Those looking for a taste of Marrakesh this summer need not leave their homes: Salam Hello, an online vendor of Moroccan rugs, recently added customization to its range of offerings. The company’s latest initiative, which allows buyers to commission any of its eight most popular styles, is intended to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the company’s weavers, many of whom have been left without an income since Morocco closed its borders to tourists four months ago.
“Approximately 37 percent of Moroccan households have had no source of income since the start of quarantine in March,” says Mallory Solomon, founder of the New York–based company, which launched last summer with the mission of directly supporting the artisans, most of whom are women, behind its products. It does this in two ways: first, by buying rugs directly from the weavers at (or occasionally above) their first asking price; and second, by reinvesting a percentage of profits into the artisans’ communities.
A new page on the Salam Hello website allows users to select one of its top-requested patterns, then customize its dimensions and color palette. Extraneous requests are also accommodated—“no tassels,” for example. The company reviews and confirms each request within 24 hours, then sends it along to the weaver, who keeps Solomon (and, by extension, the customer) updated on her progress via WhatsApp. The guaranteed turnaround time is two months, plus a few extra weeks if a rug is larger than 8 by 10 feet.
“Luckily, the regions where the weavers live and work have not been hit hard with the virus, and none of the villages that our weavers live in have had any confirmed cases,” says Solomon. Still, she hopes that Salam Hello’s custom sales will help offset some of the economic hardship the virus has caused. “We feel extremely lucky to be in a position to help the weavers and continue to give them jobs to work on,” says Solomon. “In many cases, they are the breadwinner of the family.”