While the iconic brand Walter Knoll may be famous for its leather furniture, the company has taken a softer approach this year with its latest rug collection. The company’s CEO Markus Benz explains how the new ‘Legends of Carpets‘ range is inspired by his trips to Africa in an exclusive interview at Milan Design Week.
Culture Trip: So how did the ‘Legend of Carpets’ collection come about?
Markus Benz: ‘Travelling gave me the basic inspiration for the collection – I’ve visited many places in Africa, including Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. These landscapes are so rich and I enjoyed every one of them, but what I learned from the native tribes in particular – and not just in Africa, but also in India, and South America… I also talked to Maoris in New Zealand and Aborigines in Australia, is that they all have something in common. Every culture has its own specialisms in craftsmanship so when I was researching how to make a rug I discovered the traditional Tibetan hand-knotting method, which became a really important part of the process.’
CT: Why was that?
MB: ‘I wanted the product to be something that you would like to inherit and that could be passed down from generation to generation. A rug is an investment in itself, but also is a symbol of the investment of time, dedication and craftsmanship that has gone into it from the person who crafted the piece; there’s often at least 18 months to two years’ work gone into each individual rug.’
CT: Can you explain the design process from inception to completion?
MB: ‘The first experience I had in Africa was in Marrakech, so we visited the city and took inspiration from the people, the landscape and the light. We did a lot of research into the traditional Berber rugs and a friend pulled me through all the souks, which was a wonderful experience. Shortly after that we went to Namibia and then Botswana and suddenly the picture was clear in my mind of what I wanted to portray, so I had a discussion with my artist friend Helmut Scheufele and he made drawings based on my descriptions and the photos I took of these landscapes that I found on my travels, which were then translated into the rug designs.’
Find out more about the new collections that launched at Milan Design Week here.