It’s 2017 and there are probably two thousand seventeen different skate companies to choose from. With each brand trying to make a name for itself, it can get stale pretty quickly. Trends are easy to follow and easier to spot; few small brands manage to stand out.
After getting tired of poor quality samples received from manufacturers, Ayman and Osama Abdeldayem, owners of the Maryland-based Carpet Company, decided to do all the work themselves by turning their family’s basement into a factory and warehouse. In an incredibly short period of time, Carpet has become known and respected for making products of the absolute highest quality. While it may not be apparent to most, those who have held their product hold it to such a high regard when thinking of the best new skate brands. We hopped on the phone with the two brothers for some insight on the brand and their bright future.
Alright, so let’s just jump right into it; why don’t you guys tell me a bit about how you started Carpet Company and how you came to the name?
Ayman: We always wanted to start something, and we used to work with this company back in the day where we learned how to order boards and how to send graphics over and whatnot. We were originally going to call our brand The Reading Company, but there ended up being a school book publication company with the name. Then Carpet Company just clicked and we ended up sticking with it.
Osama: I think the biggest reason we started the company is that we have a lot of ideas, but we just can’t really express them to other people. We were getting really tired of coming up with an idea and then we’d hire someone and explain it to them and they’d send us items that would be ill-fitting or the colors would be off; it wouldn’t be the quality that we wanted. So then we were like, “Let’s just make it ourselves“. That’s how we started.
So had you ever screenprinted before starting the brand? Everything you guys put out seems really professional and clean.
O: We never screenprinted before. We just bought a screenprinting machine, like “It should be pretty easy”. So, we tried to print and it was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. We just kept stressing and failing. It was just 8 months of failing and finally, we started producing stuff. A lot of YouTube videos and questions, asking anybody that knew anything about screenprinting. We started trying to build screens to make boards and we literally failed for months and months. And it’s funny, a lot of people are terrified of CMYK printing, and we just lacked so much knowledge that we tried it right away and it was the biggest doo-doo. Horrible. And eventually, the first graphic we did was a 4 color half-tone CYMK print on a skateboard. We finagled it after like 8 months.
Well, it seems like you guys have worked through the learning curve. How much time did you put into the recent Carpet Co. drop?
O: You have no idea. When we get out of work, we’re working on everything until midnight or one o’clock, every day. There’s no end, really. Then we’ll think we’re finished, but Ayman will come up an idea and we end up just doing it. That’s part of why we started the company. We had all these ideas that nobody was doing because they cost a lot of money. You can’t really hire anybody to sew bags for packaging. We just wanted to learn how to do everything so we could make something different.
I think that’s one of the most appealing things about your brand. The customization of every detail is insane. How did you start making custom packaging?
A: There’s a kid who lives in our town and he happened to be the first person to order a shirt online. We could have just given it to him in person, but since he paid for shipping, I wanted to make it look like we shipped it to his house. We had these random craft paper bags and sewed a couple together to make a package and it ended up looking pretty cool. I ran into him at the skatepark and just gave it to him. He seemed pretty hyped on it and he’s been ordering every drop. We pick out the paper, sew the edges, screenprint the paper… It usually takes around 20-30 extra minutes on each package just showing them some tender love.
There are a bunch of really respected shops carrying your goods. How did you go about getting your product to retailers?
O: The first thing was that we have a good relationship with a lot of people in our area and the shop we skate for, Bureau. The owner is really into quality and he was digging our stuff. When he got it, he posted a photo on Instagram and we ended up getting some followers from other skate shops. And immediately we had a shop in Tennessee hit us up and when they posted it, another shop hit us up. It was just one of those things where it was a trickle effect; it just kind of expanded. The worst part was when we finished this winter season, we were like, “Finally. Let’s just post it on the website and relax”. And then we woke up with a bunch of orders to ship. We’re in the basement making packages like, “Man, I thought we could relax.”
That TLC certainly explains Carpet’s appeal, from a quality standpoint. What’s up with these embroidered skateshop prayer rugs that I keep seeing?
O: We went on a skate trip in Dubai, and we went to this market where they had all these Turkish-made prayer rugs. They were cheap for good quality rugs, so we bought 40 of them to throw in the box for shops the first time they order from us. And when we got our embroidery machine running, we came up with the idea to embroider the shop’s name on the rug. Ever since we posted those rugs, shops have been hitting us up like, “Hey can we carry your stuff?” We’re kind of running out of rugs now [laughs].
You mentioned working on Carpet Company after getting out of work. What do you guys do for your day jobs?
A: I’m a Mission Communications IT Specialist at NASA. Basically, I have a team of contractors and a project that I work on. I pretty much tell them, “Go do this, do that”, and they report to me. Then I present it at meetings once a month.
O: I work for basically the equivalent of Con Edison, but for the DC/Maryland area. We do the electricity for stadiums and the White House and other buildings. I’m a Distribution Engineer, so pretty much like Ayman, I have a bunch of people who work under me and they all design things, and I review and approve them. When a new building goes up, we have to organize everything so they get electricity, blah blah blah.
So you guys got real, big boy jobs…
O: Yeah, but I think both of us are kind of over it. I mean, we can both handle our jobs, but our mentality and vision is a little past that. We’ll both get home from work, just drained, but we’ll walk straight down to the basement and start screenprinting. No matter how tired we are, we have a lot of energy for Carpet.
A: Yeah, for the legs board, I remember I came home from work and Osama already had the screen made.
O: Ayman is a pretty big critic. I’ll have a thousand ideas, but there will be only one that’s good enough for Ayman.
A: Yeah, if I let Osama do everything by himself, we’d be making turtlenecks and leather socks.
O: Dude, leather socks are so good. Don’t worry I’ll get you in a pair of leather socks.
A: Dude, leather socks are so bad.
O: That’s what I’m talking about. I come up with great ideas.
A: Somebody has to shut him down.
O: Believe me, 2024, they’re going to be coming out with leather socks. If Supreme came out with leather socks, people would be all over it. They’re made to be worn outside. Like, walking around on the street –
A: Alright, let’s move on…
So you guys are Egyptian and Muslim. There’s a lot of Arab imagery in the gear you make. How does your background influence your design process?
A: I don’t think there are any Muslim-owned skate companies. Not that we’re going for the “Muslim-owned” thing, but with the prayer rugs, for example, anyone can see those and be psyched on them, but we see it from a different angle.
O: Yeah, we try to make things that may have an Arab focus, but aren’t too hard to digest for non-Muslims. There aren’t too many skate companies that are coming out with gear that has an Arab twist to it, so we try to throw it in low key. Not to get too political, but coming from a language and a culture that’s being hated on pretty hard right now, being able to express that culture in a way that’s cool to us and to other people is an upside. Seeing anything with Arabic writing is kind of creepy to some people; it makes them uncomfortable.
You guys are growing rapidly and have both a dedicated fanbase and an undeniable work ethic to constantly make it better. Do you ever worry about burning out or running out of ideas?
A: [laughs] Surprisingly, not at all. I wish we could put out all the ideas we have every season, but we have to narrow it down. Our ideas from when we first started are ideas that we would never use today. It’s been crazy to see how much we’ve learned within a year. There are a lot of graphics we look at today and we’re like “What were we thinking?!”
What other brands influence you?
A: There’s a company in Europe called Yardsale. They’re so sick. They make boards and clothes, basically what we do, really cool stuff that I’m really hyped on.
O: Yeah, they basically make what we would want to make if we didn’t have to do it ourselves and the people who we’d pay to do it would do it right. Yardsale kills it. Whenever we come up with new stuff, no one does it, then like a month before we got the boards, a company will do it before we can. Like, Ayman wanted to do a white washed board –
A: And Quasi did it.
O: Yeah, Quasi did it and he got mad.
A: Not mad, but just…we knew it was coming.
O: Yeah, Quasi kills it. Polar too.
A: Pontus will send us photos of stuff of their spring season and it’s like exactly what we want. I also look up to him because he works so far in advance. He’ll send us pictures of stuff that he’s coming out with in 2018. It’s already manufactured and he has photos of it all. And we’re sitting here a week behind schedule, still need to order boards and we’re supposed to come out with them next week.
How did you guys form a relationship with Pontus?
A: Labor ordered from us and posted a pic that was getting a bunch of love on Instagram. Then I was looking at my phone and it was like, “@polarskateco likes your photo, @polarskateco likes your photo, commented, @polarskateco follows you.” Then we posted a video of us screenprinting the boards and he commented saying he would love to screenprint boards someday. He liked the colors we were choosing and we just commented back and forth a little bit and that lead to him asking if we would screenprint some posters for Polar. We’re excited, but also anxious because we don’t want to give him something he’s not happy with. And at the same time, we’re busy doing our stuff with Carpet. Hopefully one day we could print a board together. I think that’d be sick.
O: Pontus is not a guy that holds back. He’s very communicative and he doesn’t act like he’s cool. He talks back and forth a lot and whatever questions we have, he’ll follow it up with some inspirational photos or something to motivate us.
A: We just got Generator wood for our next boards. And I was talking to Pontus and he was like, “Yeah, they can take a long time to make boards so, if you want, you can have these Polar blanks.” And we were like, “Whaaat??”. So I guess we’re going to have Polar blanks for our next boards.
How do you guys manage to upkeep quality control seeing as how each and every deck is personally worked on individually?
A: Trust me, a lot of the boards that people get have hidden pimples. Some things that they probably look right past, but if you were to give me any board or shirt, I could tell you exactly what flaw it has.
O: We know every flaw and the day it happened. Now it’s pretty easy, we don’t struggle as much. But in the beginning, every board had its own struggles and we put that quote on the bag based on how many mistakes we made. Most people probably wouldn’t like that, but we thought it was cool.
A: I think we started screenprinting on the bags because the bag was dirty and we printed over it.
O: Or if a board got dirty, we would stain it or gloss it differently and come up with a different end result. I think just learning from our mistakes by trying to cover it with something cooler is kind of how we created a lot of our stuff.
With you guys being so hands-on, how long does it take you to make one board order complete?
O: If I had to say on average, each board probably gets a total of 2-3 hours of hands on love [laughs].
So with all these huge developments, what else do you guys have coming up?
A: For next season, we have boards coming out, four different graphics. For one of them, we’re doing this collab board with a band called Turnstile. We know the guys in the band; they live around here. They’re super sick, so I’m hyped to do a board with them. They have a huge following too, so we’re going to make 100 boards for them that all come with a screenprinted dollar bill. And then we’re going to come out with a bunch of shirts. And I guess all the boards would be on Polar boards. It’s going to be different for us.
O: Also looking at where we are right now, we’re just in our family’s basement. So we’re trying to get a warehouse and expand. We have so many boxes of clothes and we have two screenprinting machines and big dryers and flash units. It’s just really cluttered. So we’re trying to move into something with some open space. And we’ll probably look to hire somebody for an internship.
You were surprised with the designs that you initially wanted to start out with a year ago, but now you’d never pursue those same ideas. With that in mind, where do you see the brand going in the next five years?
A: Ah man, to be honest, I have no idea. I want to say where our heads are now is where I imagine it being. But that can’t be right just looking at the the past stuff from just a year ago. I’m hoping in 5 years we can have a warehouse with some employees and have it as a full-time operation.
O: These days, so much is corporate and so much money is just flying around. When people see things being mass produced I think there is a really empty void in that partnership with the items they purchase. There’s no connection, no love. In five years, we don’t really plan on changing too much. Just hope to have a bigger team and be able to put in the same amount of work in each item like we do now. We want each person to feel like what they got was made just for them. So much love and time spent on something that they will enjoy. To be honest, we aren’t looking for shortcuts, we are looking for ways to make people more happy with what they just bought. It’s a tough thing but that’s what people appreciate most, I think.
Before I let you both off of the hook, what’s one product that you’ve made so far, that you’re proudest of? I know, I know, I’m asking you to pick your favorite child in front of the whole family. [laughs]
A: Hmm, to be honest, the glitter board was my favorite so far. Nobody really knows how much actually went into those. I mixed paints on those so that it’s different colors at certain angles. Kind of like a really bad but passable chameleon paint. And then the glitter just added to it. Every board is super different from the next. Sad thing is I sold them all without even noticing before I had a chance to skate one.
O: My favorite one was the 6 color Asian lady board we made. Ayman did not want to lay 6 colors on a board because we figure it would go wrong in way too many ways. But having them come out how we wanted it to was definitely an accomplishment. We’re hyped on our new stuff for this coming season by far of all of our recent stuff. Can’t wait to put that out.