We had the good fortune of connecting with Alia Kate and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alia, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I started Kantara, my Moroccan rug design business, almost 13 years ago after living in Morocco in 2006 for a year and a half. Normally, I travel to Morocco two to three times a year. I work directly with artisans in villages throughout Morocco to source and custom design Moroccan rugs. These Moroccan partners are close friends, and in some cases, adopted family. We’re driven by the same basic principles — a passion for Moroccan rugs and an awe for the beauty of these heirloom pieces. The single factor that has been most influential in Kantara’s success is cross-cultural communication and connection. 

Especially now, at a time when instant communication is at our fingertips, it’s easy to discount this level of communication and take it for granted. But when I started Kantara, technology was limited and it was much more difficult to stay in touch with the artisans.

At this point, I’ve probably visited the country 20 times. Every time I learn something new. Every time it gets a tiny bit easier. And all of these skills are directly transferable to how I interface with my clients in Los Angeles and beyond. For instance when I arrange for a custom rug to be woven, my job is to correctly translate what is in my client’s head into a design format. And then translate the design to the artisans so they may breathe life into the design and weave the most perfect custom Moroccan rug.

And for clients who are shopping in my Los Angeles showroom, I love helping them design their space. It’s easy to get wrapped up in thinking about the rug as a singular object, but the beauty of these Moroccan rugs is in how they interact and play off of the entire space. It’s about that first feeling you have when you walk into a space with a new Moroccan rug in it. It’s a magic feeling and I know it well. I get it every time I unpack a new batch of rugs. And I’m thrilled when my clients get that feeling as well!

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Since 2008 I have worked with a number of different artisan cooperatives around Morocco to source and custom weave a wide variety of Moroccan rugs. My business really accelerated in 2019 when, after dozens of trips back and forth to Morocco, I launched Kantara Tours (http://www.kantaratours.com). Shortly after launching the travel business, the pandemic hit. You can imagine the rest. When it became clear that travel would be postponed for the foreseeable future, I pivoted back to the rugs and launched Kantara’s first brick and mortar — The Rug Shop (http://www.bit.ly/TheRugShop), in Eagle Rock with Mikael Kennedy of King Kennedy Rugs (http://www.kingkennedyrugs.com). In retrospect, I feel very grateful that I had multiple irons in the fire, which has allowed me to shift between these two ventures so seamlessly.

At the core, these two ventures draw from the same source. Kantara, my Moroccan rug business, is based on my connections to artisans and weavers throughout the Middle and High Atlas mountains. Similarly, Kantara Tours is also based on these same connections and so much more. Between the launch of Kantara Tours and getting settled in a new showroom for my Moroccan rugs, I’ve managed to stay incredibly busy this last year. In some ways, I’ve had more contact with folks in Morocco this year than in any previous year. My morning routine involves near daily communication with folks in Morocco via Whatsapp to check in on the status of custom Moroccan rugs and large rug orders.

This has been a blessing in disguise because it has kept me focused and busy while quarantining at home. I am very proud of having launched all of these big projects in the last two years and not losing sight of the end goal. As for travel, I am confident that things will pick up again soon. From conversations with clients and friends, I know that people are eager to hit the road again, travel internationally, and go on big trips. When that time comes and when it’s finally safe to travel, I’ll be up and running and ready to go. On both a personal and professional level, I’m beyond excited to get back to Morocco, to see old friends, reacquaint myself with the country, buy more rugs (this time in person!), and start leading trips again!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
One thing you should know about me is that I LOVE making itineraries. It’s part of the reason that I started my boutique Moroccan tour business. If a friend were visiting, I would make sure they got a well-rounded taste of LA— from nightlife to culture, from adventure to cuisine. Top of the list is swinging by the LA Flower market (http://originallaflowermarket.com/) on a Saturday morning. We might stroll down Santee alley while we’re downtown. We’d probably go hiking in Griffith or if we were feeling more adventurous, we’d go climbing at Point Dume in Malibu. On Monday night, we’d be sure to hit up Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale for adult skate night. And no visit is complete without eating our way through the city —  current favorites are Jewel (https://www.jewel-la.com/) in Silver Lake, Kitchen Mouse (https://www.kitchenmousela.com/) in Highland Park, and Shiraz (https://www.shirazrestaurant.net/) for Iranian food in Glendale — there are more options of Persian food in the heart of ‘Teherangeles’, but Shiraz is close to me and the Fessenjan is so tasty!. These LA activities would also be paired with fun adventures outside of the city — visits to Anza Borrego, Morro Bay, Joshua Tree, Deep Creek Hot Springs, and dispersed camping in the Alabama Hills, to name a few.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Two things got me through the rollercoaster of 2020. On the personal side of things, I started reading fiction again. And when I say “reading,” I mean “devoured.” Which is what I did to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower series. That, in turn, was a gateway to N. K. Jemisin’s Fifth Season series. Which then opened the floodgates to the pantheon of N. K. Jemisin’s entire written works (shoutout to N. K. Jemisin!). In both of these women’s written works, they introduce the reader to fictionalized worlds or dystopian futures as a way to contemplate serious issues of oppression, representation, systemic inequities, and climate change. In many cases, what I was reading in these pages mirrored closely the events of the last year — from the racial justice protests that rose up in response to the police killing of George Floyd, to the wildfires ravaging across all of the Western states, to the never-ending outrage cycle that characterized our election season. Reading these books both comforted me and challenged me to think deeper about the world around me. 

On the business side of things, I want to shout out Morgan Evans’ executive coaching program (https://thisisbusinesscasual.com/services/homeroom/). I stumbled upon this program during the first week that Los Angeles instituted its county-wide lockdown. I joined the first meeting of Homeroom and was blown away by Morgan’s facilitation, the types of conversations that we had, and the level of support I found among near-strangers. Little did I know that this small group of bad-ass business owners would become my rock over the following five months. With the support of Morgan as an expert facilitator and the other members of the group we were able to incubate new ideas and test out new ways of being. So much creativity came out of our bi-weekly conversations and I’m grateful that I was able to tap into this bad-ass community of fellow business-owners.

Website: www.kantararugs.com
Instagram: @MoroccanRugs
Facebook: facebook.com/moroccorugs
Other: To make an appointment to visit The Rug Shop, visit: bit.ly/KantaraLA
For information on Kantara Tours, visit: www.KantaraTours.com or @KantaraMorocco

Image Credits
Mikael Kennedy

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