Industry Profile: Aigars Zelmenis of FRONT London

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Aigars Zelmenis is the genius mind at the helm of esteemed rug brand, FRONT London. With an unrivalled eye for contemporary design, and a background in interiors stemming back to childhood, Aigars burst into the industry spotlight almost a decade ago, and has since become the authority on contemporary rug design.

FRONT London is the first – and only – rug showroom in the UK to exclusively present the world’s most awarded and innovative designers, Jan Kath and Michaela Schleypen. Aigars and the FRONT team will be joining us at Decorex 2014 as part of our Decorex...In The Making series, flying in their skilled Master Weaver all the way from Nepal to demonstrate the intricate work behind these iconic rugs.

We caught up with Aigars to find out more about his passions, advice, and involvement with the show...

What first drew you into the world of interior design? 

Interior design and architecture have always been my passion. As a child, I was often travelling with my sister who was a tour guide at Rundale Palace, the baroque gem of Baltic countries, as well as the medieval and art nouveau districts of Riga. As a result, the most beautifully decorated interiors and medieval architecture sites became my playground.

In 2005 my good friend Edgars Zadusko and I went to Italy to the ceramic tiles exhibition Cersaie. We were amazed by how beautiful bathroom interiors can be. We also realised the big difference between products available in local shops and the new collections presented at the exhibition. That was the very moment that Edgars and I decided to open our own interior design store.

We opened the doors to the public on the 5th December 2005. Since that first day we have been sourcing the latest, finest quality and award winning collections from the best names in design.

Jan Kath | Erased Heritage, Tabriz Canal Rocked

Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration? 

I am inspired by architecture, art and different cultures. I love modern and contemporary art exhibitions. I enjoy good literature, theatre, opera, concerts and movies. I also love travelling and exploring new countries and cultures.

My recent doses of inspiration came from the “Fur in Fashion” exhibition at the Fashion Museum in Antwerp, the production of ‘Sleep No More’ in New York and a trip to Ethiopia where I visited local tribes in the Omo river valley.

Michaela Schleypen | Lotus - Blue

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

My professional life is very dynamic due to the new collections, product groups or showroom launches as well as working on exciting projects with many top-level architects and interior designers across Europe. Starting the business in 2005, the launch of the design rugs showroom in Moscow in 2010 and the launch of the London showroom in 2013 have been highlights in each of those years.

Jan Kath | ArtWork

What is the biggest challenge in your working life?

My challenge is to grow the business while retaining the boutique feeling at the same time. I want my clients to receive a very sincere and personal level of service in all our stores. I have a great team who share these values and helps every client to feel welcome and heard.

If you could describe your work in 3 points, what would they be?

  1. Flames in the eyes for everything we do
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Drive or ambition

Michaela Schleypen | Lotus - Sandy

What would you say is your favourite part of your work?  

I love presenting our designers’ creations to our clients. When I see their sincere appreciation of each new collection I know we are on the right track. Those moments bring me a lot of positive energy.

I also enjoy every complex project that requires a high level of attention to detail and creative solutions. This helps us to become better in what we do.

Jan Kath | Spacecrafted

If you could design a space anywhere, or any product, or work with any designer, what would it be?

I enjoy working with every great interior designer and their teams. We have already worked on the offices of prime ministers, presidential palaces, super yachts as well as many inspiring residential spaces.

I would like to work on a contemporary church project one day. This would be a great challenge to create an interior for a spiritual space where people seek contemplation as well as ways to become a better person.

Michaela Schleypen | Woodheart

What would be your favourite object in your own home?

A rug! Not only can it be a decorative and precious piece of art, but also gives cosiness and freedom of movement. You can walk on it, play on it, lay on it…

If you could sum Decorex up in 20 words what would they be?

No 1 exhibition for high-end interior design in the UK. An inspirational playground for true interior design professionals.

Jan Kath | Erased Heritage - Tabriz Fashion Vendetta

As part of the Decorex...In The Making installations, can you tell us a little about FRONT’s plans for the show?

We will set up a loom and bring one of our best master weavers from Nepal to show the creation of the rug from Jan Kath’s Erased Heritage collection. This is the most complex collection as it unifies traditional oriental patterns with contemporary distressed effects made of the best quality silk. When the rug is finished, it is burned and washed to achieve the look of a vintage rug. Naturally, Jan Kath named it as his Magnum Opus.

We will also invite Decorex visitors to try hand-knotting themselves and appreciate the high level of craftsmanship that a designer rug requires.

Jan Kath | Erased Heritage - Serapi Queensbury Sky

As a renowned figure within the industry, what would your advice be for aspiring designers?

Bring fresh ideas, inspiration and make people happier with your creations. To do it well, love your clients, observe them and hear what they say.

What does the future hold for FRONT? 

We launched seven great rug collections and revolutionised the hand-knotted rug industry in 2014. I promise: we will keep you surprised!

Michaela Schleypen | Oceanstone

Register for Decorex 2014 to see FRONT London in our In The Making feature live at the show!

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