When is a custom carpet not custom? On the surface this question appears to be contradictory, yet it hints at a deeper truth. I believe that most of us, myself included, have been party to fostering the idea that any carpet made specifically for a customer is custom. I would again now – as I have attempted to do for the last several years – correct this stance and suggest the following.
When referring to carpets it is important to use the correct terminology so that everyone involved completely understands the process and we, as the speaker, command the utmost authority on the subject at hand. That is of course for most of us: Carpets. How do I mean? Hmm. Let’s examine several terms I have heard used to describe the process: Custom, Made-to Order, Tailored, and Bespoke. Each one conveys, in the grand sense, the same thing, yet with differences I feel are increasingly important.
Custom: To read the advertisements and listen to everyone speak, it would seem that everyone is making custom carpets, although in truth I don’t think this is the case. I am not saying they don’t have the capabilities to produce custom, rather they simply are not. The reason is that I view custom very narrowly, as: collaboratively designing and producing a new unique carpet for a customer, to their specifications, from scratch. This is Custom.
Example: Ima Designer brings Mister Sales a set of criteria (floor sample, picture of view, fabric samples, and the like) and he in turn, works with the designer(s) and /or artist(s) at Artisanal Carpet Makers , to create a new coordinating design specific to that situation.
Made-to-order: This is a term I favour to describe the majority of work done in the industry today. Similar to custom (and thus the “misuse”), a carpet is produced specifically for a customer, yet the design is pre-existing, and although colours, size, shape, and even minor design changes are made, the end result is not a 100% new creation, and thus is considered Made-to-Order.
Example: Dolly Decorator brings her client to see Miss Sales, at which point Miss Sales shows her wares, and they settle on an existing design. The client however dislikes “blue” and so, Miss Sales directs the staff at Amalgamated Carpet Import, to replace the blue in the carpet with another colour favourable to the situation (perhaps matching fabric samples, and the like), and that existing carpet design is altered to the clients specifications.
Tailored: I must admit I don’t know how many people have used this term as it is not one I have heard used widely, yet it is one I have used myself. When? I used it the exact same way I would use Made-to-Order, yet I now think that use was incorrect. It could be argued that in the strictest sense, tailoring a carpet would be to take a physically existing carpet, and have it physically modified to the specifications of a client.
Example: Ima Designer and Dolly Decorator approach Mister Sales with a dilemma. Their client has a “wonderful carpet that was given to her by her mother”, the only problem is the colours are a bit dated, not bad, just dated. Mister Sales then calls his friends at Universal Carpet Servicing, who specialize in over-dying. At this point, he sends the entire carpet to be over-dyed with a wash (think mid to late 90’s) to subdue the colours. Thus, the existing carpet has been Tailored.
Bespoke: Oh! This has to be my favourite if only because I am a bit of an Anglophile. Used exactly the same way as Custom, yet in British English. Its use in American English may sound a bit affected, but I’ll freely admit to that and still love its use.
Now of course, thinking of Patrick Aaron’s comments on my last post, should there be a list of manufacturers, and what kind of work they do? In this case I don’t think it is necessary, as every company can make Custom and Made-to-Order, and can Tailor a Carpet, or (if they are inclined as I would be) make Bespoke Carpets. Do they choose to do each type of work? That’s up to them. Should the industry use the “correct” words to describe the work? Absolutely!