Immortality on the Web

During the endless hours I spent staring into two large computer screens in order to move digitized data to our new website, I would take breaks and let my mind go wandering through the information that I was moving. My break would be to discover something interesting, an archival piece, a book, a series of photos, or even a document.

One day I came across some written notes I had made after a endearing session with kitemaker Reza Regheb. My break from moving data, was renewing my relationship with him.

- Ali Fujino

Reza ReghabReza was born in Iran in 1934. At the age of 12, he moved with his family to New York and became a United States citizen. However, in 1968, he moved back to iran as an adult to start a business. By 1977, he fled before the Revolution. He migrated to London, England, where he saw his first kite. A woman in a park was flying it from her wheelchair. She was an avid kiteflyer, as there was a bag of kites at her feet. Later that same day, Reza purchased $500.00 worth of kites. He spent the rest of the two years in London flying these kites before he move back to the United States in 1980. He and his wife moved to New York City, then moved to Denver because his son was attending the University of Colorado.

In Denver, he opened his own kite shop, Hi Fli Kites in the London Square Mall. It opened in 1980. At first, his business model was to distribute his favorite kites from London, among which were the unique cottage industry kites of Vertical Visuals, designed and sewn by David and Jilly Pelham. These kites were the second tier of kite marketing, purchased by those customers who were graduating from the usual inexpensive commercial toy kites.
 
Reza saw an opportunity to market more than these kites. He wanted to develop a higher priced, better quality specialty kite of his own. He would carefully test every one, making sure each one was stable and would fly. He wanted to make sure his clients would have the same flying experience that he had when he was introduced to kites. Reza pointed out to me that most of the kites of this period were those which had wonderful designs, but not so wonderful ability to fly. This put Reza kites well ahead of his competition.
 
Reza told me that he only made three kites that were actually his own design. One was called the Olympian Hexagon, a geometric kite made up of triangular pieces of fabric. Another was the sprit kite, which was a large on dimensional figure kite. His third original design was that of an airplane shape which he referred to as the navigator.   He pointed out to me that his kites weren’t “patchwork” in design and construction because he did not pay attention to a “starting” point and precise pieces in a uniform pattern.  His approach was not that of traditional patchwork. Everything was unique.
 
Reza was proud of the fact that his designs were his own and would be difficult to copy in order to sell commercially, because they were intricate and had to be put together in a certain order and came from decades of what he experience in his life, living in Iran, Europe and America. These unique designs, made reproduction difficult to copy and sell. He was not threatened by competition or plagerism in kite commerce, in fact, he thought if someone succeeded in copying one of his kites, he was flattered that someone like his kites so much they would spend the time and effort and money to reproduce it. His kites were specialty kites, that which could not be copied.
 
Europe became the biggest kite market for Reza, even though he would comically tell me that Scott Skinner owned the biggest collection of his kites. Reza believed that the European appreciated and sought after artistic value of a kite, and the Americans were slower to recognize the same value. So his marketing attentions focused on Europe. For decades, Reza catered to that of the Europeans. Some of his best kites remain in personal collections overseas, and happily are that which are flown, not just collected and stored. 
Reza continued to market his kites as unique pieces. He began to develop his own artistic production schemes to drive the popularity and sales of his kites. He would make 15 sets of 5 small bees and display them in elaborate cases. He sold all the sets quickly, presenting them as a limited edition series. 
 
Reza would test the European markets by paying for ads in the kite magazines. The response was phenomenal, at 180 inquires he realized that he would be back ordered, his annual production was 150-200 kites. He was the only sewer. He made every kite. Reza felt that many of the manufactures and kite makers fail because they would get into a production “rut,” and fail to design different exciting things to catch the interest of the clients. They lost sight of their soulful passion for kiting, forgetting the need to keep a good reputation among collectors. Reza worked hard because he loved kites but never lost sight of it being his business and livelihood.
 
Reza is not with us anymore. He passed away in 2002, but still lives on our web. He will be with us forever on our site.