CC-Tapis’s Rugs Are Anything but Square

Though its techniques are time-honored, the French-Italian textile brand produces rugs that are far from traditional.

Rugs from the Doodles collection by Faye Toogood.

CC-Tapis’s rugs are often made by people who rarely design in the medium—and it shows. The French-Italian textile brand’s offerings are defined by moody, multidimensional forms and riotous fields of color. Take Mae Engelser, whose casual sketch of circles references the Bauhaus. Or Faye Toogood, who hatched her concept while sewing string onto textile off-cuts she found lying around her London studio. Christophe Delcourt, meanwhile, envisioned a pattern that slowly reveals itself, like decoded invisible ink.

The rugs’ wow factor lies in their fusion of tradition and innovation. CC-Tapis produces textiles at its atelier in Kathmandu, Nepal, where skilled artisans use centuries-old techniques—like spinning yarn on a wheel, tying rugs on looms, and washing them with purified rainwater—to faithfully render a designer’s contemporary vision. Far from merely translating a design to a textile, the company performs each step by hand, meticulously replicating the look and feel of a given concept. Since each textile is made to order, CC-Tapis can create irregularly shaped rugs with different combinations of knots, piles, and textures, offering them in customizable sizes and more than 1,200 colors. The brand also experiments with weaving to test new materials, larger weft sizes, and finishing techniques that create sculptural, tactile surfaces.

Visioni, designed by Patricia Urquiola, is an example of the rugmaker’s knack for irregularly shaped pieces.
Rotazioni, designed by Patricia Urquiola

Founded by Fabrizio Cantoni and his wife Nelcya Chamszadeh in 2011, the company will hit Milan Design Week, slated for June, with its latest initiative, a showroom installation by the Dutch firm Odd Matter that employs rugs from its new contract division, CC-Tapis Project—alongside dazzling floor coverings by sought-after talent like Sabine Marcelis and Philippe Malouin.

Cantoni (who is English-Italian) and Chamszadeh (who is French) got hooked on rugs while hanging around Chamszadeh’s father, whose rugmaking business specialized in carpets from the Middle East and Asia, including traditional burgundy Herat rugs from Afghanistan. They loved the craft but longed to inject some oomph into it. “Sometimes you need to be a bit wacky and respond to what’s happening around you,” Cantoni says. Eventually, the couple began making rugs using traditional weaving methods but in unorthodox colors like yellow and green.

Plisse by Cristina Celestino

In 2003, Cantoni traveled to Nepal to ask its chamber of commerce about rug producers. He was directed to a third-generation Tibetan weaver named Jigmay Dongstetsang, whose parents had fled the Tibet–China conflict by relocating to India. When Dongstetsang finished college, he immersed himself in the family business, a carpet workshop his father had set up in Nepal. Within a few years, he had taken it over and shifted its focus from stock production to made-to-order rugs, in an effort to meet the high standards of the Western market.

Dongstetsang’s hunger for experimentation struck a chord with Cantoni, who was won over by his interest in doing things “differently than his father,” Chamszadeh recalls. “It was exactly the same for us.” The couple kept in touch with Dongstetsang and moved to Milan in 2009, soon realizing they could transform their line into a full-fledged brand. Two years later, CC-Tapis launched, with Dongstetsang’s facility as its atelier.

Nepalese artisans treating rugs at various stages in the production process

CC-Tapis strives to preserve the centuries-old approach of its artisans, who, like Dongstetsang, belong to a community of expatriate Tibetans living in Nepal. And so a CC-Tapis rug begins in its atelier, where raw materials—wool, silk, linen, aloe—are prepared and dyed, before being taken to the weavers’ homes to be tied, a months-long process that involves some 232,000 knots. Then the rugs return to the atelier, where they’re cut, washed, stretched, and dried. No machines or synthetic materials figure anywhere in the process.

The results speak for themselves. Cantoni remembers talking to Toogood on the phone after her collection came out last year. “She was proud not because we had made a nice rug, but because we had captured her idea,” he says. “We’re not just making another pretty rug.”

(Photos courtesy CC-Tapis)

This story appears in the March issue of Surface. To experience the complete issue subscribe here.

All Stories