When Vahid Shahidi, founder of Molana Inc., speaks about rugs, whether the custom carpets he creates with all natural fibers or the antique rugs he has spent a lifetime studying, he speaks with a rare kind of reverence. “I don’t make rugs based on making money. I’m in the rug business for the love of rugs,” he says passionately. And if he wants the consumer to know just one thing about the object of his affection, it is that making a rug takes a lot of time and involves a lot of people, people who spend long days at the loom and deserve our respect. Even before he signed on with GoodWeave, Vahid made sure his rugs were child-labor-free. “I don’t want to benefit from others’ poor circumstances,” he says of his commitment to the weavers and their families. His alliance with GoodWeave has buttressed his own values. “GoodWeave does wonderful things!”
The very particular clients for whom Vahid provides high-end custom rugs also think he does wonderful things. Interior designers, architects and potential customers who see or hear about Molana Inc. carpets (all his business is word-of-mouth) can come to him with a very specific request or a vague concept of what they want, and he will talk them through the idea no matter how long it takes. “I listen and I translate their vision into a design for the rug,” he says modestly. Those boutique custom rugs that come out of hours of discussion are all handmade in natural fibers such as wool, silk, hemp or aloe.
His clients are demanding, he says, but no more demanding than Vahid is on himself to produce extremely high quality 120-150 knot rugs. He admits he is very picky when it comes to raw materials like the banana silk he used for one of his most challenging projects: a pure white banana silk rug with a five-inch pile. It was “a bit crazy,” admits Vahid, but when he showed it in Atlanta, it was a hit. Everyone, Vahid says laughingly, wanted to walk on it because their footsteps made a soft and subtle sound, like walking on powdered snow. Some people actually wanted to lie on it! Another challenging carpet was a wool and silk piece he did using 22 colors from silver to teal green, giving the rug a brushstroke appearance… like an antique carpet.
Although a very secondary part of his business, antique carpets are his longtime passion. As a 14-year-old at school in Germany (where he was sent by his family back in Iran), he worked after school for an antique rug collector who became his mentor. After finishing university, he moved to Manhattan and continued working with antique rugs. Though he rarely sells antique rugs now, he is still profoundly influenced by them, often in subtle ways; he delights in transforming century-old patterns into contemporary designs. “Every time I think I have seen the very best antique rug, another one, an even more beautiful one, appears.” Art and architecture of the 16th through 18th centuries also influence him as do Persian poetry and classical Persian music. But when pressed to say what else he likes, he does confess a passion for Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, a passion he happily shares with his pre-teen son.
Of course, he shares much else with his boy, and at the top of the list are his personal values. “I tell him that people who want to justify their wrongdoing, whether in the rug industry or elsewhere, will always find some rationalization. “But in the end,” Vahid Shahidi tells his son, “wrong is wrong and right is right!” Through his work with Molana Inc. and his collaboration with GoodWeave, he makes sure to spread that message.
Learn more about at www.molanainc.com.