet world; it’s our Oscars. While Indian companies have previously received awards for individual modern carpets, this was the first time in CDA history that an Indian designer has won Best Collection. At its most competitive, this category has been dominated by European designers, so I’m glad my collection has changed that for India and can make us all so proud.
The Anthar carpet, part of the Project Error collection, won the German Design Award in 2016. The design was inspired by the work of three weavers, so it was not only an honor for me, but also a proud moment to celebrate the craftsmanship of the artisans. too, and on this very prestigious stage. At those same awards, international companies like Apple won in other categories; it was really an honor to win together with the best brands in the world. It helps validate my work and gives me the confidence and motivation to move forward.
I am a small town girl born into a conservative Rajasthani family where, culturally, women are oppressed and our freedom is limited. It was my father’s friend [author and art historian] Ilay Cooper who encouraged him to get me and my sisters, Asha and Archana, to Gujarat for our schooling – the acceptance of women is more progressive there. Therefore, all three sisters were subsequently sent to the US to study, even though all our relatives spoke out against it. That is to say, these awards and international recognition mean a lot not only to me, my family and our company, but also to the women of Rajasthan who hope to pursue their own dreams.