There are few places that combine beauty, sophistication and quality of life like Antwerp, Belgium. Home to the Renaissance master Rubens, the city today is a thriving hub for art, textiles and fashion. Antwerp also happens to be the base of operations for our long-time sisal partner, whom we visited in September. Collaborating with them is such an inspirational experience: not only do we get to see the Belgian heritage of craftsmanship up close in their factory, we get to experience the city and its culture through the eyes of local artisans.
"Tonga" on the loom in Belgium
Earlier this year, we introduced a new sisal which we named Antwerp in homage to our Belgian collaborator. One of the many things they excel at is their knowledge of natural materials and their ability to mix fibers to create the most amazing colors for our sisal rugs. The result is a product of exceptional depth and beauty, but also subtle imperfection that is true testament to their incredible skill and masterful eye.
You find this quality everywhere you look in Antwerp. The evening we arrived we had dinner at the magnificent Sir Anthony Van Dijck restaurant, located on the oldest and narrowest street in Antwerp (dating to Medieval times). Designed by Axel Vervoordt, the restaurant is sophisticated but emanates natural warmth. The walls seem to reflect the glow of candlelight and yet up close you once again see the artful skill of combining colors imperfectly to create unexpected depth. The delicious food and the leisurely pace of our meal also spoke volumes about the Flemish way of life and their love for lingering and conversation.
The next day we made a point of visiting Ganterie Boon—a family-owned glove shop in Belgium that has been owned and operated by three generations. The 120-year-old shop—one of the few remaining glove businesses in Belgium—is understated, elegant and rich in heritage. All their gloves are handmade and come in six sizes. We went in thinking we were “just looking” but once inside we knew we would each be leaving with a pair of gloves.
The experience was unforgettable—from the personal hand fitting to ensure the perfect size to the presentation and packaging. As the cooler weather approaches, our bespoke gloves will serve as a “fitting” reminder of the attention to detail and eye for beauty that are the fabric of life in Antwerp.
What is the farm-to-table movement? And is it really working? Everywhere you look there’s a growing awareness about the impact of everyday food choices and food sustainability. And it’s not some elitist foodie fad, but a noble quest for something profoundly human that we are at risk of losing.
In his new book, The Third Plate, chef and food activist Dan Barber argues that the farm-to-table movement is an attempt to restore what the industrial food system has taken from our culture and our cuisine. Ultimately, it is about fighting the “extract more and waste more” mentality that has been the basis of our entire economy for the last 100 years. Not only is this practice not sustainable, it’s depriving us of our human connection to food and farming and something more soulful: flavor.
Barber offers an alternative determinant for growing something that transcends economic viability. For him it comes down to a deceptively simple (but truly profound) question: “Is it delicious?”
At Merida, we would ask, “Is it beautiful?” Just as our heritage of food and farming are threatened by industrialization, the endless drive for cheaper and cheaper goods is stripping our culture of craftsmanship, quality and, ultimately, beauty. If things continue to be made under relentless pressure to deliver cheaper (and flimsier) goods faster, we not only deprive ourselves of beautiful products made with integrity; we lose the artistry and knowledge that have been handed down from generation to generation. And, just as tragically, we lose our appreciation for the skillful handwork that has the power to bring joy not only to the consumer—but to the artisans who make the goods.
We’re constantly reminded of this as we work with our incredibly talented team of craftspeople and weavers in our mill in Fall River, a town with a long heritage for textile innovation. The best part is that we not only get to see and feel the incredible rugs these men and women produce; we also get to experience the joy of watching true craftsmanship at work every day.
Like Dan Barber, we realize that it will take a community to reverse the equation and restore the role of quality and beauty in the purchase decision. If we’re the farmers then the architects and interior designers we serve are the chefs who will translate this important narrative for their clients. That’s our vision: collectively and collaboratively working together, just as farmers are working with chefs to move us to a more beautiful, sustainable, and delicious future.
Master weaver John Costa at the Jacquard loom in Fall River.
What’s new at Merida? And what’s on your mind?
As a heritage brand with a heart for textiles, we find inspiration everywhere we look–from the art world to the interior design community to our global partners and the incredibly talented craftspeople who bring our rugs to life. Of course we love collaborating as much as we love craftsmanship, so we decided it’s time we really talked–not just about what’s au courant but what truly matters.
Off the Loom is more than a blog. It’s an online design journal for sharing ideas and inspirations with you–our friends and partners in design.
Off the Loom will take you into the Merida workroom for a sneak peak at custom projects, designer collaborations, and new work in progress. But it’s also a social media channel to talk about things that truly matter to us as a responsible business–and to you, our design partners. We’re launching #offtheloom to spark a deeper conversation around the value of true craftsmanship, why quality makes a difference, and how the choices we make as a design community can create meaningful change.
We hope you’ll follow us and join the #offtheloom conversation. Together we can make the world a more beautiful place… from the floor up.
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The people of ancient Mesopotamia built stepped towers, called ziggurats, to connect heaven and earth. Fitting inspiration for this architectural pattern layered over a field of natural wool.
A collection of flatweave wool rugs that reinterprets traditional patterns in a unique dimensional construction. Jacquard-woven and hand-finished in Fall River, USA.
Crosspoint introduces a layered construction that creates a subtle interplay of tone and texture that feels luxurious underfoot. Five sophisticated styles, Jacquard-woven from natural wools. Available in six rich colorways and a choice of woven borders that are truly unique.
Ziggurat is one of two patterns used in the optional woven borders.
Ziggurat in Desert Taupe
Ziggurat in Foxglove
Ziggurat in Green Olive
Ziggurat in Laguna
Ziggurat in Midnight
Ziggurat in Natural
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