hen Apple and Bono got together to announce their “RED” iPods, with $10 from every sale going to fight AIDS, there was a huge splash. But Nying Zemo, the company run by Simmy Pappachen and Shalini Acharya, actually donates 2 percent of the profit from each custom-made Tibetan rug they sell to protecting Nepali women from human trafficking, child prostitution and child abuse.

How Do You Choose A Rug, Anyway?

When a typical customer goes to buy a rug, she generally chooses one based on the color of the room in question and personal style. Her choices are usually limited to whatever the store has to offer.

But the customization provided by Nying Zemo allows the customer complete control over color and shape. All you have to do is sit down with Pappachen and Acharya for a consultation. The price varies with the number of knots per square inch and the complexity of your design.

Nying Zemo fan Sammy Cucher, of Aziz + Cucher, takes his rugs seriously: “I choose a rug depending on if I get a good feeling from it. [Buying from Nying Zemo] is no different than buying a work of art.”

Nying Zemo literally means beautiful in the Tibetan language, and the rugs reflect their name. Each rug begins as Tibetan wool sorted by hand at Nying Zemo’s workshop in Nepal. After removing the soiled fibers and carding the wool (combing the fibers in one direction for durability), the wool is then spun and dyed. Depending on the complexity of the design, a rug can take three to six months to go through this process. But Nying Zemo is also unique because it uses no middlemen to sell their rugs. “All of our designs are custom made. Whatever shape, color or design you want, we will give you. You deal with us directly,” says Pappachen. Even the workshop is owned by Acharya and her family.

Shalini Acharya and Simmy Pappachen.

The Tibetan culture is also reflected in the weaving of the rug, which uses the Tibetan knot, practically an art form in itself. But the designs themselves are also artistic, with designers such as Uday Dhar, Robert Chacko and Aziz + Cucher. Anthony Aziz and Sammy Cucher, for example, are both faculty members at Parsons School of Design and are pioneers in the art of digital imaging; their work is shown in galleries across the world. They focus on the organic elements of life—flowers, plants, textures—naturally integrated with the kinds of rugs made by Nying Zemo. Aziz + Cucher instantly realized the fit: “We were fascinated by the process and we’re always looking for opportunities. It was a perfect match. And Shalini and Simmy were receptive to our ideas.”

But the philanthropic side of the business is just as important as the artistic side. That idea came from Acharya’s close ties to Nepal. So part of the proceeds go to ABC Nepal, an organization formed in 1987 by Durga Ghimire and Meera Arjyal who wanted to help women being exploited. As Nying Zemo’s own motto declares, “Your rug is an expression of you and your home or office and it is part of the pattern of your life.” Even better when self-expression and beauty meet philanthropy and making a difference.n

Aisha Ahmad is an avid lover of interior design and would love to have a rug for a cause in her bedroom. She lives in Long Island, New York.
Published on April 16, 2007.
Photography: Courtesy of Nying Zemo.
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