Woven rag rugs, as their name implies, carry humble origins. But what if the materials that marry together into such recognisably hand-crafted carpets came from a more elevated source? That’s the question at the root of ‘The Boucharouite Project’, which picks up where Calla Haynes’ fashion label left off.
Ever since 2015, when the Paris-based, Canadian designer opted to take a step back from her namesake women’s collections that featured her custom prints, she knew she wanted to transform her leftover textiles into something else. ‘My textiles were a huge investment and the dearest part of my work; there was never any question of reselling them because the prints were so personal,’ Haynes explains. She experimented with fabric-covered notebooks, followed by decorative pillows. But Moroccan Berber carpets struck her as an especially viable solution, since it emphasised resourcefulness, while updating a tradition that usually isn’t associated with luxury.
Installation view of ‘The Boucharouite Project’
Haynes, who also spends her time creating prints for Carven, Chloé and Eres, and working with emerging designers, says she never wanted to impose too much of her style on the female artisans, who she knows by name as Naima, Fatna and Efouzia. She would send a digital rendering with her suggestions for patterning, plus the fabrics required to produce each carpet. Then she would wait up to nine weeks as they spent roughly 30 to 40 hours weaving the rugs, never fully sure the outcome.
‘There’s an element of magic between what I proposed, and what comes naturally to them,’ says Haynes describing what seems more like a shared narrative than the typical collaboration. ‘Sometimes, the result has proven a surprise, but that’s part of the beauty of the project.’
So far, 13 carpets have been composed from cottons, wools, silks, jerseys, that represent various collections; she can pinpoint the Memphis-inspired print of her Chow Chow, Lily, from 2014, poking through a multicoloured pointillist rug, or else the teal crepe that dates to when she presented her collection for the first time in New York. A neon tweed that she had customised by Malhia Kent appears flamboyantly frayed amid knobs of coral pink and mint green. With 50m of fabric cut up and reassembled, what resonates is how the results still manage to keep her work intact.
Which is why she can imagine project’s potential extending beyond her own stock. In a similar vein to Viktor & Rolf’s A/W16 couture collection – which featured eccentric, voluminous jackets and jeans woven from their inventory of high-end end textiles – Haynes is confident that luxury labels could be repurposing their leftovers in artistic ways and hopes to collaborate with anyone interested to develop the idea further. In February, she visited the women and their production manager, Monsif, who are based in the region of Zarkten, 100km southeast of Marrakech (to wit, both the materials and the finished carpets travel by bus).
For now, Haynes’ accumulation of new work remains on view – and for sale – at the Berg France gallery as part of the D’Days design festival. Here, many of them are mounted vertically, almost like works that nod to arte povera. But the designer believes their right place is the floor. ‘These rugs flatten and there will always be some fraying, but that’s what gives them a special, vintage aspect,’ notes Haynes. ‘I am excited to see how they live on.’