Words Angela Cowan X Photography Lia Crowe
When Jenni Finlay and I finally link up our schedules to chat, she’s immediately warm and friendly and I find myself smiling within moments. She’s co-owner of Finlay and Kath Inc., the Canadian division of the iconic German design brand Jan Kath, known for producing some of the world’s most in-demand hand-knotted rugs.
Today, Jenni works with clients—mostly interior designers and architects—to customize designs and colours, producing bespoke pieces specifically tailored to each project. Many years ago, Jenni was on the path to becoming an interior designer herself. She took a job in a rug showroom at the outset of her career, hoping to use the opportunity to get exposure to designers in Vancouver, and it quickly morphed into something bigger.
About 12 or 13 years ago, she met Jan Kath, then an upcoming German designer making big waves in the rug industry and the European design world.
“He was a pioneer in making changes in the industry,” says Jenni. “I was really impressed with his design ideas as well as the ethical practices he used.”
When, six years ago, Jenni and Jan partnered and opened up the doors to their new Vancouver-based company, Finlay and Kath Inc., it was important to both that they maintain that level of integrity and ethical production.
“We are very proud of our partnership with the independent non-profit organization called Label-STEP,” Jenni explains. “They’ve been instrumental in improving the working conditions for the people producing the rugs in Nepal, India and elsewhere. It’s hugely important to me.”
The rugs blend timeless designs with modern flair—“Jan’s known for his interpretation for reinventing and modernizing classic design,” Jenni says—and use a trio of rapidly renewable resources: hand-spun Tibetan highland wool, the finest silks and natural nettle.
A relentless traveller, Jenni’s been Vancouver-bound since early March with the global pandemic putting a halt on any travel, but the slowed-down pace has actually been a blessing in disguise, she says.
“For me to stay in one location for an extended period of time hasn’t happened in 15 years,” she says with a laugh. “I’m never home for more than two months. But it’s actually been kind of nice. We’re in the middle of relocating our Vancouver showroom from Railtown to the Armoury District and now I’ve had the time to devote to making the transition. I can ride my bike down the seawall. I can literally be on the water from my showroom in less than five minutes, and I can’t even tell you how excited I am to re-open, after the restrictions are lifted, in such a great place.”
“The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
I can’t say I’m envious of any specific person, but I admire self-made successful women who lift and encourage others, live their best lives and give back to the causes they believe in. I strive to carve my own path. Ask me which shoes I’d like to walk in, and I’ll tell you it’s my favourite pair of Fluevogs!
What is the food you could eat over and over again?
That’s a tough one… I’m definitely a foodie and enjoy so many diverse tastes from many cultures that I’ll always try anything new. But if I had to pick something, I’d say I couldn’t live without cheese. I often pair it with chutneys, jellies or honey (and of course, wine!). A very close second would be Kusshi oysters; I am a West Coast girl after all.
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?
I would definitely want to buy my dream home on the water in a warmer place: a mid-century modern post-and-beam bungalow with floor-to-ceiling windows. My perfect little sanctuary to escape the chaos.
Arrogant people, angry drivers or anyone who doesn’t show kindness and respect to others on a regular basis. Life is short and we’re all in this together.
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
Anywhere in the Caribbean comes to mind. I love the calm waters, tropical landscape, vibrant colours and relaxed vibe. I also love the beaches and the coast of California. As long as I’m on the ocean, I am truly happy and relaxed, whether I’m near it with a cold drink and either good company or a good book, or paddling a stand-up paddleboard or kayak. We definitely have some amazing places to do this right here in BC.
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
I’d have to say I’m most proud of the diverse group of friends that I have in my life. I’ve been able to stay very close to the ones I’ve kept since elementary school, and I’m fortunate enough to have made amazing friends along the way from all walks of life.
What makes your heart beat faster?
Travel! I’m inspired by exploring exotic places, learning about other cultures and ways of life, and meeting cool people. Art and textiles always; I can’t avoid them, even when I’m not working. It’s my passion. I have a huge appreciation for colour, handcrafted things and art of all kinds, and good design makes me happy. “