From the moment our conversation begins, I am keenly aware of Mikael’s infatuation with his work. He never speaks of the rugs with regard to their use within a space. Instead, speaking with Mikael resembles speaking to an art dealer, overflowing with excitement over the craft that they get to work alongside every day.
Mikael has worn many hats, one of which being that of a fashion photographer. His nascent fascination with rugs came about throughout his time as a photographer, interacting with meticulously curated homes across the nation. “During the course of my wanderings a photographer, I would come across these rugs in people’s houses,” Mikael tells me, referencing pieces he would see during shoots for Ralph Lauren and other major brands. But there was one issue. “No one knew where to get them,” says Mikael.
By chance, Mikael met a rug dealer in western Massachusetts around this time. The dealer was on his way to retirement, and Mikael purchased ten rugs to dip his toes into the game. He brought the first batch of ten back down to NY (in his now viral Mercedes) and flipped them in a week. The demand was clearly there.
So from there on out, Mikael would always travel for work with an empty duffel bag. Whenever he went to a new town, he would find the local rug dealer and do his best to schmooze his way into the back room, to get his hands on the good stuff. “I think at the beginning, they found me humorous,” Mikael chuckles to me, regarding the understandable hesitation some of these old guard dealers would have around Kennedy in his early days. But once he proved his knowledge and commitment to the craft, they began to open up. Many of these connections have blossomed and developed into years-long friendships.
Years later, through these disparate connections nationwide, Kennedy has established a network of rug dealers that now spans across the globe. Despite their incredible value in the US, Persian rugs can’t be legally imported from Iran, so all of the Persian rugs you see in the US today have simply been exchanged domestically for decades. Mikael has his Persian rug dealers in the US, and then has a network of dealers internationally as well. He’s got two primary dealers in Islamabad, Pakistan for his Afghan imports, among others. These dealers, who work closely with the weavers, are the source of many of his pictorial and war rugs, which have become increasingly sought after commodities in the US.