Afghanistan’s famous hand-woven carpet production is in rapid decline

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Carpet seller, Ibrahim, shows locally and foreign manufactured carpets. (AN photo by Sayed Salahuddin)
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Ibrahim speaks with another carpet seller outside a carpet market in Kabul. (AN photo by Sayed Salahuddin)
Updated 10 December 2017
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Afghanistan’s famous hand-woven carpet production is in rapid decline

KABUL: Afghanistan’s signature carpet-weaving industry faces a sharp decline in production, leading to a dent in the country’s economy and bringing the trade to extinction for many families associated with it for generations.
For centuries, hundreds of thousands of Afghans benefited from the income of elegant hand-woven rugs — the major source of the country’s legal earnings from export of the pieces, known across the world for their design, texture, softness and natural dyes.
However, prolonged war and the emergence of machine-made, colorful and easily affordable carpets led to a sharp fall in the export of handwoven carpets and rugs, which in return badly affected their production, according to Afghans involved in the trade.
One survey showed that competition in adjacent countries, and the fact that the Afghans moved most of the industry to Pakistan because of war, have been among other factors for the decline of production at home.
“On average, we have had not even 15 percent of production in the past few years, because we do not have the infrastructure and face lack of marketing in the region,” Mohammed Amin Nadem, one of the leading carpet producers, told Arab News.
The recent honeymoon period for the industry’s dealers re-emerged after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001 but lasted for only a few years.
Exports from Afghanistan rose rapidly from $4 million in 2001-2002 to $216 million in 2005-2006, the estimates of the survey showed. The export trend considerably slumped to less than $35 million in the years that followed, the Afghan officials said.
The Afghan carpets are made mostly in northern and western parts of the country by different ethnic groups, with each area having a distinct pattern, from the octagonal elephant foot in the north, known as Bukhara print, to trappings of nomadic life and the elongated human and animal figures in western Afghanistan, mainly the Herat province.
An Afghan carpet seller snips the threads of a carpet in Kabul on Dec.7th.
(AN photo by Sayed Salahuddin)

“Apparently, the decline in exports affected carpet production at the domestic level, specifically in the northern region, where the major portion of Afghan carpets is manufactured. The Kunduz province alone suffered from a decline in carpet production by more than 50 percent, which had a detrimental effect on the livelihood of the carpet weavers. Faryab province suffered from a decline in carpet production by nearly 40 percent,” the survey said.
“We used to produce at least 2 million sq meters annually then, and now I believe the production is possibly below 200,000,” said Nadem, whose factory has woven carpets depicting faces of world leaders such as Barack Obama and George W. Bush, former US presidents.
Owing to the deteriorating economy and the mushrooming production of machine-made carpets in the region, far fewer Afghans can afford the locally produced ones, the dealers said.
Landlocked Afghanistan this year opened an air corridor for exporting its famous fresh and dry fruits to India, but exporting carpets by air freight would make the costs soar, Nadem said.
In a major boost for the multimillion-dollar regional trade, lately a historical window of opportunity opened for Afghanistan when the Chabahar sea port was inaugurated on the border with Iran.
It can also be used as a route for the export of Afghan carpets to its old traditional customers in Europe, America and the rest of the world, analysts said. However, they said the government needed to revive confidence and open up opportunities for the frustrated producers.
As part of a move to prevent the fall of the carpet industry many years ago, the government allocated hundreds of hectares of land for building a first major industrial park for production of carpets and to accommodate Afghan families who have been producing carpets and living in Pakistan, but there has been no progress on the project to date, Nadem said.


Michael Kors snaps up Italy’s Versace — sources

Updated 24 September 2018
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Michael Kors snaps up Italy’s Versace — sources

  • Donatella Versace called staff meeting for Tuesday - source
  • Family to retain a role, Blackstone will fully exit - sources

LONDON: US fashion group Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. has agreed to take control of Italy’s Versace in a deal that could value the company at $2 billion, sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.
The deal comes as budding luxury conglomerates, including Michael Kors’ US rival Tapestry, owner of Coach and Kate Spade, are trying to make in-roads into an industry still dominated by major European players, including Louis Vuitton owner LVMH.
Michael Kors, whose namesake label is best known for its leather handbags, has made no secret of its ambition to grow its portfolio of high-end brands after swooping on British stiletto-heel maker Jimmy Choo for $1.2 billion last year.
Versace is one of a clutch of family-owned, independent Italian brands that have regularly been cited as attractive targets at a time when the luxury industry is riding high on strong demand from Chinese consumers.
But not all brands have benefited equally, with some struggling to refresh their image or products to capture a younger audience, and some fashion groups are looking to diversify with more labels to face such challenges.
The deal gives Michael Kors a mega-brand and red carpet favorite that is among the most recognizable and followed fashion labels in the world. Two of the three sources who spoke to Reuters said the company had agreed to pay a large premium for Versace, known for its Medusa head logo.
Michael Kors could not immediately be reached for comment. Versace declined to comment.
Donatella Versace, sister of late founder Gianni who doubles as artistic director and vice president of the Milan-based group, has called a staff meeting for Tuesday, according to a person who was briefed by a company employee.
The Italian fashion icon has been considering a market listing after US private equity group Blackstone bought a 20 percent stake back in 2014 to fund overseas expansion, although Chief Executive Jonathan Akeroyd told Reuters earlier this year there was no rush for a market debut.
After investing in Versace at a high multiple, Blackstone found the fashion group’s performance disappointing and not sufficient to justify a market listing, said one of the sources, who is close to the family.
“They gradually persuaded the family to look into a possible sale and introduced them to a series of buyers, including Michael Kors,” the person added.
“Blackstone wasn’t going to put any more money into it. They needed a buyer who could make heavy investments.”
“OVERPRICED“
French fashion houses including Paris-based Kering were among those holding talks with the Versace family, the sources said, but considered the price too expensive.
“They didn’t feel the need to invest so much money into another Italian fashion brand. It was overpriced,” the source said.
Kering declined to comment.
As part of the deal, Blackstone will fully exit the Italian company, while the Versace family, which owns the rest of the fashion house, will keep a role, the sources said.
Blackstone declined to comment.
An official announcement is expected this week, the sources said.
Versace does not disclose its financial details, but documents deposited with the Italian chamber of commerce show the Milan-based group last year posted sales of 668 million euros ($786 million) and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and appreciation (EBITDA) of 44.6 million euros.
The group last year returned to a net profit of just under 15 million euros compared with a net loss of 7.9 million euros the previous year. ($1 = 0.8499 euros)