Written by Judy Daghestani, Founder, Curated ME
Since day one, Iwan Maktabi’s vision was to decorate homes fashionably, so we even had a slogan “carpets are fashion for the floor.” Premier Purveyors of Antique & Decorative Carpets since 1926, Iwan Maktabi, offers a variety of designed carpets across the world.
To offer relevant designs that clients have asked for and to differentiate themselves from the market, Iwan Maktabi combined traditional art with modern contemporary handmade carpets exclusively representing different carpet firms and designers such as Jan Kath, collaborated with jewelry local designers such as Nadine Kanso of Bil Arabi, and lastly, offered clients customization options. Below, Iwan’s daughter and Managing Director, Mona, explains how the brand is catering to clients’ needs during this time.
1. Describe yourself as Managing Director of Iwan Maktabi in one sentence.
I cherish our family business; it is like my fourth child, so managing it is a mix of passion and responsibility.
2. Tell us more behind the Iwan Maktabi carpet business.
Iwan Maktabi is a leading carpet designing and manufacturing company engaged in the business since 1926.
Hajj Hussein Maktabi, our grandfather, patriarch of the Maktabi family in Lebanon, immigrated from Isfahan to Beirut in 1926. Like his father before him, his passion was collecting fine oriental carpets. Since then, our grandfather and his sons have undoubtedly become premier purveyors of antique and decorative carpets in the Middle East. Our uncles and father Hj. Abbas Maktabi spread their services from Saudi Arabia to the Gulf area and from Zurich in Switzerland to the rest of Europe.
Our dad had a vision for us, the six siblings, to continue his legacy. He supported and trained us to follow his steps. With his attention, my brother Mohamed, my sisters and I opened the first Iwan Maktabi gallery in Beirut in 1995. Few years later, in 2006 we opened our showroom in Dubai.
Based on three generations of expertise, and a rich family private collection of collectible carpets, Iwan Maktabi added to the depth of people’s appreciation for carpets in Lebanon and the region and proved to be the address for rare carpets and textile art in the Middle East.
To differentiate ourselves from the market, we combined traditional art with modern contemporary art by introducing modern and contemporary high-quality handmade carpets, and exclusively representing different carpet firms and designers such as Jan Kath, Hechizoo and cc-tapis.
To stay ahead of the industry, Iwan Maktabi also edits limited edition carpets with the intervention of Middle Eastern designers, decorators, architects and more in the region. Some of these collaborations include: Marwan Sahmarani, George Mohasseb, David/Nicolas, Nadine Kanso, Karen Chekerdjian, and more!
Lastly, we wanted clients’ to enjoy their personal touch to our designs too, so Iwan Maktabi offers the ability to custom-design any carpet through their design studio.
3. As mentioned above, you collaborate with designers from the Middle East to create your carpet designs; why has this become a part of your brand DNA?
We love collaborating with talents from different fields. There’s something about human connection and creativity that is so rewarding. It’s not only about the end result, the creative process is just as exciting.
Walking the designers through the world of carpets makes them discover this side of art for the first time – they’re always so mesmerized!
Overall, pushing boundaries and experimenting is part of the Iwan Maktabi DNA. It started with my late father Hajj Abbas Maktabi and it’s something that we will always carry and embrace.
4. It’s rare to find carpets sold at a fashion concept store. Tell us about how you are aiming to bridge the worlds of home décor and fashion by being sold at the new Gigi Boutique in Dubai.
Since day one, Iwan Maktabi’s vision was to decorate homes fashionably, so we even had a slogan “carpets are fashion for the floor.” And like fashion, carpets at the end of the day are also representative of one’s personal style. Further similar to the fashion world, we too operate seasonal collections that we launch twice a year, where colors and designs are inspired by the fashion catwalks.
When Gigi Boutique launched, we saw that the setup and the decor was already so homey, so we didn’t have to make much of an effort to blend our carpets in. The cross collaboration opportunities were endless as we even furnished select booths in Gigi such as Bilarabi and Katfish with assorted rugs.
5. We see that you offer the option for customers to ‘try before they buy’ with a complimentary home trial; is this a new service offered due to quarantining in COVID-19?
There’s a difference between seeing a carpet and experiencing it. Living with the carpet, seeing it in your space with all the different elements will make you appreciate the rug even more. The pandemic definitely pushed this service further.
It also gives us a peek into the client’s space which allows our experts to intervene with their insight during the carpet search phase.
6. What are your thoughts at integrating more tech in the business? Perhaps integrate Augmented Reality one day so people can try the carpets at their home virtually?
With everything happening around us, technology now more than ever is taking center stage in our businesses. Our design partner, Jan Kath, has actually launched an app for specifically this: trying a carpet at home - virtually!
We’ve also heard talks surfacing in the carpet industry around the use of AI too. We are curious how technology can play a role in turning the carpet business and industry into a much more sustainable one.
7. Where/how can someone shop Iwan Maktabi carpets?
Our carpets are available in Dubai at The Dubai Mall – First Floor and we’re currently showcasing a few of our star rugs at Gigi in Galleria Mall. We have a presence in Beirut, Lebanon as well (our Flagship store is in Ashrafieh, and we have a branch at the Phoenicia Hotel).
Our rugs go on magic rides across the world every so often as we partake in exhibitions, shows and pop-ups.
We have clients from all over the world who fall in love with our carpets and follow us on Instagram and Facebook @iwanmaktabiofficial – we ship worldwide!
With the current circumstances, we’re working on a complete shift online so anyone who’s interested can expect to be able to purchase their carpet through our e-commerce site. This is a project that we’re hoping to have launched by end of year, so stay tuned.
8. What’s the most important tip you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs in the region?
Although being a part of a family business puts you in a ‘comfort zone’ that you can still excel in with your parents’ support, it’s important to still take every challenge as an opportunity to think differently.
Iwan Maktabi proved to be the go-to address for rare carpets and textile art in the region. Based on three generations of expertise, and a rich family private collection of collectible carpets, Iwan Maktabi added to the depth of people's appreciation for carpets in Lebanon and the region.