Madras Plaid and The Manshu Collection
Madras Plaid and The Manshu Collection

Madras Plaid and The Manshu Collection

Was it the colour or was it the design? If you were to have already read how Colour is a Sexy Date, then the answer should be straightforward and readily apparent: It’s the colour, then the design, then the synergistic effects of the two combined. Surely we can have a carpet with beautiful colour but lacklustre to to mediocre design just as we can have a stunning design with banal to trendy colour. In either case, what could have been an amazing carpet simply isn’t because it doesn’t work as a cohesive whole. But what about when it does work? The ones where all the factors come together into an object of undeniable beauty. What about those stunning and noteworthy carpets? Let us find out as we look at the fantastic carpets in the Manshu Collection from Mischioff. [Editor’s note, 15 June 2019: The collection is now discontinued.]

'Manshu 1608' by Mischioff | Image courtesy of Mischioff.
‘Manshu 1608’ by Mischioff | Image courtesy of Mischioff.

I vividly recall the first time I encountered this carpet and still to this day I love everything about it. Now, in order to spare you the necessity of tracking down my previous comments on this carpet from the DOMOTEX 2012 review I will quote: ‘It is no secret I love tartans (plaids) and that I am kind of a pushover for classic designs and patterns, so it should come as no shock that this carpet speaks to me. Checks! Houndsthooth! Tartans! Deconstructed Plaids! And on top of it all, the design is rotated forty-five (45) degrees so that the straight lines run on the bias of the warp and weft. It’s bright, it’s colourful, it’s playful and it says ‘I’m my own person for buying this.’

'Manshu 1608' by Mischioff shown in detail. | Image courtesy of Mischioff.
‘Manshu 1608’ by Mischioff shown in detail. | Image courtesy of Mischioff.

And that ladies and gentlemen is what great (timeless) design is about: self-expression. Three (3) years hence and I am still thinking about the collection and in particular the above design 1608 (I know, I know, it could have a slightly better name) wondering what kind of amazing living room this carpet would complete, when the so-called article Print Play: The History of Madras Plaid scrolls across my Facebook timeline. Aside from chortling at the use of the word history, I also had a hearty laugh at the idea of Madras Plaids being back en vogue or as we have to say these days: ‘On Trend.’ This is not a fabric that is trendy, this is a staple. Sure its popularity waxes and wanes in the common downmarket world of H&M (How else would you sell new clothes each season?), but in the nicer prêt-à-porter boutiques of say the preppy, Brooks Brothers wearing, summering in the Hamptons crowd, Madras Plaid has never gone out of style. It remains a superior example of design that is both aspirational and establishment, timeless and popular, subtle and bold, ‘Go to Hell‘ even!

For those not familiar; Madras Plaid fabric (in either woven or patchwork) is ‘a lightweight cotton fabric with typically patterned texture and plaid design, used primarily for summer clothing such as pants, shorts, dresses, ties, and jackets. The fabric takes its name from the former name of the city of Chennai, India.’ The sample of Patchwork Madras Plaid fabric shown below is highly reminiscent of a pair of shortpants I owned in High School circa 1992 – a pair that would have come from some downmarket aspirational shop just to be clear. And while I am sure everyone can see where all of this is going, let’s indulge those who do not with some exposition!

Madras Plaid has been used in clothing for generations. Shown here in detail is a pair of Bermuda shorts made by GAP. | Image courtesy of Thrift Store Preppy.
Madras Plaid has been used in clothing for generations. Shown here in detail is a pair of Bermuda shorts made by GAP. | Image courtesy of Thrift Store Preppy.

Voilà! It’s now readily apparent and I know now why I unabashedly love these carpets from Mischoiff. They treat contemporary carpet design in the manner I find most appropriate, which is to say that they draw inspiration from our current experience and translate it into a carpet – just as generations of ‘traditional’ modernist rug makers have done before. (Here’s another great example of that!) But moreover it reminds me of my youth, aspiring to summer (as a verb) on Long Island, err I mean, in The Hamptons. But enough talk of my youth and fanciful Indian fabrics made popular by clever marketing (while not overlooking the inherent beauty of the work), and let us return to the Manshu Carpets.

The visual appeal of the carpets is the same as that of Madras Fabric, or a well planned rustic quilt, or any other patchwork textile including the recently en vogue patchwork Turkish (and now everywhere) carpets. But as any rug snob will tell you the real beauty lies not only in the design, but also and in tandem with the construction. The Manshu carpets are made in India utilizing a Turkish Knot and handspun Himalayan highland wool. Unlike quilts or patchwork carpets however, these carpets are knotted as a single piece which, according to Mischioff’s marketing (and my own experience), yields a more durable longer lasting carpet. But wait!? Has not The Ruggist been critical of those who make new single piece carpets that mimic the look of patchwork carpets? Yes I have and I stand by that assertion. The Manshu carpets are different (of course they are because I like them) in that they are not knocking off another carpet design, rather they are adapting an existing patchwork design to carpets. Potato, potato, (Po-tay-toe, Pa-tah-tow for those lost on English idiomatic expressions) but an important distinction none the less.

'Manshu 1632' by Mischioff | Image courtesy of Mischioff.
‘Manshu 1632’ by Mischioff | Image courtesy of Mischioff.

Here we have another example of the patchwork carpets of this collection and while the specific colour palette and design do not speak to me personally, it remains, none the less a great carpet. Perhaps in an ideal world where we would all have summer and winter carpets, this would be the light and airy summer carpet (with lighter coloured slipcovers on the furniture of course), whereas the former would be the warm and cozy, gemütlichkeit fostering winter carpet.  How continental that would be.

'Manshu 1633B' by Mischioff | Image courtesy of Mischioff.
‘Manshu 1633B’ by Mischioff | Image courtesy of Mischioff.

And for your final viewing pleasure today, we present a version of the carpet that up until the current resurgence of colour in the marketplace was all but guaranteed to please. Black, white, beige, and grey all rolled into a single carpet. Why have just one colour that “goes with everything” when you can have them all! Certainly there is a degree of irony in that statement but there is also a degree of sophistication to this colouration that is not to be found in the others; the colours and designs of the “individual” patches do have a Chanel-like quality about them after all.

But what about the fussiness of all the patterns you may ask? As much as I would love to give you my opinion, I feel we must defer to a far more reputable intellectual source than myself. With that, I’ll dare reference the aforementioned “article” and paraphrase the quote from Albert Einstein “Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, [putting] stripes with plaid comes easy.” So there we have it, carpets perfectly suited for eccentric geniuses with dubious fashion sensibilities. All jest aside, it’s obvious these carpets aren’t for everyone, but then again no one carpet is, and for that we can thankful.