Weaving a Legacy – Hali

Words by James Lyall Smith
Photography by Dave Kulesza
Styling by Karin Bochnik
Hali Rugs Profile Issue 06 The Local Project Image 01

The feeling of a handmade rug under foot is one of life’s simple pleasures, evoking a sense of comfort that turns a house into a home. For over 40 years, Hali has specialised in creating these moments within Australian homes by sourcing handmade rugs to suit all budgets and styles. Founded by Ian Swart in 1979, Hali remains completely family owned and operated. His children, Dan and Rebecca, who are the fourth-generation of their family in the rug industry, look to preserve their father’s vision by bringing a modernised approach to the business that has well and truly symbolised a next generation for Hali.

“We are extremely proud of our history as a business,” says Hali Managing Director Dan Swart. “Myself and Becky have both been humbled to usher in a new generation for Hali, in the process establishing a modern approach that still stays true to the core values established by our father.” Dan and Rebecca were presented with the opportunity of guiding the new direction of the business around 2015, following over 35 years of success under Ian – an era that had established Hali as a nationwide business with a reputation for a quality rugs developed specifically to suit the Australian market. “We have spent the past half decade reaffirming our core business values, while nurturing Hali into a young and dynamic company that stands at the very forefront of quality textile design,” says Hali General Manager Rebecca Somerville. “We have spent a great amount of time modernising our branding, showrooms and marketing strategy, while maintaining our reputation as a friendly family business with the ability to leverage off our strong relationships with manufacturers and suppliers to provide a quality, comfortable and stylish product to suit any budget.”

With seven showrooms across Australia, accessibility reinforced by impeccable customer service is integral to the core strategy put in place by Dan and Rebecca, as well as the approachable family-owned-and-operated image for which Hali is known.

With seven showrooms across Australia, accessibility reinforced by impeccable customer service is integral to the core strategy put in place by Dan and Rebecca, as well as the approachable family-owned-and-operated image for which Hali is known. “We program all of our collections in order to have stock available in all standard sizes across our seven showroom locations,” says Rebecca. “We have had great success over the last few years transforming our showrooms into a destination for architects, designers, stylists and consumers that need a rug right there and now.”

Often referring to their showrooms and the friendly staff that work within them as members of ‘the Hali family’, every move that Dan and Rebecca make is guided by the core values of family, excellent service, honesty, and social responsibility. “Good culture is paramount to the success of Hali,” explains Dan. “We have an incredible team across the country that forms one large family, committed to maintaining the core values Becky and I have continued to build the business around since 2015.”

Since the very beginning, Hali has been a company with strong international ties, sourcing product and drawing inspiration from the culture, people and textiles found in India. Following in their father’s footsteps, Dan and Rebecca have been making multiple design pilgrimages to India since a very young age, spending their childhoods amongst this incredible cultural melting pot, serving to foster an inherent appreciation for quality handmade rugs. “In order to stay at the forefront of the industry, Dan travels to India around four times annually, inspecting most pieces himself and maintaining our relationships with the leading houses of design in India,” says Rebecca. “Maintaining our relationships with suppliers, some of which we have worked with for over 20 years, is truly key to quality control and paramount to the personal approach we take at Hali.”

“Myself and Becky have both been humbled to usher in a new generation for Hali, in the process establishing a modern approach that still stays true to the core values established by our father.”

Perfectionists by nature, Dan and Rebeca travel around the globe to select every single product themselves and, in many cases, design new pieces in their Melbourne studio. “We spend a great amount of time travelling to various textile and furniture fairs, including the prestigious Salone del Mobile in Milan and Maison & Objet in Paris, ensuring we are always a step ahead of the design trends here in Australia,” says Dan. “We then spend significant time in our Melbourne studio, designing textures, sizes and colour schemes, inspired directly from our travels and ensuring that our high levels of quality control are maintained throughout the process.” In between trips to India, and childhoods spent amongst textiles, the siblings devoted time to formal education, in the process obtaining skills that resonate throughout the daily operations of the business today. “I studied law/commerce and Becky interior design,” explains Dan. “Although within the business we may have different roles and responsibilities, we ensure that product selection is always a collaborative process given that this is the beating heart of the brand.”

Hali’s longstanding relationships with the top rug manufacturers in India, as well as exciting new partnerships established in more recent times, once again tie back to the concept of family that lies at the heart of Hali. Ian travelled to India individually with both Dan and Rebecca when they turned 10, and it was during these trips that their eyes were opened to a different world, as well as being exposed to the close relationships with suppliers that are paramount to the success of the business. It was on their early trips to India that Dan and Rebecca experienced firsthand the fact that quality rug manufacturing is not solely linked to beautiful textiles and innovative design practices. Ian has always been an advocate for ethical and socially responsible business practices, and this is something that Dan and Rebecca remain passionate about to this day. “Philanthropy has always been a core value of our family,” explains Dan. “As a member of the Care & Fair Foundation, we work with like-minded makers and suppliers, only sourcing rugs that are ethically produced and free from child labour. In advancing this cause, we take responsibility for our actions, protecting the people and places in which we operate and doing the right thing by our artisans.”

Dan and Rebecca also recall spending time as children at the school their father first established in the mid-1990s to provide the children of the weavers of that region in India with education and security. “Social responsibility is something our father instilled in us from a young age,” says Rebecca. “Since taking over at Hali, we have devoted a lot of time ensuring we continue our commitment to ethical rug manufacturing through our work with the Care & Fair Foundation, as well as consistent trips to visit schools located within the carpet weaving belt of India in order to make a difference on the ground.”

Shifting their focus back the product side of the business, Dan and Rebecca have launched a new custom rug program that has further established Hali as a destination for industry professionals wanting to source a quality product, with a shorter lead time. “After two years of development, we have launched our brand-new custom program,” explains Rebecca. “We are proud to say that this is the most comprehensive handmade custom selection of rugs in the industry, with no compromise on quality. Through our history of sourcing rugs from India, and the amazing relationships that have developed in the process, we have been able to offer this service at a price point that stays true to our mission of providing quality handmade rugs to suit all styles and budgets.”

With Dan and Rebecca leading the business into a new era, reinforced by a lifetime spent developing a knowledge, appreciation and passion for quality rug manufacturing, there is no doubt that the future looks bright for Hali. Despite the natural growth that comes with seven national showrooms and a dynamic approach to leadership developed over the past five years, the siblings remain committed to the core family values first established by their father over 40 years ago. By staying true to Ian’s original vision for the company, Dan and Rebecca have ensured that Hali has remained an approachable family business, with an outlook that extends beyond the common approach to textile manufacturing, in order to bring ethically produced, quality handmade rugs direct to the Australian market.