The Woven Edge
Ian Wallace, owner of Forte Cloth International and founder of Britain-based Woven Edge, has been in the Carpet and Rug industry nearly four decades. His passion for rugs is as deep as his knowledge of the craft. “If I had a tribe, this would be mine,” he says referring to everyone with whom he works. For Ian that tribe most certainly includes the weavers in Bhadohi, India who craft the New Zealand wool and bamboo fibre rugs for which Woven Edge is known. “I want their stories told. I want them to be empowered and happy,” he explains with emotion in his voice. The wellbeing of the weavers, he says, is exactly why he chose to join GoodWeave.
For Ian, who grew up in Kidderminster, Great Britain’s historic 18th century carpet making center, going to work in the carpet industry after high school was just what you did. “I left school and went straight into a factory.” And he says, still with gratitude in his voice, “It was the carpet company that sent me to college where I learned how to fix the machines and everything about carpets.” Once again back at the factory, he became the youngest manager in its long history. He says however, he was increasingly drawn to the new technologies for rug design. That interest took him to the Netherlands where he became first a student of and then an expert in design software. He sold design software throughout Europe, the UK and then later, across the Atlantic in the major carpet hubs of the U.S.
While Ian’s career was advancing, his legendary carpet-making hometown, Kidderminster, was on the decline. The area that once had as many as 30 carpet mills had barely a half dozen remaining. Ian says that he felt he had a mission. He wanted to help rescue the industry and help restore his historic home as a great British carpet center. And it turns out Ian Wallace did just that. He went back to England and formed his new venture Forte Cloth. He rehired the laid off older workers and sought out the young software designers who knew the latest technologies. He found them at the very school where he himself had trained years before. “It was great, “he says. “I put young women and men who knew the computers next to old guys who knew everything else,” he says with delight on remembering his adventure .
Today Forte Cloth International is a global player as a purveyor of rugs, but Ian, not one to rest on his laurels, had a new plan. “Let’s really make this modern,” he said to his team, “an evolution of the carpet industry, wouldn’t it be great to have our own collection…the best rug you can make,” So with his 12 designers with a total of 200 years’ experience, he launched Woven Edge. Woven Edge produces bespoke pieces in handspun New Zealand wool combined with hand spun bamboo fibres such as Ian’s personal favorite, “Ganado”, from the Tribal collection. Ganado juxtaposes geometric designs in lively colors such as blues, reds and yellows. “Conglo”, another of his favorites from the Painterly line, is subtler. Swirls of stone grays and other natural colors with a hint of pink create a marble effect.
Most importantly, Ian says, is that a company is not modern if it is not ethical. “Our customers need to know our product is sustainable, ethical and that the people who make the rugs are empowered. We want them to understand that generations of expertise have gone into each rug. And,” he continues with passion in his voice, “we don’t want to make anything we don’t believe in!”
Learn more at www.thewovenedge.com