Weaving an Artistic Empire: Ayush's Inspiring Journey of Building Cocoon Fine RugsCreators And Collectors
It isn’t easy to take a simple utility object like the carpet, and elevate it to a piece of art. But Ayush Choudhary, Owner of Cocoon Fine Rugs, has done just that. Ayush took his father’s export-focused carpet business and gave it a new direction, making the ‘Cocoon’ name India’s premier a-la-mode carpet brand. Humble, inspiring and ambitious, here’s a glimpse into the young entrepreneur’s journey.
Reestablishing and Reinventing
Growing up surrounded by vats of dyes, spools of colourful thread, and the rhythmic clacking of weaving looms set against the beautiful backdrop of Jaipur, provided Ayush with an aesthetically rich environment. “My childhood in Rajasthan made me develop a taste for what is beautiful,” says Ayush. “There was always a sense of attachment with my father’s carpet business, as we saw the love with which he established and grew the company.”
Initially, however, Ayush took a direction away from carpets. He went to the U.S. to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering, but soon realized he wasn’t cut out to become an engineer, so he switched to studying Finance and Marketing instead. It wasn’t until he was on a break back home in 2008, that he realized there was an opportunity in the carpet business. At the time, while redecorating their family home, Ayush realized it was a challenge to find beautiful household articles locally, as Indian companies were exporting them instead of selling them within the country.
“We knew families who were going abroad, buying carpets made in India for three times the value, and then reimporting it,” says Ayush. “That is when I asked myself why we couldn’t make great carpets available in India; after all, no other brand understood carpets better than us!”
(Traditional carpet by Cocoon Fine Rugs in a client's home)
With this insight firmly rooted in his mind, Ayush decided to start working on the idea of Cocoon Fine Rugs in 2008. He had already enrolled at the prestigious London School of Economics for his Masters though, so for the next 18 months, he travelled back and forth between the UK and India, while establishing the brand.
(The Cocoon Fine Rugs store in Kolkata)
Pushing the Boundaries
Cocoon Fine Rugs is constantly pushing the boundaries of traditional carpet making in India into modern realms. “For the longest time, there were only Turkish, Persian and Kashmiri designs being churned out. And carpets were normally bought by rich people, from rugs sellers with a Persian heritage.”
As a young entrepreneur, Ayush realized the new generation wanted something cutting edge, something stylish. And so he started making carpets for a younger audience that cared about design.
It was a process of transition for the company to move beyond ‘Turkish emporium’ style designs and create modern pieces. With no formal school for training, weaving is passed through apprenticeship and each weaver has a signature style. “Not all weavers who do classical forms can weave modern styles,” says Ayush. “A lot of the same families who were weaving for us in the 80’s, are still with us. So when we were changing our carpet styles, we had to sit down with our weavers and see who could relate to the contemporary designs.”
At every stage of the carpet making process, a different pair of hands is involved, and Ayush believes each of them have a story to tell, and add their imprint on a rug. “The amount of time that it takes to make a carpet, from the drafting board to execution, is sometimes as long as a year,” says Ayush.
“The yarn is handpicked, handspun, and hand dyed, after which the rugs are hand woven, hand knotted and washed. So there is character being built into it, at very stage,” he continues.
Ayush also believes in creating a complete customer experience. Cocoon Fine Rugs stores look and feel like galleries. “We want people to view carpets as the pieces of art that they truly are, and that’s how we present them,” says Ayush.
(The Cocoon Fine Rugs store in Mumbai)
“We feel there needs to be a strong personal connection with a carpet, because it’s something you will see in your home, all the time, for years,” he feels. And so Cocoon Fine Rugs provides customers with the option of taking a carpet home and living with it for a few hours to see if it calls out to them. Customers can even keep it overnight to see the carpet in the varying lights of a day.
Cocoon Fine Rugs has been successful in changing the perspective about carpets as merely articles for warmth. They have been able to catapult carpets as art pieces that add a design quotient and textural character. “When we opened our store in Mumbai, people told us we were crazy to open in a city with such warm weather, dust, pollution and humidity,” says Ayush. “But the store has been very successful. Today, Indians see carpets as an integral part of décor, and sometimes even as an extension of tapestry, as a piece of alternate wall art!”
(An artistic carpet by Cocoon Fine Rugs being used as wall art)
In the last two years, Ayush has collaborated with people from completely different areas of design like fashion designer Varun Bahl and architect Rooshad Shroff, to create breathtaking carpet collections. “The only way handmade things can advance, is by emphasizing design,” says Ayush. “Our collaborations have been about taking new and exciting directions, by collaborating with individuals we can relate to in terms of design aesthetics, ideas and discipline.”
(Ayush Choudhary and Varun Bahl working on the 'Baroque Garden' collection)
(A carpet from Rooshad Shroff and Cocoon Fine Rugs' Tessellations collection)
The Future of Cocoon
With their flagship galleries in Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata and a strong presence on the internet, Cocoon Fine Rugs has ensured that it has a truly global clientele. Recently, a Peruvian lady found them through Google search, and got carpets shipped all the way to her South American mansion. Cocoon Fine Rugs also has clients in Canada and Hawaii who have waited for over a year for their exclusive carpets to be woven! Ayush also plans to open some physical stores outside India to tap into the market potential.
(A carpet by Cocoon Fine Rugs in a client's home)
“Everything we have done till now, has been personal and deliberate, and I want to continue down that road” says Ayush. “A carpet is a “cocoon” that wraps up everything in a space, defines it and brings it all together. And I want Cocoon Fine Rugs to continue creating high quality designer carpets that are worthy of that responsibility.”