“It’s important that the pointy thin heels don’t get stuck in the weave. The carpet should pass the stiletto test,” says Santhosh Velayudhan.
Managing Director of Extraweave at Cherthala in Kerala’s Alappuzha district, Santhosh is discussing the wall-to-wall bespoke carpet that his company made for the Met Gala 2023, which was held in New York on May 1. Instead of the conventional red carpet, this year featured an off-white version made in the unassuming industrial town, providing a fitting canvas for a parade of celebrities who were honouring the late fashion legend Karl Lagerfield.
Extraweave produced last year’s red carpet as well but chose to remain “low key.“ says Santhosh. “We did not want to publicise it earlier but, this time, we realised that it is a proud moment for our town, for Alappuzha, for Kerala and for India. So we put the news out on social media,” says Sivan Santhosh, director, and son of Santhosh. In 2021, Sivan established Neytt, a design wing of Extraweave.
This year’s carpet was made with sisal fibre imported from Madagascar and woven using the Boucle weave to provide firmness. The company dispatched 58 rolls for a carpet measuring 4 X 30 metres.
They cater to a wide variety of customers. These include the Taj Hotels group, CIAL in Kochi, the Roosevelt Centre in New York, as well as stores like Ikea, Restoration Hardware, Ballard Designs and Crate and Barrel. Extraweave did the carpeting at a White House theme dinner eight years ago. They also design for private homes in India and abroad.
In 2022, the Met Gala organisers decided to switch to using natural fibre instead of a woollen carpet in keeping with the theme of sustainability. Extraweave was contacted by their long-standing customer Fibreworks, and took on the challenge of producing an off-white natural fibre carpet.
Santhosh recalls, “The biggest issue with white or shades of white is that there should be no inclusions, like bark. It has to be done very meticulously, as there can be no stain at any stage. The fibre is spun and woven and is almost like silk. The final process is to make it anti-skid by giving a latex backing.”
Sivan says that, after it was dispatched, the carpet was worked upon by artists in New York. This year the theme was Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty. “So it had an S-shaped serpentine line… the line of beauty inspired by the English painter William Hogarth. The S curve shows movement,” he states.
Tapestry and carpets from natural fibres
Sivan Santhosh and his wife Nimisha Srinivas set up Neytt in 2021 to introduce design and art elements into carpets, rugs and tapestry. “We create sustainable bespoke spaces using exotic natural fibres like sea grass, water hyacinth, bamboo silk, linen, real silk and mohair wool,” says Sivan.
He explains that, along with machine-made rugs and carpets, they also create hand-tufted and hand-knotted carpets working with global artists and designers such as the Italian-American Wesley Mancini, Dutch one-line artist Niels Kiene Salventius, Swiss artist/designer Vanessa Meister Varma and designer Mallie Gautreau. Some of their collections, inspired by the Aranmula Kannadi and Vallamkali, pay a tribute to Kerala. “We go deep into the design process. For the Vallamkali collection, for example, we met the rowers of the boats,” says Sivan.
Established in 2000, Extraweave began with two second-hand English looms but these were soon replaced by Belgian ones. Today, the company imports fibre — sisal from East Africa, wool from New Zealand and jute from Bangladesh. Currently it has 25 giant-size fast-moving machines to spin the yarn in a variety of weaves.
This family business began as Travancore Mats and Matting set up in 1917 by K. Velayudhan. “We are carpet makers,” says Santhosh, adding, “There are two sides to our business. We send rolls like we did to Met Gala or we customise it for the client.”
While he was pleased to receive a congratulatory call from Kerala’s Industries Minister P Rajeeve for representing the State at the prestigious venue, Santhosh says the icing on the cake has been the applause from his peers in the coir industry. And, from the people of Cherthala. “That’s really very special.”