Eclectic Rug-Designer Aelfie Oudghiri Knows That Any Good Business Needs To Start With Intuition

by Ann-Derrick Gaillot
Aelfie Oudghiri. Image courtesy of Aelfie.

When I speak to Aelfie Oudghiri, she’s in Los Angeles working to open the second location of Aelfie. While it's perhaps the toughest time in recent years to open a new business, she approaches it with the same uninhibited flair that runs through her colorful designs. “We’re just going for it,” she says over the phone. Since first entering the world of carpets in 2010 as a dealer and starting Aelfie a couple years later, Oudghiri has drawn a following of design-lovers thanks to her colorful, hand-knotted rugs and textiles.

The daughter of two builders and developers who loved decorating and art, she first got to make decisions about her space around age 14. That was when she went to boarding school and saw how much weight things like bedding and pillows carried in creating a much-needed sense of home. Later, when Oudghiri entered her angstier years, she rebelled by painting her home bedroom black. Her designs today, including bedding and accessories, embrace a lighter aesthetic, taking cues from pop culture and vintage motifs.

Image courtesy of Aelfie.

Recently, Oudghiri spoke with Elite Daily about her ambitions for her company, lessons she’s learned along the way, and what she’s looking forward to.

How did you turn your interest in home decor and design into a business?

I think I've always been business-minded. I like the idea of creating things that could be out in the world and in people's homes. I've always been trying to sell things. Even when I was little, I would make t-shirts and little things like that. I never thought about making art and not making it available for other people. It was just kind of a natural progression.

When you started Aelfie, what change did you want to bring to the industry?

When I started designing carpets, there was absolutely nowhere in the world where you could find a fun, contemporary, hand-knotted or hand-constructed carpet. They were mostly really, really high end and more traditional or more contemporary. It seemed to me like there weren't a lot of options. I had been working in antique textiles and vintage textiles, and I came from the design process with those sorts of things in mind. Traditional motifs, traditional colors, traditional scales, but with a really modern twist.

How have your ambitions for Aelfie changed over the past eight years?

At first I wasn't really sure what I was doing. I knew I was making some things that maybe my friends would be interested in. When I realized that there was a way wider audience for it, I thought, what if I could compete with West Elm or one of those kinds of companies and do a whole assortment of goods? For a little while, we introduced furniture and pillows and bedding and blankets and towels and all sorts of things. But ultimately I've come back to mostly carpets. I like that, as a company, we stay focused and committed to ethical manufacturing and maintaining traditional crafts.

What’s the biggest lesson or truth you’ve learned so far in running Aelfie?

Don't worry too much about the money. As a business owner, I think it can be easy to be guided by what sells really well or what you think will sell really well or things that have big margins. I would also say just follow your intuition. Lots of people will have lots of bad advice. Lots of people will just have lots of advice in general. And if you're intuitive enough to start a business and be your own boss, just remember to continue to follow your intuition.

Aelfie Oudghiri. Photo by Heidi's Bridge. Image courtesy of Aelfie.

What do you think makes someone a good entrepreneur?

I have problems with authority. I don't think it's possible to be an entrepreneur if you don't have a problem with authority. Why would you want to start something otherwise? You have to be driven to not want to work for somebody, I think that's a main drive for so many people, but you have to be collaborative. Having morals is really important, treating people with respect. And I think those things might go hand in hand with having issues with authority or taking orders blindly.

Right now is a really good time to be an entrepreneur. It's incredibly easy with the internet. The way we do business in America is shifting. The way people work has been shifting for a long time. We're all kind of entrepreneurs now. It used to be you would work somewhere for 40 years, but now that just isn't the case.

What are you excited about for Aelfie moving forward?

I'm looking forward to working with more and more artists, which is something we've started to do over the past couple of years. I used to do all of the design work myself, and then I found my eye wandering. I found myself wanting to make work that looks like other people's work. And instead of ripping anybody off, I thought I should just work with them. So we've been doing a lot more artist collaborations.

The production of the new lines that we're working on are especially eco-conscious, so that's something that I'm also looking forward to. I'm working with this NGO called Work+Shelter. They have people on the ground in India that are researching different materials and how they biodegrade over time and which ones are the most ecological. Their whole supply chain is – from beginning to end – very clean, using biodegradable materials, inks that are less bad for the earth. And then the labor itself, it's a cooperative of women and all the money goes to them. So I'm excited for that.