Carpet-weaving is a foremost demonstration of Middle Eastern art, and as such, it makes sense that it was this region that first inspired Christopher and Suzanne Sharp to start The Rug Company in 1997. In this 5 Minutes With… segment, we sat down with the Sharps, the powerful, charismatic duo behind the industry’s fastest-growing luxury rug company, aptly named, The Rug Company. On the origins of the business, Christopher lends us some key details, “I was living in London and working for a television company that was setting up a studio in Saudi Arabia. Suzanne and I went down there to work on what later became the NBC studio. That was the beginning. While we were in Riyadh, we used to go to the souk and we started to look at rugs.”
This proved to be the beginning of the couple’s love affair with rugs, and they soon began visiting the souk more frequently and collecting their favorite pieces. This provided a starting point for the creation of the company. When the Sharps returned to London, their new passion for rugs soon sparked a trend. It started simply enough; “We had such a lovely collection of rugs. People kept wanting to buy them. So the idea grew from there,” says Suzanne. Yet, from these humble beginnings, The Rug Company grew rapidly. “We started selling rugs to famous Hollywood stars. We had an unbelievable response”, says Suzanne. Christopher chimes in enthusiastically, “The first time we realized how big this could be was when we collaborated with Marni. I remember thinking, "This is completely changing the rug business." We put the rugs on the floor and we couldn't stop staring at them. No one had done it before; it was so different, so beautifully made!”
The Marni collaboration served as the progenitor for many to come. Since then, The Rug Company has worked with dozens of the fashion industry’s top designers to create and sell unique and handcrafted rugs that are true works of art. The most recent collaboration was with Matthew Williamson. Christopher offers details regarding the Williamson collaboration, saying, “We just liked what he was doing and so we got together and did some brainstorming. It was all very interactive. When you work with designers, you realize that they really spend time in the studio, roll up their sleeves, without any pretense or makeup. It’s a really nice process. No matter how long it takes, we'll just carry on until we get it right. Sometimes it’ll take about two years. We're not going to produce anything that we don't like, and that gives the designers a lot of security as well, because they know that they are not committing to producing something that they may not like in the end. Once they see that we really care, they get very comfortable, and we create that wonderful relationship. It was the same with Matthew. He knows that we care.”
Christopher and Suzanne were in Dubai last week with Matthew Williamson to celebrate The Rug Company’s wall hanging competition, which awarded the work of this region’s young designers by giving them an opportunity to see their own creations made into wall hanging pieces. It’s in this moment, at this event, that we see how everything has come full circle for the Sharps. From Middle Eastern inspiration to supporting the work of Middle Eastern artists, The Rug Company proves that it is never far from its roots.
interviewed by NOOR TEHINI|written by GRACE GORDON