Arzu seeks retail distribution for unique Afghan rugs

Chicago — Arzu, administrator of high-end, hand-made rugs produced by women’s cooperatives in Afghanistan, is starting to reach for broader distribution.

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The non-profit organization for the past two years has sold its hand-made rugs through private parties and at exclusive charitable events. But Arzu recently showed at the High Point market and at Neocon, taking its first steps toward expanding into better retail and hospitality channels.

Since receiving USAID funding in 2004, the non-profit organization has enrolled over 185 families comprising about 1,500 people into the rug-making operation. Weavers, all women, are required to attend literacy classes, as are their small children. The weavers receive payments throughout the 9- to 12-month production process as they meet certain production stages and earn bonuses of 50% upon completion of their orders.

All rugs are hand-woven using natural dyes and finely handspun wool. There are four design collections: Contemporary, Traditional, Tribal and Couture. Retail pricing on the first three groups ranges from $500 for a 2-by-3-foot rug to $10,800 for a 10-by-14 piece. Prices on the Couture Collection ranges from $600 to $16,200 for similarly sized pieces.

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