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Silver Linings Handbook III | Design Special

Suchita posted on 23 October

By Suchita S. 

It is astounding to see how far we've come as a city vis a vis design. Starting with fashion - it thrived pretty much as a monopoly, with only a handful of names in the mix until a few years ago, but today witnesses remarkable innovation and sees a plethora of incredibly talented designers breaking stereotypes and challenging "Indian" sensibilities. What's emerged, especially over the past few years, is a spectacular use of handloom and home-grown textiles - a sense of home pride in every stitch and each garment. Pioneering this in Delhi are brands like Nappa Dori and Akaaro. Gautam, the founder and creative director behind Nappa Dori, has stuck to his vision and consistently created everything - from doctor's bags to IPad and laptop cases to macaron sized inch tapes - that propels artisanal craftsmanship. Gaurav Jai Gupta's Akaaro bears testament to the handloom comeback; that tradition and craft is not lost. From layered dresses, to well constructed shirts and exquisite sarees, Akaaro's on every fashion watcher's radar for its reinvention of handwoven textiles in modern silhouettes. Mindful design continues to find a following in other practices as well - especially architecture and interiors. A duo that's kicking ass in all things sustainable design are Madhav Raman and Vaibhav Dimri, founders of Anagram Architects. Their spatial design consultancy has won awards and accolades for their remarkable work in designing spaces in a manner that it's harmonious with its natural surroundings. They've also taken up some fascinating development projects like Project Samman- these two are always up to awesomeness.

Dennis Francis Theo - wherever he goes, good food follows. He's worked on food projects that aren't just conceptually stunning, but are whimsical, fun and taste bloody good. His most recent one, which I unfortunately missed, was designing and creating a special ice cream menu for Bhane's last social do, and he's telling us more about that. Finally, Graphic design. Something I've learned while running my own enterprise is how aesthetics and a creative interface is what separates just a company from an all empowering brand. Dev Kabir Malik's company has been a one stop shop for helping young and established brands find a voice, and speak out loud. This NID grad is ace of base at type and conceptual art, and moonlights as a DJ! His company's worked on some awesome projects in the past, including Lodi, Malini Ramani, French Embassy in India, and Ploof, amongst others.

These amazing folks are living the dream; they're gifted, skilled and experienced, hardworking, and have managed to sustainably pursue their passion - a feat that by no means is easy, especially with design. But more than that, they're questioning a staid, conventional, done to death approach to design. They're being different, but with a purpose. And here are notes from their Silver Linings Handbook.


DEV KABIR MALIK | {Graphic Design}


What's the most important lesson I've learnt while running my own company? Well it's tough to say as there are lessons we learn everyday and depending on where we're at, their relative importance shifts. But I guess one that has been consistently relevant is to really believe in yourself and its close corollary - to be really good at what you do… And keep trying to get better everyday…

I never really planned being an entrepreneur. I started off by working independently and just wanted to be recognised for doing good work. Somewhere people saw value in what I did, and work grew, and suddenly I was running a studio. Since then I've scaled up, down and even sideways. But the one constant has been the belief in myself and the work we do.

I've always believed {in creative fields specially} that you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. It's not just generating ideas but executing them. Doing both the white and blue collar parts of the job. Speaking strictly in cliches - you have to put in the work and then let the work speak for itself… And for you. There are no blueprints to follow. Every company is unique, or at least it should strive to be. You have to find your own path, your own vision. One can always learn from others, but sometimes you have to have the conviction to disregard that and do what seems right for you. That's what will set you apart. Write your own narrative, always keep revising the plot {and hope not to lose it} and all the while stay true to who you are.


GAUTAM SINHA | Nappa Dori {Accessory Design}


In terms of learning from having your own business, the one most critical thing i have learnt is "self decipline".  Getting to work on time; mornings are the most productive time and I think 90% of the decisions are made in the first half of the day. Being an entrepreneur might sound super, but it's not that great, you need to constantly reinvent yourself. It is one thing to make beautiful products, but a completely different skill set is needed to keep things afloat and be commercially viable. I think juggling these 2 issues have been the most difficult aspect for me - which side of the brain do you focus on more, cerebal cortex, the left which is your logical side, or right, which is your creative side. I think a good mix of both is needed to make money and create beautiful things :)  I always tell my team the same - create whatever you might fancy but, at the end of the day, make sure you're not the only one using it… it should be for everyone, and that means in terms of use, function and affordability.

I think all that I have learnt from my business has definitely had a positive impact on my way of life as well. You think before your do, and you do what makes you happy.

GAURAV JAI GUPTA | Akaaro {Apparel Design}


My practise evolved organically, which is what I love about what I do. One thing which I have learnt and feel strongly about is that one should follow their instinct with dedication and strong determination. Even if it takes time, don’t give it up. Along with hard work and clarity you will surely get success.

On any average day I am at my studio by around 10.30 in the morning. I juggle my day doing different things like answering mails, meeting clients, looking into production, planning the merchandise, sorting out finances; basically a bit of everything. I think in layers.

Effective output happens with concentration, which is only for an hour or two a day. Very rarely the whole day goes in creating and there's always music playing in the background at my studio.

Over a period of time I have realised that all problems are temporary and we shouldn’t get too stressed. It's eventually a problem solving exercise where everyday we have something new to sort out. So the idea is to enjoy the process and keep on doing it.

I also believe that we never learn or know too much. A good thing about being in a creative profession is that with every project I learn something new and grow as a human being. I like being excited about my work; if that's missing then there's something wrong and I try and figure that out and then fix it.




I serendipitously got involved with The Unbox festival, where I have been creating experiences around food and alcohol. I also moonlighted at the Grey Garden where I was working on the menu for the restaurant. Both these experiences helped me rediscover my passion for food and allowed me to explore different avenues of design at the same time. Since then, I have been involved in a number of short projects involving food and design. And what I’ve learned from all this is…

Things aren't compartmentalized and there are numerous, fluid and non traditional ways of looking at ideas. The Bhane Ice cream Social is a perfect example of this, where food and fashion come together. We interpreted the colors of the fall collection into an eclectic and rather interesting {some may say odd} selection of ice creams. Take for instance creations like the black sesame ice cream, inspired by the color slate. The incredible response to this experiment made me realize how accepting the world really is to eccentricities and novelty.

Mix business with pleasure. I have always had the good fortune of working with friends or, in some cases, becoming good friends with people I work with. It's also a make or break situation, where you could end up doing more {damage?} than just ruffling some feathers. But it's great when you start creating something… with amazing people the experience only gets better, and the journey richer.

Don't sweat the small stuff. However stale this sounds, this two bit advice is one that needs constant reinforcement. I have lost track of the number of times it has literally rained on our parade a day or two before the show. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but that doesn't discount the trauma of it all. But over the years, you stop giving a hoot, leave everything to providence, sit back and enjoy the rain {get some chai and pakodas while you are at it}, because you've just got to make peace with whatever the bump is in the road. You get up, finish the chai and move on.


MADHAV RAMAN & VAIBHAV DIMRI | Anagram Architects {Architecture & Interior Design}

Dimri Raman

When Vaibhav and I started our firm, we described ourselves as design entrepreneurs. Mainly because it sounded more complicated, but also because we had already used “architects” in our firm's name and didn't want to be typecast. So after having rummaged through startup fingerfood of humble pie and crow with twiddling thumbs, here are a few recipes for success served on cutlery of platitudes and things that sound like song titles |

“Never hire {work with or for} people who are like you.” You'll spend so much time admiring yourself you'll never get any work done.

“You get the clients you deserve”. It's a good thing you are an ace, imagine the schmucks who'd be hiring you if you weren't!

“Plan your wettest dream”. Which, while being the grosser version of “Work harder for your ardour”, does provide more insight. It will help you get over {not off, mind!} the idea of actually having an idea.

All ideas are ahead of their time {obviously}, but for really good ideas, “time and shanghaied wait for no one”. Get going because the mark of a true entrepreneur is the ability to start executing half-formed ideas.

“Lead, follow, and follow-up”. There's no such thing as a dead lead {just like on CSI}. Keep in touch with people who have no time for you at first.

“Turn the other chic”. This is a design entrepreneur special. Try not to get stuck in a rut in broad daylight.

“Be the change {when} you want doobie”. Beware of complacence or lethargy.

“People will stop and smell the roses only for budding geniuses not for blooming idiots.”

“Never give free advice”. LBBD, I'll be sending an invoice along shortly!