Aelfie Oudghiri hails from a long line of unconventional, artistic women. Her Turkish great-grandmother was a seamstress, and her mother, who grew up mostly in Paris, is a concert violinist and expressionist painter.
“It must be genetic or something—the more eccentric I dress, the more comfortable I feel,” reflects Aelfie, sporting a dress with eight balls in pink cowboy hats.
A passion for rugs also runs in the family. Aelfie’s mother began collecting Turkish, Persian, and Navajo rugs as a teenager, and she followed suit, inspired by a formative family trip to Istanbul. Aelfie connected with a rug dealer in the Grand Bazaar and wound up maxing out her first credit card on purchases.
Back in America, she sought out work in the manufacturing end of fashion in New York City, observing the seamstresses, dyers and pattern makers. On a lark, as she puts it, she enrolled in medical school in Budapest, Hungary.
“Most of the time I was in medical school, I was thinking about better ways to design textbooks so that the information would be more easily graspable,” admits Aelfie. She was also skipping town every chance she got, traveling the world and beginning to amass her carpet collection.
While spending summer break in Paris with relatives, a chance encounter at a hip-hop club led her to her now-husband. He was working in Morocco, and she began making regular trips to visit him and his family there. The intricate tiles and unusual color schemes made a big impression as did, of course, the textiles.
“I collect carpets with a lot of character, with a lot of imperfections and color,” she says. “I’m looking for the spirit of the woman behind the carpet or her point of view.”
After moving back to New York City and completing a religion degree at Columbia University, Aelfie began dealing carpets in 2012. Before long, she was channeling her own point of view into innovative designs for her eponymous line, Aelfie. “It’s hard for me not to make stuff,” she admits. “There’s nothing weird to me about going from something in your head to paper to material to reality.”
Before she walks to her studio in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood to get that process in motion, she relishes a slow start at home. She lounges on her living room carpet while her daughter plays, a record spins, and she drinks coffee, prepared by her husband. It’s a moment of calm before the day’s flurry of activity and color.
Aelfie says she takes regular coffee breaks at 10am and 1pm to help keep the creativity flowing. If she ever hits a block, she looks to get out of her normal routine, whether it’s traveling out of town or checking out a new neighborhood spot.
“I also find that things that are embarrassing, like freestyle rapping, help open my style up to new ideas—any novel new thing that reminds you that it’s a big world and there are lots of things to think about and do and create.”
For Aelfie, things to create have expanded recently beyond rugs to include pop-culture-inspired embroidered pillows, bedding, and bone inlay accessories and furniture. Up next is a baby collection.
“I’ve lived most of my life just pursuing curiosity; I’ve done a lot of different things but something about the infinite nature of carpet designs suits my personality,” reflects Aelfie. “I’m glad I found carpets and they found me.”
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