Interview with Nani Marquina, CEO of the eponymous cult rugs brand

Medina by Nani Marquina

MEDINA (kilim) designed by Nani Marquina

Handmade in the best possible fibers, Nanimarquina products have been an example of the beauty and high quality craftmanship can achieve. The interview with brand’s CEO.

The daughter of an important industrial designer (Rafael Marquina), she remembers growing up in a house where household everyday items were given special attention. Maybe this had an impact in how later on Nani Marquina who started as an interior designer became interested in designing and producing rugs, building a remarkable company that has turned into a cult brand for which many of the best international designers have worked. Handmade in the best possible fibers, her products have been an example of the beauty and high quality craftmanship can achieve.

Nani Marquina

Nani Marquina, Portrait

You always say that your father advised you not to dedicate yourself to Design and yet, here you are ... do you think he had a point?

No, I think he was wrong; he wanted to protect me because in those years design was kind of a chimera. I like challenges and the fact that he advised me against it possibly generated more interest in me. At that time, I did not understand his concern because he was precisely a designer (Rafael Marquina was a very important Spanish designer ed). Later, over the years, I discovered the difficulties that were there but I was already involved in it and I never thought of giving up.

Soon you went from being an interior designer to focusing on the design of rugs. It was a good decision, but beyond having found a field that was not explored in Spain, did you always have a passion for rugs or was that something that developed over time?

I always say that I dedicated myself to rugs by chance because in the 80s, when I started, there was this gap in the contemporary carpets for the home area. On the other hand, there were design companies dedicated to upholstery, furniture manufacturing, lighting, etc. but I saw that carpets were missing. Likewise, over time I have discovered that the floor is something important to me, surely because it is what sustains me (if not I go through the air). I love to observe all types of floors and it is the part that interests me the most in a space. Whether it is from a built space or from nature itself.

In what way do you think a rug has the ability to transform a space?

More than transforming, a rug has the ability to help define the style, character or atmosphere that we want to create in the space. Be it the color, the style, the fibers used ... rugs help us to generate the message we want to build. After all, they are large surfaces that impact space.

Your first carpet is from 1982, although you founded your company a little later. What were those first rugs like? They weren't handmade yet, right?

No, they were mechanical and were made with pieces of high quality wall-to-wall carpets sewn from behind. For this reason, they were very simple, highly graphic rugs, visually impressive but the technique conditioned the drawing. I used only a few colors, which made them very impressive. The first three rugs were Manhattan, a representation of the NY skyline, a second called N and the third called CENTRO, with lines and a square.

AROS, Nanimarquina

AROS designed by Nani Marquina

Why did you decide to go on to do the production in India or Pakistan? Regardless of the fact that prices are significantly lower there, would it have been possible to produce the same type of products in Spain?

We decided to move production to India in 1993. The main reason was because mechanical production here in Spain limited us a lot in terms of design. It was not done for a price issue, but because a designer needs to work without limits and making mechanical rugs entailed having many creative limitations. As a result of producing there, we offered a higher quality product, with more design and at a more reasonable price. We can say that this fact saved the company from the competitors

In a way, you were a pioneer in using craftsmanship in the forefront of a design company, the world seems to have finally catch up with your ethos ...

It was not my intention, I always say that when I connected with crafts it was in 1993 accidentally in India. Upon discovering its values, I have not been able to stop defending it and promoting its qualities, goodness and benefits. At that time, I felt like a freak when I talked about crafts and manual work because everything produced mechanically was still on the rise.

You have managed to work with many of the most interesting names in contemporary design. Which designer did you find the most interesting or most surprising for the way he approached the design of a carpet?

Few designers before starting the work have such a clear idea of what they want; in this case the Bouroullec brothers were very clear that they wanted to unite contemporaneity with tradition. And as a result of this requirement, we began to work in Pakistan, having previously been aware of the qualities of kilims and Afghan refugee weavers. They were able to capture in the Losanges carpet these two values: contemporaneity + tradition.

LOSANGES, Nanimarquina

LOSANGES (kilim), designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

What do you think is more important in a carpet, the visual or the tactile?

I think it is important that simply with the visual you can discover what the sensation will be when you touch it.

What is the carpet that best represents the spirit of your brand?

In all of Nanimarquina's career, the two rugs that have been most significant have been CUADROS (1996), because it meant the audacity to mix 6 colors reproducing wool tiles, and TRES (2016) where the idea was to represent the values of weaving and craft techniques through a rug made in three different parts.

How do you think the business model will evolve in the coming years in terms of marketing and distribution?

The vision is that we are going to buy from home but there will also be shops that will be like small spaces where the values of the products are better communicated and where you can see the selection that they offer us online, we would be excited to see them and enjoy a pleasant time. As it happens to us now when we go to see an art gallery / museum etc. The stores will become art galleries with the product very well exhibited and will generate experiences that will add value and sensations to motivate the online purchase.

Blur, Nanimarquina

BLUR (kilim) designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

Limbo, Nanimarquina

LIMBO designed by Xano Armenter

Limbo, Nanimarquina

LIMBO in interior

CAL, Nanimarquina

CAL designed by Nani Marquina

DIGIT, Nanimarquina

DIGIT designed by Cristian Zuzunaga

GRAVITACIÓN 1994, Nanimarquina

GRAVITACIÓN 1994 designed by Eduardo Chillida

LATTICE, Nanimarquina

LATTICE (kilim) designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

Luna, Nanimarquina

LUNA designed by Oscar Tusquets who appears in the image

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How do you think that the carpet you choose as a consumer speaks of who you are?

When you choose a rug for your space, you have previously decided how this space will be. This place talks about you because you build it according to your sensitivity, character, according to your way of being through colors, materials, arrangement of elements ... Colors, textures, materials speak a lot about ourselves / connect a lot with us in the same way that rugs do.

What do you think is the most common mistake people make when buying a rug? What advice would you give them in this regard?

The most important thing about buying a rug is the fact that you fall in love with it, and if that happens, it is because you have created an environment for it. There is no room for mistakes in that equation. Sometimes looking for the perfect combinations makes us end up choosing the wrong piece.

Little by little you have been leaving the company in the hands of your daughter. How do you distribute the work, are you still in control of the creative decisions?

I am fortunate that my daughter has lived the company from a very young age working in it, and with a different vision due to the fact that she does not have a creative profile. She has a lot of character and puts a lot of effort into directing and, on the other hand, I have a much more creative and artistic profile. For this reason, we complement each other very well and share the projects 100%, each one contributing with her vision.

2 November 2021