As with each of our encounters, with Böjte-Bottari it all started with a case of love at first sight. It was above all a visual attraction. A form, a material. Maison & Objet 2017. The Riflessi vase. A sculptural...
Nelcya, Fabrizio, can you tell us about yourselves? What is your background, and what has your career been like so far?
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.
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.
How did cc-tapis come about?
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.
What does CC mean?
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!
Why did you choose to move from traditional Persian carpets to a more contemporary range?
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.
Can you tell us about the process of making a carpet? How does each one differ?
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.
Blending ethics – with your CC-for Education charity – and aesthetics, – was that the plan from the outset?
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!
What are your graphical and stylistic reference points? What inspires you during the design process?
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.
What’s your style like at home? Which artists do you particularly enjoy having on display?
We don’t really choose artists in fact. It’s more about a choice of pieces that we love, things that we’ve found by exploration, over the last 23 years!
We might have a few things that are starting to go up in value, but apart from that, it ranges from my nephew’s drawings and posters by a female friend of ours, and others by Shepard Fairey – with his Obey signature – through to Murakami, Jeff Koons, and a lot of Artoys. I love Kozik, for example. So there are busts of all the despots (with an ironic twist, I have to clarify), which drives Nelcya crazy.
How did you choose your furnishings? What kind of atmosphere did you want to create?
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.
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.
You’ve just won the prize for the most beautiful space at the Salone del Mobile – how did that make you feel?
We’re going crazy, we still can’t get over it! It was a surprise and wonderful to be recognised, because we came out of nowhere as it were, which proves that anything can happen.
Even with our 70-square metre stand, while others covered hundreds of square metres. The best thing about all of that is that it was an exceptional piece of teamwork. We work with amazing people, young people. At the start, there were three of us, and now we’re a team of 20.
And to top it all off, it’s something that we’ve consciously chosen. We work with people that we have a lot in common with. This is part of the success of cc-tapis, which is in line with its DNA as a bit of an outsider. An international, fresh approach. When people apply for a job with us, we look at their skills, of course, but also how well the person will fit with the team. None of the people we’ve taken on had a background that immediately suggests they were suited for what they do now! We have guided them towards the potential we saw in them.
Who do you dream of creating a carpet with?
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.)
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily