June 21, 2020Nazmiyal Collection, in Midtown Manhattan, is a wonderland of antique and vintage rugs spanning centuries and cultures, from 17th-century Persian Kirman carpets to mid-century modern creations by Märta Måås-Fjetterström to art rugs by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Joan Mirò and Paul Klee. This variety has made it a premier source for exceptional floor coverings
“Right now, I have one of the biggest inventories in the world, with over three thousand fine and decorative pieces,” says owner Jason Nazmiyal, noting that the vast array reflects his voracious appetite for rugs of all kinds. “I like everything,” he says. “My taste varies from third-century Coptic textiles to mid-twentieth-century Moroccan and Scandinavian rugs.”
As a result, even as Nazmiyal Collection sells directly to homeowners, it also remains a favorite among such top-tier designers as Michael S. Smith, Victoria Hagan and Thomas Jayne. “You always know you’re going to see some beautiful things there,” says Jayne, who estimates he has purchased more than a hundred rugs from Nazmiyal over the years. “A lot of rug dealers are very technically conscious. They talk about how many knots a carpet has and all the points of connoisseurship that add value, but Nazmiyal understands the artistic value as well. Sometimes, how a rug appears gives it as much value as how it was made.”
Nazmiyal hails from Iran and has sold more than his fair share of Persians, but it would be wrong to assume that his success grew directly from a multigenerational family business that he took over or inherited. Instead, his story is a classic American tale of hard work, perseverance and creativity.
Raised in Tehran, Nazmiyal was the son of a restaurateur. When the Iranian Revolution began, in 1979, he was a teenager. His parents sent him and his brother to study at American University, in Washington, D.C., and in the years that followed, as the value of the Iranian toman plummeted, he was left on his own with little financial assistance. “I worked as a busboy, pumping gas and doing whatever I could to support my tuition,” says Nazmiyal, who studied computer science.
After graduation, in the early 1980s, while searching for a way to make ends meet, he accompanied a cousin who had gotten into the rug business on a delivery run to Short Hills, New Jersey. There, they spied an empty 700-square-foot storefront and decided to set up a carpet shop of their own, together with Nazmiyal’s brother. “We knew nothing and were learning every day,” says Nazmiyal. After many long hours and much heavy lifting, they developed a solid customer base. They expanded the store into a larger space next door and opened a second New Jersey outpost, in Morristown.
By 1995, Nazmiyal was ready for his next challenge. He decamped to Manhattan, where he established a wholesale operation focused on supplying rugs to other dealers. Business was brisk, and he attracted clients around the world.
It seemed like a wise move, up until the economic fallout of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, disrupted his operation. “After that, it became so hard to collect money from the dealers,” says Nazmiyal, who was left with a stockpile of antique rugs that weren’t going anywhere.
Looking for a remedy, Nazmiyal drew on his training in computer science. He decided to once again sell directly to consumers and designers, as well as through auction houses, but to extend his strategy online. He generated informative, SEO-focused blog articles about the design and manufacture of rugs and worked hard to get his content noticed by search engines. “Every other rug dealer was laughing at us,” says Nazmiyal. “They asked, ‘Who would buy a rug without seeing and touching it in person?’ They said it was impossible to sell online.” (The experience will sound familiar to many 1stDibs dealers.)
Of course, it was anything but impossible. Nazmiyal’s business flourished. The digital pivot also prepared his company to remain strong during the current pandemic. “More people than ever have been visiting our site, reading our articles, searching our inventory and requesting more information,” he says.
As the years ticked by, he added modern and custom carpets to his showroom’s offerings, in response to client requests. His greatest passion, however, remains seeking out old rugs with remarkable designs and colors. “Antique and vintage rugs are unique. Each piece has its own extraordinary story to tell,” he says. “But finding good examples is difficult, and becoming even more so with each passing year.”
Nazmiyal hunts every day for rugs to add to his collection and purchases about 10 of the best examples he can find each week. That positions him well to take advantage of the return to bold hues and patterns that he foresees.
“Over the past ten years, we saw a trend toward minimalism, with less color and less design, where they worked with texture” in rugs, Nazmiyal says. “Nowadays, the trend is coming strongly back toward color and design.”
For people now taking a second look at antique rugs, he adds, it is an excellent moment to buy. “I’ve been in business for over thirty-five years, and there has never been a time when antique rugs were this inexpensive and available,” he says. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity.”
Jason Nazmiyal shares his thoughts on a few choice pieces