Settling into our call, Marko Nichols-Marcy, owner of Noreen Seabrook Handmade Rugs, positions himself among a brightly lit, open concept Brooklyn studio. Having just rushed A$AP Ferg’s brand Devoni labels out the door in time for Devoni X NTWRK drop, a platform vetted in delivering the most sought-after products by the industry’s biggest creatives. Virtually sitting across from the 35-year-old owner, we address the elephant in the room. Who and what is Noreen Seabrook?
Despite the old school moniker, Noreen Seabrook is anything but dated. Marcy’s father grew up working for [Marko’s] grandmother, the namesake, at her antique shop in Lewes, England. Marko’s father later moving the Marcy clan to NYC, where Noreen Seabrook Rugs was born in 1995. Though he debated changing the name when he took over the family biz in his early twenties, it acts as a reminder to honor the family legacy of being “honest and true with sales and always leaving a profit.” Adding that it also never hurts having people’s DMs be especially polite when they assume they’re dealing with an old lady making some crazy rugs.
With an entire team of Tibetan artisans as the masterminds behind the dyeing, weaving, and production of these works of art, Marcy has seamlessly blended old school practice with modern experimentation. With a roster of some of the most innovative collaborations out there, the Seabrook team shows no sign of slowing down. Whether it be a series of Francis Ford Coppola commissions or a Shaun Crawford collab that Drake scoops up, Marcy is making his mark in and out of what was nearly a forgotten industry. Elevating the stakes from the sea of tufting rugs trending on TikTok, Marcy dives into what it means to breathe new life into an industry making little room for change.
Was your dad more of a traditionalist in terms of pattern and design? How was that shift?
Um, difficult. Father-son business’, especially when the father and the son are very similar and very stubborn, is difficult. It’s difficult to work for someone else’s vision. When I didn’t have a vision at all, I learned a lot. When I developed my own vision on where I saw this going and what we could do, there was a lot of back and forth between him and myself. When he saw pieces being sold that he told me would never work, like in particular some bootleg Bart Simpson rugs, I think he rolled his eyes and walked out the door saying, “I don’t know anymore.” In a very, this is what people are buying? Forget it, I clearly don’t know what’s going on-type of way.
Was taking over the family business always the plan?
Never! I didn’t even tell my friends what my parents did. My dad would take me on trips [to Nepal] with him when I was younger and the business and the community were all around. I knew the language, I’ve been going to Nepal since I was 12 [years old]. My parents worked so hard to give me this much in life, it’d be such a shame to see the company just dissolve. So with that in mind, I joined the company and after eight years, I developed my own idea and passion for it. This is so much more than a rug. It’s so much more than me. It’s the families in Nepal that are trusting me to bring work to them. It’s my family legacy, it’s Noreen Seabrook’s name. You know? It’s the staff that works with me. I think that’s what makes me work so hard because if it was just about me, I’d half-ass it.”
When it comes to your marketing approach, it seems like you’re following a pretty simple and effective method.
Yeah, we’re not a bureaucracy. The vision pretty much comes directly from the source and more and more people are attracted to that. You see all these big companies that you don’t feel like you can connect to. Like, I can’t connect to Nike. I love the book Shoe Dog, that really was something that inspired me, but there’s no inspiration when I see most of these brands. It’s a lot of market hype. That was something my dad wrote—he did personal mailers back in the ’90s [that said], “We rely on good, honest weaving, not market hype.”
What does the team in Nepal look like?
It’s amazing. They’re Buddhist. One guy’s father was the Dalai Lama’s personal bodyguard; another, Namgyal, is the Dalai Lama’s first cousin; Topgyal, his brother was a reincarnated Karmapa, which is the most high ranking monk. [Meaning that within Buddhist practice], once he passed away, he was reincarnated and now has a shrine and monastery dedicated to him. Another is the Dalai Lama’s artist. Some have frost-bitten faces because they had to trek through the snow when the Chinese invaded Tibet to Nepal.
What would you consider your favorite project you did in 2020?
It’s tough to say which is [my] favorite—all of them offer such an amazing experience. I get to work with artists that some people can’t even speak with and I’m there working with one-on-one. Many of them become friends and that’s the best part—when you work with people that you really enjoy their company. I care more about the experience and if it gives me energy and I can learn and become better. Working with [American graffiti artist, Josh Franklin] Stash has been a lot of fun. Each artist has taught me something. I mean, we did four or five rugs for Francis Ford Coppola together and [Coppola] wrote me a thank you note, which I have over here. That gave me goosebumps.
How did your relationship with A$AP Ferg come about?
I did a project with an artist named Jay West, who’s from Harlem, back in 2017. He grew up with Ferg. I’d been listening to Ferg’s music for a while. I was a fan, but I never knew anything about him. Ferg slowly started seeing me around more and more, and saw what I was doing with Jay West.
The first rug [we worked on together] was the Devoni rug that was black and green. He was very specific on the bright green. The design and what was special about it was the color. I think it takes Ferg a while to trust someone, so it was meaningful when he came in with a painting that he had done. I believe shortly after his father had passed away. He told me a bit about it, told me how much it meant to him, and for me the most important thing is that I deliver something that doesn’t insult the artist’s work. When that rug was delivered, that was probably the most insane rug I’d ever seen in my life—the attention to detail, the amount of work on my end, the amount of work the weavers did. I’ve never seen anything like it before. From there, once Ferg saw that and saw the other people I was working with, he saw the growth; [he] saw what my vision was.
He’s a very busy guy but I think he wants to display this creative side of himself in a very organic way. I’m very humbled and very blessed that he chose rugs as one of those ways. He’s a good dude. I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve learned how to kind of move and market myself and he’s offered, in a funny way, his own teachings. His mom is also his accountant, and my mom is my accountant, so now they’re talking to each other about the finances.
In terms of the Devoni X NTWRK drop, what’s that all about?
Ferg and I didn’t know how we were gonna market these rugs, so the Director of Merchandising at NTWRK, Holland introduced me to the platform. I was like I have these rugs coming in with Ferg and he’s like, “really, this is perfect.” So the next thing I knew, he was hitting me up, [and told me I] gotta send this out to UPS the next day. The next thing I knew, they got a video made and it dropped on the 14th. They asked if my name needed to be a part of it. I don’t care about any of that. This is Ferg’s thing.
There’s one of each color with five different designs and he’s showing people three and keeping his other two for his personal collection. They’re going to be doing pre-orders on them basically, seeing how well they do online.
Everybody’s learning as the process goes, so we’ll see.
What do you see next for Noreen Seabrook? What does 2021 look like for the team?
We’ll see how it all goes in regards to Covid and the world. Everything’s been put on hold, especially for artists who display their work publicly. But we’ve been talking about doing an exhibition or an art show that showcases the work, and in collaboration with several artists. So that’s something we’re working on. We’ve got a couple of carpets being finished now as we speak. Also maybe introducing some more original artwork from myself and the guys here on this team. Growing more and more as organically as possible.