Paris Berbère: Curated Moroccan Rug Collection in Paris

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Paris Berbère has a captivating collection of Moroccan Berbère rugs procured straight from the source. What is interesting with this brand, as well as the reason why we chose to feature a brand instead of a creator, is the curation of the carpets collected. The owner has an amazing eye and is able to source and show us bold colours and prints we've never seen before.

This journey started when Kristen was looking for a carpet for her apartment. She found the choice in Berbère carpets quite limiting, I'm sure we've all seen the classic white carpets with the diamond shape plenty of times by now.

Meeting with Tristan Leonard, the owner of Paris Berbère, we got to see how unique these carpets can be and how they differ from region to region. The authenticity of these rugs comes from the artisanal effort that goes in the production, made by hand by female weavers with their traditions and in their regions of origin, but Tristan will explain more about that in the interview below. 

Tristans knowledge and passion for Moroccan carpet culture, its techniques which are exemplified through their choice in bold colours and geometric shapes not only spoke to our aesthetic but also to our curiosity.

Kristen went to meet up with Tristan Leonard, at his warehouse in the suburbs of Paris, where we had a look at all of his broad and diverse curated selection of Moroccan carpets.

 

date
July 18, 2018

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Q + A

| Kristen | Can you please introduce yourself and what you do?

| Paris Berbère | My name is Tristan Leonard, I’m 31 years old and I grew up in Bordeaux, France. I’m passionate about architecture from the 20th century and the general decorative and fine arts. It all started around my 18th birthday and my first trips to the flea markets, at the Saint-Michel Square in Bordeaux, where I would be looking for a lamp or a chair from the 1970s.

About three years ago I discovered Moroccan carpets, first on the news and later by a trip to Morocco. The Beni Ouarain style form the Middle Atlas seduced me, which is a style of carpets with a black diamond pattern on a white background.

I did some research to look deeper into Berber carpets, attracted by the freedom of the creations and the spontaneous work with colours and materials, I progressively started to buy carpets from different regions. 

They kept surprising me and sparked fascination because of the colours and compositions. When I got used to the trade I found a name that tied into the essentials: “Paris Berbère” and under that name I started to sell what I had bought, as a collector-dealer. 

What I buy really inspires me and it was incredible to spend time finding these amazing carpets and really dive deep into the subject matter. On top of that from a commercial point a view there is a big demand to find carpets that are made with such creative talent.

 
 

| Kristen | What is a Berbère rug and what different types of rugs are made in Morocco?

| Paris Berbère |  Berber rugs were originally carpets made by different Berber tribes and were, by tradition, made in rural regions. They would always have a functional purpose (as isolation for the floor, a blanket, seating…) and were often gifted at weddings or to celebrate a newborn. 

They come from an artisanal and modest background, the way they have been made represents a ritual and the finished product is charged with a certain quality of magic and superstition.

The majority of Moroccan carpets are made out of knotted wool, the best known styles being the Beni Ouarain, Beni Mguild and Azilal rugs who come from the High and Middle Atlas. 

Another style of knotted carpets are made from recycled fabrics, we call these Boucherouites, they are generally very colourful and are in my opinion the real paintings in the world of carpets. This style of rugs started to arise in Morocco in the 70’s with the growth of the textile and clothing industry. 

Kilim rugs, which are flat woven carpets, can be found in many regions and tribes but specifically in the plains around Marrakesh called the El Haouz region, at the Aït Ouaouzguite tribe and the Zenaga people who live at the Jbel Sirwa peak in the south of Morocco.

 
 

| Kristen | Can you tell us a little bit about the different types of traditions in Moroccan rug making and how they are made?

| Paris Berbère | To start Berber carpets are made by hand. The vertical threads, who are called the warp, are stretched on vertical looms.

This process can be executed in a rustic or more sophisticated matter, which depends on the region where the rug has been made. The wool or the strips of fabric are then tied to the warp piece by piece; the way this is done will establish the thickness and pattern of the carpet. 

Generally the Berber carpets from Morocco are made by traditional craftsmanship, they aren’t made with a pre-existing pattern (with the exception of certain direct orders) but rather by esthetic traditions passed down from one generation of women to the next. The compositions are very free, often asymmetrical and the modern esthetic usually reminds us of 20th century paintings.

 


| Kristen | What about the women behind the tradition?

| Paris Berbère | The textiles and carpets are the area of creative expression of the Berber Moroccan women. Because of the techniques and traditions that have been passed down between generations you can find an immense variety in the creations forms and compositions. 

Textile manufacturing in rural areas is a domestic art, it is humble, these carpets are a necessary trade with great creativity

They are also unsigned and anonymous creations, which makes the female weavers modest and discreet about their work, they do not have that egocentric and excessive side that we sometimes find with western artists. Their approach is generous, simple and spontaneous.

When the rug is made there is this moment of great creative intensity. It seems to me that their work strongly show their moods and ideas at the time of creation. There are as many stories in a carpet as people who will comment on it.

 
 

| Kristen | Can you explain a bit of the symbolism used in the patterns of these rugs and why it is used in this medium?

| Paris Berbère | There are multiple interpretations about the meaning of the symbols used in Berber rugs. Some talk about sexual and carnal characteristics, others about pure abstraction, spontaneity and improvisation. 

You also have different point-a-views on how to look at these carpets as they traditionally only have fringes on one side, at the end, of the rug. Some say you have to look at the carpet in the direction of manufacturing, others think it’s the invers or even in both directions. 

For me; I’m not a specialist and neither a historian, I love the idea that there are no rules. 

 

I love listening to the interpretations of all the different commentators that speak about one same rug, especially about the Berber Moroccan carpets that always derive these fantastic stories that differ from pattern to pattern and from end of the textile to the end of the wool.

They evoke stories about certain village dances, tragic events and even mythical believes.

For a big number of rugs that are purely abstract we keep a sense of mystery about the meaning of the pattern that appears on their surface. I think the anonymity of these creations adds to their magic. 

I love the mystery around the female weavers, their work with the wool and tissues, the symbols without one real interpretation. 

The secrets that are hidden within these carpets are also their greatest value.

 
 

| Kristen | What makes your curation special compared to other Moroccan rug dealers? What do you look for in the pieces you sell, from aesthetic to quality?

| Paris Berbère | I base my selection principally on visual and aesthetic criteria. It doesn’t matter to me when the carpet was made, where or even the novelty of the materials. Something needs to happen visually, it needs certain intensity. 

Much like an artwork you look at a carpet and it should evoke an emotion. The colours, the patterns and their layout provoke and will resonate differently from person to person. This is based on each persons taste and cultural background. 

Even if there is a general feeling that is the same in all the pieces, I love to choose carpets that are very different from one another.

From a big carpet in one faded colour to a little carpet that is composed out of juxtaposed shapes that are brightly coloured very much alive, I like to not restrict myself to one style or aesthetic. (other word for feeling? Instead of aesthetic?)

It doesn’t take me a long time before deciding if I like a carpet and when I like a rug I make the acquisition immediately, it’s something that is clear to me from the moment I enjoy looking at the piece. 


| Kristen | What should people look for when buying a Berbère rug?

| Paris Berbère | It’s really simple, you should love the carpet! 

A rug that you think is beautiful will always find its spot in your interior and its presence will give you a great feeling. Sometimes the carpet even influences the way you rearrange your furniture and objects.

Berber rugs are fascinating pieces that are charged with history and tradition and full of mysteries. Placed on the floor or hung from a wall, they will make your interior more soulful.

 

| Kristen | How can people buy your rugs?

| Paris Berbère | They are now available at Bon Marché - rue de Sèvres and on www.parisberbere.com. You can also contact me directly.

 
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