While the story of Nodi rugs might begin in the flea markets of Milan, it’s really about Olivia, the founder of Nodi’s journey. It’s about how she created a business that is a reflection of her love of textures and craftsmanship along with her strong ethics. One thing is for certain, she’d listened to her instincts and took some chances for everything to unfold into the business it is today. It’s early days yet. Her workspace is her home. She works from the kitchen table, surrounded by glass walls and ceiling, albeit it’s not the type that’s holding her down.
While I visited Olivia for the story, she allowed me to take a few photos around her home and workspace. The space has such a lovely warm bohemian feel. You can certainly see where her passions lie, the evidence in all of the beautiful layers of fabric and textures.
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while will know that what always grabs me is the combination of a story and a beautiful product – and Nodi rugs is just that. I’ve admired the rugs ever since I first saw them on display at Tessuti a couple of years ago. I even purchased a gorgeous ink blue one for my living room recently.
After completing a year as an au-pair in Milan, Olivia, originally from Wellington, stayed on to become a textile design student at the Institute of European design. To fund her travels she sold necklaces, which she made by hand with knotted stretch jersey fabric. She named these necklaces simply Nodi, which means knots in Italian.
Once she received her diploma, Olivia went on to work in Milan as an intern for Liz Carpenter, an American textile designer, and after that a company specialising in trend forecasting. She immersed herself into the culture, learnt Italian and created a quintessential Italian life for herself there. Milan, to her felt like home. Then her visa ran out and she was forced to return home to Wellington, New Zealand. She was heartbroken.
Still not ready to settle, she quickly packed up her things and moved to Sydney. There she worked for an Italian homeware and furniture business, putting her knowledge of Italian to good use. While she enjoyed her role, she was a little frustrated and knew that she didn’t want to work for somebody else. But she also knew that this was an important part of the process of getting connected to the trade. Olivia credits this time as essential learning experience about what people, and interior designers were using, as well as affirming her love of the imperfect textures she was always drawn to.
Her turning point was when she saw a cheap return flight to Tokyo. She called her Japanese hairdresser in Milan, whom she managed to convince to meet there. It was during those five days that she said the cloud lifted and she knew that she needed to go to India. She returned to Sydney and saved every penny for the next six months, then announced to her family that she was going to India to learn to make rugs.
From there everything fell into place. Her parents were supportive, and her father, as it turned out, knew someone who put her in contact with an agent in India, who, inturn put her in contact with various factories. Her parents also had some friends that had moved to Delhi the year before, and she was able to stay with them in their compound.
After arriving she spent months going from factory to factory to learn about heir ethics, working conditions and techniques. She also up-skilled and learnt the various ways in which rugs were made. Finally, she decided on a factory that treated their staff fairly. They provided bicycles for their workers, along with subsidised accommodation and, in a country where it’s quite often unsafe for women to work alone, they allowed wives to work alongside their husbands.
Six months later, in 2013, she returned to Sydney with five rugs and various swatches. Olivia didn’t think twice about naming her business Nodi. The name always stuck with her. Not only was it relevant, it was also an acknowledgment of where it began. She approached a few small retail spaces that agreed to display her rugs. It was then that she decided if she was going to take the business seriously, she needed to move home, to be in her own turf, where she had support, and where the industry was more forgiving. Her brother Ryan, who she considers the business head of Nodi, came on board. He arranged a viewing, and a couple of days later, Viva magazine caught on and covered her first range. It took off from there.
She has recently released her fourth collection, and the rugs are now available in fifteen stores in New Zealand and Australia and growing.
While it’s still early days, it’s easy to pick a brand with staying power. Timeless design, coupled with passion and ethics, and you’ve got a winner. I look forward to following the Nodi story.
Thank you Olivia! The entire Nodi collection can be viewed here.
In case you missed it, as I make my way to my new life in Sweden, the month of September is my homage to this beautiful country that I called home for over five years. It’s a dedication to its people and talent. Pop back on Monday for more New Zealand Month.
Photos by Mel Chesneau for Styled Canvas