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My Take on The Rug Market in Iran

Persian Rug Market

 

Iranian exports of Persian rugs have been diminishing steadily and are at the lowest for a quarter of a century. ([i], [ii])

In the 1980s, Iran exported $1.7 billion of rugs, and demand for Iranian tribal rugs buoyed the market. Yet in the intervening years, producers in countries such as India, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, etc, have taken Iran’s global market share. While international Sanctions ([iii], [iv]) have dealt the industry a heavy blow. 

Iranian exports of $24.3 million worth of hand-woven carpets in 2017 compared terribly to Turkey’s exports stood at $1.77 billion that same year[v]. 

Yet many carpet experts consider this emerging non-Iranian market to be made up of essentially cheap copies of Iranian designs and motifs. 

However, it must be said that the missteps of some Iranian producers have also significantly contributed to the sector’s decline. The 1980s, for instance, saw a rapidly growing market buoyed up by the fashionable appeal to Western customers for Gabbeh rugs woven by nomadic tribes. The boom attracted many fly-by-night producers to the sector. Who to churn out cheap stock — in a tragically comic turn of events — used production techniques of their worst international competitors. 

Albeit in those years — we at Sharafi & Co and — a significant number of established merchants also traded in the “Gabbeh Boom”. But we all sought out authentic goods. 

Regarding production, our ethically sourced Bakhtiari Gabbehs were produced by a 5000-strong women’s cooperative in the fertile Golestan Province of Iran, known historically as the source of Persia’s rarest Safavi rugs. We were particularly proud of our working association with a mutually owned and democratically run enterprise, managed and run by women. Our goods appealed to shoppers who wanted quality with artisanal flavours.  Our Gabbehs were woven strictly during the winter months by the women of this farming community using locally sourced Natural dyes and handspun wool. 

While reputable dealers, such as Razi Miri, continued producing very high-quality goods that stand as the antiques of the future. They are still in the market and are highly valued. But the fly-by-night Iranian producers who perished in the sector as rapidly as they had arrived did untold damage to the international brand of “Persian” rug. 

Quality remains the key to those who continue to trade in the sector. This is where the centuries-old industry is unbeatable. For example, our recent production of …… has proved successful despite its high production cost.  

Vintage and antique Persian rugs remain in demand in Western markets and continue to realise record auction prices. In turn, producers who stay in the sector strive to produce and sell the best our designers and master weavers can conjure up. 

This has stopped the fall of the market share, and the genuine Persian carpet is creeping its way back into the market. We have seen Gulf state buyers who commission quality Persian oversized big-ticket rugs or Japanese buyers who choose authentic Persian intricate silks over cheaper options. While European countries like the UK, Germany, and Italy. Switzerland and France are traditional markets for quality authentic Persian carpets.

Iranian production may not go up to the levels of the 80s and 90s. But by producing quality goods, they will take back some of the market share they lost once the embargo is lifted, and we will see a steady price rise.

Ultimately, regarding the global brand, the “Persian Rug”, Iran owns the market, while all others pay rent. 

Yet this global brand is not protected like other international brands. For example, in 1891, the Treaty of Madrid established that only wine produced in the Champagne appellation could bear the name. This was reiterated in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, and the region then obtained official AOC recognition (appellation d’origine controlee) in 1936. 

There are no international legal rules that protect the centuries-old Persian brand, nor any Iranian national guidelines to safeguard the quality or standards of handmade rugs worthy of the authentic Persian rug name. As things stand, a  Shiraz rug can be made in China,  Tabriz in India or an Isfahan in Egypt, etc.

Iranian producers must safeguard these centuries-old international brands by aiming to produce quality goods worthy of the name. 

 

[i] https://kayhanlife.com/authors/irans-exports-of-handmade-persian-carpets-are-plummeting-reports-show/

 

 

[ii] https://asiatimes.com/2021/03/rug-pulled-from-under-irans-carpet-industry/

 

[iii] https://www.state.gov/iran-sanctions/

 

 

[iv] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/sanctions/iran/ 

[v]

 

 

 

 

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