The Fabulous Cogolin Rugs

I just love when finding an insider secret that you I wait to share! This one you can walk all over if you like and in some ways I hope you do! So let’s get on with the story. In 1928, textile entrepreneur Jean Lauer came across a small factory in the town of Cogolin, just outside of St. Tropez in the South of France. Here, he discovered a group of skilled Armenia craftswomen were producing silk thread and hand-knotted rugs using 19th century looms. Seeing the potential, Lauer bought the factory and introduced the slightly more advanced Jacquard looms and thicker wool yard to branch out to custom rug making. Today, almost 90 years later, La Manufacture Cogolin continues to produce beautiful hand woven rugs, although it is one of the best kept secrets of the world of interiors. Shhhhh….

The delightful exterior of the Cogolin factory, along with a detail of the 19th century looms.

What’s wonderful about the Cogolin rugs is that there are so many opportunities for intricate and ornate patterns with the Jacquard looms. The punch card system works by controlling the warp of the weaving, dropping it in and out to create geometric patterns. The designs also incorporate cut pile and loops, which give the relief look, and also add depth to the patterns. This technique is called point de Bruxelles, and it became a signature of Cogolin.

The interiors of Cogolin, complete with 19th century looms.

In the 40s and 50s, Lauer branched out from the Mediterranean-inspired designs they had originally been producing, to work with artists like Eileen Gray, Cocteau, Léger, Jules Leleu and Christian Bérard to translate their innovative new painting styles into intricately woven tapestries and rugs for his elite clientele. With this capacity to translate washes of watercolors into sturdy woolen carpets, designers from around the world began flocking to Cogolin to have their custom pieces made.

The Agape rug, from the Idylle Collection

In this way the provincial rug maker certainly made his mark on high society in cities around the world, from the Rockefellers in New York, to the Élysée Palace in Paris, but that didn’t effect his process or production. In fact, he always maintained a highly skilled team of women who knew the craft and maintained the traditional techniques at the looms.

Eclat and Songe from the Idylle Collection

After Lauer’s death in the 60s, the factory fell somewhat into disrepair, that is until it was revitalized by a private investor who sought to bring the small textile factory back to its former glory. And they certainly have achieved that! Still working with a team of craftswomen on the same 19th century looms, the new owners have resurrected many of the Modernist designs from the 50s to recreate lines that still feel fresh and contemporary, despite being over 50 years old. The Idylle collection takes from a series of gauche paintings by Christian Bérard, found in the old archives. But they have not stopped at recreating old designs, they have also collaborated with many contemporary designers to create beautifully constructed rugs, like the “Jardin Intéreiur” collection designed by India Madhvi.

Details of the India Madhvi collection, “Jardin Intéreiur.”

It is always to heartening to see these amazing crafts preserved. You just can’t find that rich history in the mass-produced product lines we see all over the market these days. I hope to one day visit this almost 100 year old looms it would be just so amazing to see these skilled craftswomen in process. Better yet, maybe I need to bring home one of these fine rugs as well! Not so secret anymore….