by Milena Cvijanovich
As the morning sunlight streams through the window of the modest Afghani home, a woman gently removes her ball of soft handspun wool from the basket by the fire. She expertly threads her loom and sits down on a battered three-legged stool to begin her weaving. At first glance, one might suspect that she is weaving a design that has been passed down for centuries, as her country has long been known for its legendary hand knotted rugs. Upon closer scrutiny, however, we witness the unexpected: an exquisite modern design taking shape on her loom.
The woman is one of a select group of Afghani artisans employed by Arzu Studio Hope, the brainchild of former partner and managing director of Goldman-Sachs, Connie Duckworth. Arzu, which means “hope” in Dari, was founded in Afghanistan in 2004 as a model of social entrepreneurship. Arzu Studio Hope represents a new synergy between the traditional and the contemporary, the luxurious and the sustainable.
Mirroring Duckworth’s vision, combining luxury with sustainability has long been one of my passions. Providing support for the preservation of traditional cultures, the environment, fair trade, gender equality, and self-empowerment, Arzu, a not-for-profit organization, was founded on the idea that it is possible to merge handcrafted beauty with modern design while simultaneously contributing to the welfare of the communities in which the artisans live and work. Arzu is just one of many companies actively involved in supporting the global Slow Movement, better known to many as “commerce with care.”
To provide local artisans with contemporary designs, Arzu has commissioned award-winning architect Zaha Hadid (Pritzker, Stirling Prize, two consecutive years) and renowned interior designer Thomas Schoos (TAO Asian Bistro, Koi) to create patterns for one-of-a-kind hand-knotted rugs for its Signature Designer Collection.
In addition, Arzu has created the Modern + Contemporary Collection, featuring hand-woven rugs created by top-end designers exclusive to Arzu. Each rug is unique. The designs run from bold and innovative to soft, subtle patterns inspired by watercolors. Each creation is a work of art.
If your taste runs more towards the classic and traditional, Arzu also offers a collection of handmade rugs featuring dramatic old-world designs, hand woven for centuries in the mountains of Afghanistan. The Tribal Collection features creations with rich, bold colors, stunning geometric patterns and the look and feel of antique Caucasian or Turkman rugs.
Finally, the Traditional Collection emphasizes the timeless tradition of fostering pure artistic interpretation. Arzu’s skilled weavers improvise on the dreamy floral motifs and classic patterns passed down by their ancestors. These rugs reflect the historical influence of Persia, the Orient and the many small villages along the infamous Silk Road.
Arzu is truly a pioneer in the sustainable luxury marketplace and will continue to bring to the world magnificent creations of exquisite taste.