The Kabul Carpet Export Center (KCEC) organized a Global Carpet Industry Virtual Round Table on August 25, 2020 that gathered the leaders of the world’s hand-knotted rug trade via Zoom to discuss the current state of the carpet market in the time of COVID-19, and specifically Afghanistan’s role in it.

The Roundtable was the first international gathering of any kind since the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent cancellation of major 2020 carpet trade shows. The 89 industry leaders from more than a dozen countries across 13 time zones heard panelists make several key points that are likely to shape their decision-making in coming months:

  • Afghan carpets have “soul” which sets them apart and appeals to the customers’ “sixth sense;”
  • Ordering carpets from Afghanistan has improved over the past 20 years as Afghans have increasing direct contact with international buyers, such as through KCEC;
  • Afghanistan was cited as the first choice for special orders by three of the Roundtable panelists, for both the quality and the speed orders get fulfilled.

All agreed that the future for carpet sales is on-line, with chat functions acting as a surrogate for the experience of seeing and touching the rugs.

The Roundtable presented panels on production, sales and trends in design, with each hosted by a rug industry media expert. The panelists included manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers from India, several European countries as well as across the U.S.

Najlla Habibyar, the KCEC’s Chief of Party, described the Roundtable as “an important event for KCEC because it brings all of you together with us.” She stated that while KCEC operates “to support the manufacturers, at the same time it supports the buyers.” KCEC, she said, “will be their eyes and ears in Afghanistan to help them meet whatever their requirements are.”

The embrace of the Roundtable by the global carpet industry reflects the reach and respect that KCEC has achieved in its first two years, as well as a testament to KCEC’s effectiveness in promoting the Afghan brand.

Quotes from Panelists

“Afghanistan is the very last country that produces rugs not only by hand but rugs with soul and individuality. Afghanistan rugs are much very different from many other rugs from today.”
--Fritz Languaer, ORITOP, Vienna

“Hand-knotted rugs speak to everything people want today, something environmentally sustainable, something beautiful. The hand-crafted nature of these rugs is what is going to reach deeper and make that human connection. It’s the process, not just the product.”
-- Ryan Higgins, Tamarian

“Carpets are an art form, but what is even more of an art form is the stories of the people behind them. … What we must not lose is the stories of the people. That is where you are going to sell these hand-knotted carpets. Make the buyer feel they are in your showroom in Afghanistan. … That’s where the excitement comes.”
--Sarah Stroh Thornton, Editor, Rug News and Design