Charlene Mullen, veteran textile designer and founder of London-based CHARLENE MULLEN, purveryor of bespoke rugs, uses the word “fascinated’ frequently. Growing up she was fascinated by textiles. She is fascinated by the art of notables such as Louise Bourgeois and most recently absolutely passionate about the craft of weaving and the artisans who bring her designs to life. Her affiliation with GoodWeave®, she says, supports her commitment to honoring those very artisans, preserving their craft and improving their lives.
The art school graduate who jokes that she was not even particularly good at art in her youth, set her sights on becoming a designer early on. With a master’s degree in textile design and illustration under her belt, she took on the fashion world for several decades working with luminaries such as Donna Karan and stylish brands such as BCBG. Eventually she launched her own successful luxury homewares business which garnered international kudos. And then, she says, the time was right to take on something new.
That something new meant rugs. “My interests were textiles and patterns and I just thought it would be really interesting to translate those patterns into rugs,” she says. And so her hand knotted, silk and wool rugs were born. Not surprisingly commissions quickly followed and with the help of her talented team she produced a large series of rugs for London’s ultra-modern, luxe office tower, 70 St. Mary Axe.
Charlene says she has been thrilled with the results of her latest project. The nearly two dozen rugs created for the new building are bold, colorful, hexagon shaped pieces celebrating angles and lines. Her favorite rug, however, and one she admits has kept for her, is the graphite hued Foulard Star in wool and silk. The circular “Raindrop”, another favorite, is in a palette of olive greens.
Charlene’s venture into rugs and introduction to the craft’s artisans has been endlessly enthralling. She remembers her surprise the moment she received and unrolled her very first rug from Nepal. “It’s always a surprise when something starts off as a tiny piece of paper with black and white lines and then it comes back huge and beautiful and you think ‘Oh the journey that has been made to bring something so elegant to this space.’”
Charlene likens purchasing a rug to acquiring a painting. “It is not about an investment or reselling them. It’s about something that is a reflection of their lives that they will have forever.”
Despite her years of success there is an unmistakable humility in her voice when she speaks of her work and especially of the weavers, she met through GoodWeave. “You just feel like if you are going to make something, you want to do it with care and respect for these people. If we don’t take care of the weavers, there will be another craft that has just disappeared.”