Even though the country is witnessing a growth in indigenous design, designers continue to find it difficult to break through. Stores like At-tin and Paper Boat Collective are coming up with ways to help them, says Sujatha Shankar Kumar
You are a designer, young or middling. You have a product and you believe in it. It’s gone through the grunge, the passion of creative twiddling and the excruciating pains at the workbench to realise it in full. You stumble over showing at a regular retail outlet where you may not quite fit the bill. Or you look at booking a stall in a trade exhibition, where hundreds of products compete with yours. Where else? From Mumbai to Goa, a new trend of collaborative shows has begun. The deceptive mix thrown together ostensibly is no lowbrow yard sale. These well-curated events that cater to a selective audience are a boon to bust the older laws of retail.
It is spring and talent is budding at At-tin’s Design Do to popularise design in Mumbai city and open it up to a wider audience. Aziz Kachwala and Mubina, his wife, started At-tin in 2013 with a wish all designers hold close to heart: a shop to show off their creative genes. Located in a warehouse building of Old Anjarwadi, earlier an automobile workshop, At-tin recalls the loft-style merchandising of world cities. In a country that is finally witnessing a growth of indigenous design in the market, designers still find it difficult to break the existing mind-set. Kachwala found niche studios and architects in Mumbai with interesting products not getting the attention. Collaboration has always been the essence of any cohesive design movement. Design Do brought ten designers of similar values and concerns marrying Indian motifs into very current notions of technology, recycling and contemporising. Kachwala’s metal screens resonate an era of architecture in India where latticework filtered light and air gracefully.
On the Panjim-Calangute road Paper Boat Collective has good visibility in Sangolda, Goa. Owner Bhagyashree Patwardhan’s first Pop-Up Bazaar happened in Christmas 2013. Patwardhan visualised a multi-layered family event as something for everyone. Neighbourhood restaurant Backyard served food and drinks. Fathers could hang out and get a beer. Children could paint on faces and walls. There was a hairstylist, a tarot card reader and a tattoo artist. A Classical Music orchestra by children of NGO Tara Trust was invited to perform. Twenty designers participated - with clothes, pottery, jewellery and the occasional piece of furniture thrown in the Christmas bazaar was a hit. A beer bottle Xmas tree and gifts donated for charity completed the scoop with a message for recycling. Mailers to a choice clientele and posters at locales attracted a busy crowd. Patwardhan’s more recent Pop-Up with a dozen designers was at the Grand Hyatt Goa with their high tea offering. Known for its selection of a spontaneous brand of creativity, Paper Boat Collective embraces designs rooted in India. Showcasing design in today’s fast-flitting ambience, constantly adapting, Patwardhan’s picks identify with her fine aesthetic sensibility and underscore a deep belief in what she does.
The hot summer did not daunt Mumbaite Aarti Patkar from starting her first Pop Up in April 2013 at The Vintage Garden in her 1923 bungalow on Turner Road in Bandra with 14 vendors. With a specialty to knock together a synergetic cocktail, Patkar has had ten pop-ups since with great response. The 1800 square foot garden with three indoor rooms of the bungalow has been the place to promote interesting design, rare and unusual finds. Consider The Sole Sisters and Wasted Fish; “I always tell the vendors to get something new that they’ve never shown before. And I try for two from outside Mumbai.” While Aarti finds theming restricts her audience, she had on occasion compiled organic festivals like the Green People of India. This spur to innovate keeps The Vintage Garden’s events on the edge always. For Aarti, the experience is as much about the space as it is about the ware. Under almond trees strung across with fabric colour shades - an ensemble of jewellery on dressing tables, Chhottee’s dips nestling in a bunch of bougainvillea, pebbles painted exquisitely by Shveta Salve. It’s a boutique in the garden and attracts an eclectic group of people in Bandra. “Show me something I will buy and I’ll show it” – is her declaraton to vendors.
While not exactly cheap, these sophisticated brews satisfy the Indian yen to rummage for a find. Waiting for the next pop-up?