Luxury brand Jan Kath: Global carpet empire in the Metropolis Ruhr
`The backdrop of the Ruhr Valley has been a huge influence for me´
Jan Kath is one of the world’s most distinguished carpet designers. The headquarters of his global company are tucked away slightly in the German city of Bochum.
Before him, Jan Kath’s father and grandfather were dealers in Oriental rugs and as a result, he gained his initial business training in the family business. But after his compulsory military service, he found that the wider world was calling him. Travelling in Asia and practically broke, he happened to meet one of his father’s business partners, who quickly offered him a job in his carpet factory in Nepal. Soon afterwards, the young globetrotter was responsible for 600 employees in Kathmandu and he decided to buy the factory. His parents provided financial backing but the money was too scarce to employ expensive designers. As a result, he became Head Designer himself more or less out of necessity, and reveals: `We were pretty naive when we started out and went through a long vale of tears before experiencing success. But we never had a back-up plan.´
From Bochum to London, Paris and New York
His roots are reflected in his style: `The backdrop of the Ruhr Valley with its industrial heritage has been a huge influence for me,´ says Jan Kath. `As a child, I was always exploring old mines and industrial sites, seeing the morbid side and crumbling plaster ... I used this to develop my signature design style.´
Today, Jan Kath is one of Germany’s top ten luxury brands, with his customers willing to pay up to €3,000 for one square metre of one of his high-end creations. He selected a former engineering works in Bochum as the home for his headquarters and it is hard to believe that there hides a major hotspot of the luxury goods industry behind the unassuming grey main door. While the outside may be unremarkable, the interior is bright, open-plan and artistic – like a gallery, where carpets adorn the walls like large-scale artworks. The same goes not only for the Metropolis Ruhr, but also in his flagship stores and showrooms in London, Paris, Vancouver, Toronto and New York. His works can be found in the villas of the super-wealthy, as well as in international luxury brand boutiques.
Sustainable business in the luxury segment
Jan Kath employs 2,000 people in his factories in Thailand, Nepal, India, Morocco and Turkey. The carpet designer is committed to promoting fair working conditions in his production facilities, as well as to environmental sustainability and campaigning against child labour. He has defined all of this in fixed standards. `Only if the workers earn enough to provide their families with a secure livelihood can they afford to send their children to school instead of to work,´ Kath knows. Kath guarantees compliance with his standards and the quality of production with personal visits to his carpet ateliers.
Despite his global success, the designer remains down-to-earth, wearing trainers and jeans and with modest air about him. `25 years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that we would have reached this level. There was a great deal of luck involved, along with an exceptional amount of work – you need to meet the right people in the right places at the right time and also make something of those contacts. I think that only works in those rare cases when all the stars align. And this fills me with pride and delight.´