When Imperfection is Design

Product designer Nipa Doshi on her Indian roots and royal ideas

Published: April 1, 2013 10:58:09 pm

If somebody had told leading Italian brand Moroso eight years ago that they would have a furniture line themed on rope beds made in India,they wouldn’t have bought the story. But they did — in 2007,when Doshi Levien designed the Charpoy series for them. Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien,master hybridists,married not just each other but Indian iconography with English industrial sensibilities. Made from cotton and silk mattresses,these day beds have the game of chaupar embroidered on them. This mix of technology and culture won the London-based designers the Movado Future Legend award,given for exceptional talent in the creative arts.

“For me,handmade is luxury,” said Doshi as she addressed the audience at the India Design Forum held recently in Mumbai. “The more the product is cultural,the more valuable it becomes,” says the 42-year-old National Institute of Design graduate.

Known for their playful yet intelligent take on design,the duo,who met at the Royal College of Art,London,take pride in the craftsmanship of their ideas,and in the rigour of their processes. “My Beautiful Backside” is one such example. Inspired by a miniature painting of a queen sitting on a floor surrounded by pebble-shaped cushions,this furniture line makes backsides look good. These divans,composed of floating cushions in random sizes,honour colour and tradition. Doshi swears they don’t look Indian,having played with textures of wool and felt,but the gold and silver foiling for the legs layer royal opulence. “Hybrid is the future,modern versus traditional,digital versus tangible,the future is dystopian. For me,design was never about a product,it was how you made things,” she says.

Much of the ideas come from her drawings. “Jonathan understands materials. I work on feelings. Quite often,the material speaks to you,when you lay it out,and the way it behaves,” says the creator of Ice Moon,an edition ice cream for Haagen Dazs. They imagined the moon to be made of ice cream,and went ahead into the company’s Paris kitchen armed with the idea that was inspired by a Bollywood song. Trial and trust is how they finally got the macadamia nut brittle to sit with crunchy meringue on a pistachio biscuit base,swathed in raspberry sorbet.

Last year,the duo was invited as guests of honour to share their vision of an ideal home at the internationale möbelmesse Cologne,an annual international trade fair in Germany. Designed as an urban space,the 2,000 sq ft space had a facade based on spaces and the house deconstructed of the traditional definitions of a living room,bedroom,kitchen and bathroom. There were multiple entries and exits as the exhibits on display echoed the duo’s mind at play.

“Creativity is where history is not,” she says,talking of that “special place” in her head. “Design should be imperfect,should be fractured,” says Doshi.

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