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CHATTER: India-sourced, Annex-available rugs (Aug. 2021)

September 8th, 2021 · No Comments

Rose Garden and Rain patterned rugs by Annex-based Mark Krebs get hand washed in Mirzapur, India. Designer Davin Cowper works with about 40 people in the state of Uttar Pradesh for each production run of his all-natural, handmade rugs.
COURTESY MARK KREBS

When Davin Cowper launched a rug company out of his apartment at Harbord and Bathurst in January, 2020, he wanted to appeal to millennials ready to upgrade from mass-produced products and “actually do something with their interiors.”

Cowper’s goal was to create rugs and other housewares that would be multi-generational, rather than wind up on the curb, like so much IKEA furniture. He works directly with independent, traditional weavers from Uttar Pradesh in northeast India, who use only natural fibres to make his modern and minimalist area rugs, runners, and spot rugs that are made to last.

The former Umbra and EQ3 product developer designed the neutral Aquarius Birch and Aquarius Coal rugs, and collaborated with Indian weavers to come up with the colourful Chanterelle, and Rose Garden patterns.  The weavers, inspired by traditional, Moroccan, and Turkish styles, send him photos of samples which Cowper digitally manipulates to his satisfaction. “I really wanted to do something loud, interesting, and really compelling, in terms of colour palettes,” he said.

He named the company Mark Krebs (markkrebs.ca), his online pseudonym since high school, to avoid becoming the brand himself, and to share authorship with the artisans. “It’s really a partnership,” he said.” They’re the ones who know the techniques, and I’m guiding them.”

Mark Krebs’ rugs come in two styles of weave: flat weave or kilim weave. Flat weaving creates a softer, thicker rug, and uses linen and New Zealand wool. Kilim rugs are thin and tightly woven, and use Indian wool and cotton. He keeps his prices low by selling directly to the consumer, and working with an Indian exporter instead of a Canadian importer. He stores the rugs in a 10-foot container in his backyard.

On the issue of fair pay and labour conditions, Cowper implements multiple checks and balances in his production process. He looks forward to partnering with certification agencies as his business continues to grow. “It is impossible to pay rug weavers lower than the highest going rate in the region,” because they are independent contractors, he explained. He has hired a quality-control team based in Delhi to do random checks throughout production for child, forced and bonded labour, a rampant problem in India. In addition, his exporter must comply with Indian labour laws to hold an export licence. In the meantime, Cowper is supporting a hospital’s COVID-19 response in the town of Mirzapur, where a large portion of his rugs are produced.

View the complete rug collection at, markkrebs.ca.

—Nicole Stoffman/Gleaner News

Tags: Annex · News

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