BizTimes Bubbler Executive of the Week: Mehran Iravani

Mehran Iravani, president of Orley Shabahang
Address: 223 E. Silver Spring Drive, Whitefish Bay
Website: www.orleyshabahang.com   
Industry: Handmade oriental rugs
Employees: 12

What prompted you to recently change your name from Shabahang Persian Carpets to Orley Shabahang?
“Orley Shabahang is a brand recognized internationally among carpet aficionados. Our name change was a strategic effort to align the branding of our original flagship store with the national store locations in Palm Beach, Fla.; New York; and Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Consistency in our brand name is an important component as we endeavor to share our passion and appreciation of the art and value of artisan carpets both locally and nationally.”

What makes your handmade carpets unique? What does your production process look like?
“For the past 70 years, the industry standard has been for handmade rugs to be produced in large factories by laborers using low-quality materials and wool. Orley Shabahang’s collection truly strands out in its design, production and customization process, which includes breeding our own sheep, hand dyeing and hand spinning our wool, and hand weaving each one-of-a-kind carpet. Our rugs are hand knotted by passionate artisans from families whose own heritage is integrally connected to the history of the craft.”

How old is your company? What has compelled you to carry on your family’s craft of creating artisan carpets?
“Our company’s origin dates back four centuries but launched in Wisconsin in 1982. I joined Orley Shabahang in 1987. My passion for artisan carpets really flourished when I learned the extensive detail and passion that goes into each of these works of art by the artisans. I believe the creation of these carpets is one of the few things in the world that remains loyal to its true form, traditions and origin. I look at these carpets as works of art rather than a nice floor covering.”

Why are you headquartered in southeastern Wisconsin? What advantages does the region offer your business?
“We are located in Wisconsin because Bahram Shabahang, our co-founder, came to Wisconsin to study. We’ve since found Milwaukee to be our home. We love Milwaukee because of all its numerous positive attributes, including the wonderfully friendly people. It’s beautiful here.”

Where do you find inspiration for the designs of your carpets?
“Our carpets are designed using influences from nature, the heritage of the area they are created in, and the historic and mystical practices and customs indigenous to the artisan.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?
“Our challenge will be to keep this dying art alive. There are so few people left in the world who know the ancient techniques to create these carpets the way they are meant to be made. The processes used to produce these rugs require patience and commitment that is truly dying very quickly with each artisan.”

Do you have a business mantra?
“Never compromise on quality.”

What was the best advice you ever received?
“An educated and happy client is the best source of advertising.”

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?
“I went to school for mechanical design engineering. When I discovered this new wonderful world of art, I never pursued that field any further.”

What do you like to do in your free time?
“I love to travel. I also love to ride my motorcycle.”

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