Top Architects Inspire Afghan Women’s Rug-Making Venture

Afghani Woman Making Rug

American not-for-profit Arzu Studio Hope has launched a ‘Masters Collection’ of 10 woolen rugs designed by legendary architects.

Afghan women are weaving the designs of Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Michael Graves rugs, giving the women meaningful, well-paid jobs.

Made in the impoverished province of Bamyan, Afghanistan, the weavers take six to nine months to produce each made-to-order rug.

“The project shows the marriage of iconic global design and extreme authenticity in craftsmanship,” said Arzu Studio Hope founder Connie Duckworth. “It’s a product with a purpose. It’s not just about the name of the architect. It’s also about poverty alleviation and the connection between individuals from so far away.”

Afghani Rug

Prices for the Masters Collection start around $70 per square foot and are sold to interior design professionals, architects, corporations and individuals. The smallest rug costs $3,500 and measures five by seven feet.

Robert A.M. Stern, Stanley Tigerman and Margaret McCurry are also among the designers. Arzu approached Tigerman and McCurry initially, who then called on their most legendary architect friends to participate.

The architects essentially had carte blanche when designing their rug, each of which is completely unique. Duckworth says the designers enjoyed seeing their rug designs come to life.

In 2004, Duckworth founded Arzu Studio Hope after witnessing first-hand the impoverished conditions of Afghan life.

“The seminal moment for me was when we visited a bombed-out, Soviet-style cinder-block building that was partially destroyed, and there were dozens of widows and young children squatting there for the winter,” she said. “What I saw on the ground was so compelling that I came back and committed to doing something to try to help.”

Afghani Rug

Arzu Studio Hope now employs 700 people in the area, producing 300 rug styles including modern and contemporary prints as well as tribal patterns and traditional designs. The rugs are made from marbled yarn that is naturally dyed and hand-spun.

On top of providing jobs and making rugs, Chicago-based Arzu – which means ‘hope’ in Dari – bases its business on a model of social entrepreneurship. The organisation strives to improve access to clean water, health care, education, shelter and other basic necessities for those in Afghanistan.

Individual consumers can purchase the rugs directly from Arzu Studio Hope, adding some top-tier design elements to their homes.

Afghani Rug

Each rug is sold with a statement about the artist who designed it and information on the Afghan women that produced it.

Images: Arzu Studio Hope
By Kristen Avis
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