“Interior designers build their creations around our carpets,” says Xavier Bonnamy, Head of Tai Ping Yacht Division. “We offer a fifth wall to the theatre of internal spaces, and in doing so have become the world’s foremost bespoke carpet maker.”
The company began as a charitable venture. “With Hong Kong’s growing refugee population,” says Xavier, “the Kadoorie family founded the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association to help refugee farmers in the New Territories. It was soon realized that many of the refugees were skilled in crafts and textile making, and so a small house was procured and converted into a carpet workshop. This was the beginning of House of Tai Ping.”
As the workshop’s international reputation grew, a commission was received from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. It turned out to be the largest hand-tufted carpet ever created. “Such was the size of the project that the carpet had to be completed in a tent erected to extend the working area,” says Xavier. “During production, Typhoon Ida hit Hong Kong. All hands available grabbed the ropes to hold down the tent; had it blown away, the rug would have been destroyed. The storm passed and the commission was soon completed and shipped to America. This dedication to our work has not wavered since.” The “tent story” was born, and a wealth of prestigious orders followed.
Even today, much of the process is done by hand. “We still offer hand-knotted and hand-tufted carpets,” says Xavier. “During our early years, Anthony Yeh, then a young engineer in charge of weaving, invented the tufting gun; a single-needle contraption capable of making the most complex patterns. In the right hands it is like a paintbrush – there are no limits to the design.”
But it is a difficult craft to master. “To be able to tuft the most intricate pieces, the artisan behind the magic gun needs at least 10 years’ experience,” says Xavier. “There is no substitute for this skill. We have recently completed our robotic tufting machine – it took a few years to make and is capable of working in tandem with the craftsmen. But it will never supplant them. For the special pieces the human element cannot be replaced. Even in 2019, hand-tufting is still the best way to complete highly detailed carpets.”
Raw material suppliers go through a meticulous selection process. “They must share our values of quality and sustainable practices,” says Xavier. “For example, we import wool from New Zealand – the atmosphere, free from pollutants, creates the whitest wool possible. This gives our artists the scope to create the purest colours and designs, which is key to the quality of the piece.”
House of Tai Ping looks to innovate wherever possible. “Eighteen years ago we dedicated a specialist team to our Yacht Division,” says Xavier. “At the time, what covered the floor of these vessels was an afterthought – plain carpets that were meant to be invisible. We brought our tenacity for design to the market, offering rich colours, new textures and intricate patterns. This gave the greatest yacht designers an extra option when creating these floating palaces. Now, nearly 20 years later, 40 per cent of the largest 200 superyachts built have a Tai Ping carpet on board.”
To create flawless pieces drives the company. “Just as our staff held the tent through Typhoon Ida, our dedication to the craft has not wavered,” says Xavier. “We are willing to travel halfway around the world just to remove a stain from one of our bespoke carpets.”