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Nelcya and Fabrizio Cantoni, Weavers of Stories

Nelcya and Fabrizio Cantoni are the founders of cc-tapis, a company that has turned our favourite floor covering into a genuine work of art. It’s a new perspective for these decorative accessories that are becoming more and more popular, but not really a surprise for this couple. Inspired by Maison Chamszadeh – a shop run in Strasbourg by Nelcya’s father and renowned for its hand-knotted Persian rugs – the duo decided fifteen years ago to revolutionise the world of traditional rugs by collaborating with the best in the field. Architects, designers: all designing shapes and graphics for these exceptional products, which are woven in Nepal by Tibetan craftsmen, who draw upon the history of art in their work. With total control of the production process and therefore of the craftsmanship involved, cc-tapis can pride itself on being the only company to have mastered the specifics that make its style unique. Luxury that appeals to a wide range of customers and that we had often seen in the pages of magazines before we had the opportunity to slip into the Cantoni family’s flat. A highly colourful visit – as colourful as their collections – to Milan, where the company has been based since 2011.

Location

Milan

Author

Caroline Balvay

Photographer

Constance Gennari

TSF

Nelcya, Fabrizio: can you tell us about yourselves?

Nelcya

I’m Nelcya and I was born to an Iranian dad and a French mum. I met Fabrizio at hotel management school 25 years ago and we got married in Portofino.

Fabrizio

My mother is English and my father is Italian. We met in Lausanne and we started our career in the hotel industry. I was assistant manager at the Excelsior Palace in Portofino, while Nelya worked in Gênes at the Star Hotel. We got married in Portofino, then we left our jobs in the hotel industry and reinvented ourselves. At the beginning, we wanted to head to New York. Our idea was to open a French/Italian crossover deli, but ultimately, we didn’t end up doing that. On top of that, Nelcya’s father told us that if we wanted to stop by Strasbourg to come and work with him, he’d be happy for us to do so. He was in the carpet industry. Traditional Persian carpets.

TSF

How did cc-tapis come about?

Nelcya

Moving from hotels to carpets was a big change for us. The pace of life was very different. But ultimately, we found our way. Everything came together when we travelled to Los Angeles, where we saw a carpet in a Melrose shop window that we had never seen before. We found out more about it and learned that it was a Tibetan carpet, and that it could be customised. The idea was brilliant and it inspired us to develop our own vision for carpets. Fabrizio is really passionate about design, so this vision became a dream for both us. We sorted out our different roles and created cc-tapis in 2001. It started with a single shop, cc-tapis, then another, L’Appart, where we sell everything, from small spoons to full size sofas. In 2006, we decided to focus exclusively on the cc-tapis business in Strasbourg. As Fabrizio had always wanted to work in the design sphere, we decided that it was time for him to go back to school and to come to Milan, where the university was. We only intended to remain for nine months at the start. Ultimately, though, we’ve been here for ten years. We met Daniele Lora, our current artistic director and business partner. The image, harmony, coherence in our carpets: that all comes from him. We all started working together, then we found a showroom in Brera. In short: we started out and we were incredibly lucky, because there was no grand plan at the start.

TSF

What does CC mean?

Fabrizio

They are the initials of our surnames: Chamszadeh and Cantoni. When we arrived, we wanted to retain our Frenchness and it’s also pretty chic!

TSF

Why did you choose to move from traditional Persian carpets to a more contemporary range?

Fabrizio

When we went to work with Nelcya’s father, we really learned how to appreciate high quality carpets from Persia or Turkey. We always needed to maintain that spirit of quality and tradition. Then, when we encountered the Tibetan carpet in Los Angeles, the idea came about to develop our own collections. At the time, for instance, there was the Salle de l’Aubette in Strasbourg, which had just opened after being restored. It was an entertainment hall, created in the 1920s by Theo van Doesburg, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Jean Arp. It felt like we’d walked into a Mondrian painting. It was specacular! Our first collection was therefore inspired by the work of Sophie Taeuber-Arp. It was made entirely from silk. We had it produced in China. That’s how it all started! Nothing was really thought through. Then, once cc-tapis arrived in Milan and Daniele joined us, he brought a consistent approach and everything that came with it. We were the first to do designs inspired by the 1950s, while the range of carpets on offer around us was just monotonous. That was a turning point, because we had a recognisable signature of our own. Bit by bit, we started to become well-known in our field and we decided to manage our production line in Nepal. It is a hallmark of quality, because we don’t subcontract anything out.

TSF

Can you tell us about the process of making a carpet?

Fabrizio

We don’t consider carpets to be purely decorative, but then again, we’re not the only ones involved. For us, it’s important for there to be a holistic message. We always try to stay away from trends, because trends inherently come to an end, whereas our carpets last for a very long time. We have a signature collection – in addition to those created by our creative lab – where designers and fashion design (Faye Toogood), architects, designers (Patricia Urquiola, Martino Gamper, etc.) and artist (Frederico Pepe) can express themselves in their own way. That means that each of our carpets can be very different from the others. What they do have in common is their quality. The fact is that cc-tapis involves a permanent search for new materials and finishes, as with our last collaboration with Bethan Laura. I think that’s what sets cc-tapis apart. More generally, we only work with people that we like.

Nelcya

Oui, là aussi, ça vient du cœur !

Fabrizio

Avec Nelcya, on se disait quand on débutait à Strasbourg : « Ah ! si un jour on pouvait faire un tapis avec Patricia Urquiola. » C’était notre rêve et puis voilà ! Aujourd’hui, on fait la fête avec elle.

TSF

Blending ethics – with your CC-for Education charity – and aesthetics, – was that the plan from the outset?

Nelcya

No, because at the beginning, we needed to do whatever worked. Once we’d stopped working with China (due to the working conditions) we quite naturally started looking in India. Then we fell for Nepal completely. The Nepalese people have a very sunny, positive outlook. It was an obvious choice. After visiting the schools there with our son in 2015, and having experienced the earthquake, we decided to start our charity when we returned. Two weeks later we held a Design for Nepal event. We also appealed to all of Milan’s multi-label design retailers, who gave us stock to sell. We donated the funds raised from that first event so that 20 families could have a roof over their heads again. From that moment on, we started Design for Nepal for the schools. We also donate a percentage of our profit each year to the children. At the beginning, in 2015, we helped eight children. Now there are over 45!

TSF

What are your graphical and stylistic reference points?

Fabrizio

Daniele really should have been here to answer that question! Personally, it goes by feeling, going with the flow as you discover and learn, by curiosity. Obviously, when I stared out, Gio Ponti! He’s the father of Italian design. What he was doing in the 30s and 40s is simply incredible! One of the very latest carpets that I designed is called Lost in the Fifties.When doing my research, I discovered a piece of work Gio Ponti had created in the late 40s for an office, which I liked a lot. Being a little curious, I discovered the Capella Sansevereo in Naples, which is where I think Ponti got his inspiration from for the famous office. The same designs were on the marble and the wooden inlays that he used. In short, our inspiration comes from art, travelling, and artists that we like.

TSF

How did you choose your furnishings?

Nelcya

Once again, it’s a blend of things. Obviously, we like design, so there are lots of pieces with named designers (and lots without!) The first designer pieces we got were a gift from Nelcya’s father, our Verner Panton chairs. Then, bit by bit, we gradually collected all our favourite pieces as soon as we could afford them.

Fabrizio

The first piece of fine furniture that we bought for ourselves was the Multileg Cabinet by BD Barcelona, which is now in our kitchen. The idea was always to go for something eclectic, because we also had old furniture that belonged to my mother like our writing desk and the console in the entrance hall.

TSF

There is also a nod to the hotel industry, with the bistro-style dining room. It features furniture from the Café Marly at the Louvre. We like the warmth that it creates.

Fabrizio

Who do you dream of creating a carpet with?

Nelcya

Frankly, with a rock star! I would love that. Lenny Kravitz has already worked with Kartell, so why not work with us? (If you’re reading, Lenny, you know where I am.)

Fabrizio

Speaking personally, as a true fashionista, I wouldn’t say no to Alessandro Michele.

TSF

Who do you dream of creating a carpet with?

Nelcya

Frankly, with a rock star! I would love that. Lenny Kravitz has already worked with Kartell, so why not work with us? (If you’re reading, Lenny, you know where I am.)

Fabrizio

Speaking personally, as a true fashionista, I wouldn’t say no to Alessandro Michele.

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