After a six-month dry spell wrought by pandemic restrictions, New York-based designer Iñigo Elizalde is suddenly on a roll.
Since September, his eponymous company, Iñigo Elizalde Rugs, has been flooded with orders.
Textured and intricate, the handmade rugs are impressions of surfaces and computer glitches and photographic interpretations of nature, the play of light and shadow and reflections on water. His designs are likewise influenced by travels—the carnival in Brazil, modern architecture from Beijing or the airport tarmac—and the rich heritage of the Philippines. The most popular series, the Tesoro (“treasure” in Spanish) suggests a wealth of design inspirations. It is distinguished by the bold geometric patterns, abstractions of landmarks and Manila street grids.
“We’re breathing new life into the Tesoro Collection with our expanded knowledge of different constructions, technique and material uses,” Elizalde tells Lifestyle in an email interview. “The designs are inspired by all things Filipino—from jeepneys, antique textile weaves and barong embroidery to geographical forms such as the Rice Terraces. There’s such a wealth of inspiration to be found here. One just has to stop and look.”
The new collection alludes to the geometric patterns of the pinilian blanket from Ilocos.
Iñigo Elizalde Rugs is often classified by the press as “luxury” or “high-end.” Made of traditional Nepalese weave using loops, the expressive designs are achieved through striking color harmonies, high knot counts and sheep’s wool.
“Nepal is very special. The mills are my happy place. There is no limit to the inspiration when working with the weavers on new designs or updating old ones. We’ve been working with these mills for more than 10 years now. And so, the owners and their families have become good friends. We uphold the values of respect and trust,” he says.
While most rugs are made in Nepal, India produces his flat weave rugs (rugs without knots) that are outdoor-friendly and China manufactures his commercial projects. The Moroccan rugs are also considered high-end not only for their complicated knotting and sheep’s wool. They are produced by Beni Ourain, a collective of Berber tribes from the Atlas Mountains. In Afghanistan, the rugs are woven by a community of war widows. Lately, the abaca carpets from Albay have become top eco-friendly picks for their sustainability and nubby, ropelike texture.
Keeping mum about the profile of his clients, he clarifies that the rugs cater to all market segments. “Over the years, we have managed to build up a wide range of price points without sacrificing quality. Since we are based in New York City and sell all over the world, I’d like to think all foreign markets have appreciated our contributions to the design world and culture.”
The designs have appeared in such glossies as the American and French editions of Architectural Digest, Interior Design and Cover Magazine, a publication about handmade carpets and textiles.
Like most entrepreneurs, Elizalde felt the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown especially when New York was the epicenter of the epidemic six months ago.
“Orders stopped in March, but the rent bills and payroll did not!” he recalls. Throughout the lockdown, he and his staff continued to work remotely. “We followed up our main clients and mills asking how they were doing.”
Adapting to the times, his company developed a sampling program so that clients need not visit the New York studio. To spread the word on its new designs, the company boosted its social media visibility. The posts relate narratives of the designs, their influence and production process and have since drawn numerous inquiries and orders.
When COVID-19 restrictions were eased in New York, his company became busy again. Under a shelter-in-place lifestyle, clients channeled their travel funds to home décor.
“Things continued as planned. Maybe it’s good karma at work,” he says. —CONTRIBUTED INQ