BE OPEN’S SEARCH FOR THE FUTURE OF CREATIVITY STARTS IN INDIA, WITH A FOCUS ON MAKING
11 – 28 February 2014, New Delhi
10 February official opening, by invitation only
BE OPEN, the global philanthropic foundation, announced its intention last month to launch a worldwide project that looks at the handmade and how to ensure its survival in the future.
Each year BE OPEN announces a theme that guides their research. 2012 focused on design and the senses, while the theme for the year ahead is North/South – East/West. Travelling to the four corners of the world, the foundation will involve a new generation of makers and designers, as well as students, academics and retail industry professionals, to develop the subject, exploring where and how our diverse cultures can meet and how to take traditional skills into the future, through innovation and technology.
The journey of discovery begins in India, where, from the time of the Mughals through the Rajput, to the present day, Indian craftsmen have been commissioned to carve and inlay marble, wood and stone, to weave in silk and to mould in clay. “Made in … India’s” exhibition will showcase furniture and tableware, textiles and jewels that reveal an imaginative reinterpretation of traditional craft skills by contemporary Indian designers.
A range of pieces by twenty-three designers will be installed in the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi, in a bespoke space created by architect Anupama Kundoo. A dedicated graphic has been designed to create a unified way of presenting the conceptual “Made in … India” international brand, ‘Samskara’. Samskara refers to the idea of refining, which is what the project aims to do by re-positioning locally made, handcrafted goods to give them global appeal, rather than purely displaying the latest in contemporary Indian craft.
Founder of BE OPEN, Elena Baturina, says: “Business is in my DNA, so I can’t help but bring a business focus to this project as well. We feel that the future of the handmade is about keeping it out of the moribund museum space and instead making it live and breathe by becoming part of the market economy. Working with local experts, BE OPEN has been looking at today’s most promising Indian designers, encouraging them to think beyond their usual market and giving them the opportunity to present their work from a completely new perspective, so that it appeals to a much wider, international audience. “Made in…” is launching in India, not least because its culture reveals such a fascinating and stark dichotomy between tradition and modernity. This means that there is a tremendous legacy of skilled work and a willingness to take it forward into the future.”
BE OPEN is working with eminent design consultant, President of India’s Fashion Design Council, Sunil Sethi for this project. Sethi has been a pioneer in terms of changing perceptions of India abroad, through events such as Bollywood at London’s Selfridges (2002), and installations at Conran shops internationally (2007), amongst others. He says: “We have chosen designers to represent all of the craft skills for which India is best known, yet will be showing them in a light that will dramatically change the way that people might think about the tagline “Made in India”. For many, Indian goods are associated with poor quality and cheap labour. The BE OPEN project will prove that there is vast potential to reverse that perception.”
Voicing her support for the exhibition, Smt, Chandresh Kumari Katoch Honourable Union Minister of Culture, Government of India, says: “I am extremely happy to know that BE OPEN project is being launched in India, which is home to such a rich variety of handicrafts. The BE OPEN Foundation has adopted a novel and innovative approach of applying the business model as a way of working with the lndian crafts industry. It is a difficult task to keep the ancient traditions of handicraft alive in our country and the only way of doing it is by linking it to markets thereby making it self-sustaining. Therefore, I am delighted with this initiative of the BEOPEN Foundation and hope that it will mark the beginning of a new way to promote and preserve our cultural legacy for the future.
Pieces in the exhibition include: fashion by Aneeth Arora’s “Pero” brand, Abraham and Thakore, Samant Chauhan, Ashish Soni, Gaurav Gupta, Rahul Mishra, Pankaj and Nidhi Ahuja; textiles by Gita Chopra’s “Disha” brand, Ezma and Rasa; furniture by Bombay Atelier, Ayush Kasliwal, PortsideCafé and Sameer Wheaton; products by Sunil Sethi Design Alliance, Thukral and Tagra, Gunjan Gupta, Sahil & Sarthak and Siddhartha Das; lighting design by Klove and Vibhor Sogani; and metalware by Devi Design and Episode.
Nothing will be for sale, but the work will be presented as though part of a new brand, with logo, labels and tags, shopping bags and display all reflecting contemporary design: dynamic, beautifully crafted goods, grounded in tradition, yet reinterpreted for today. Items from the exhibition will be auctioned during BE OPEN’s events at Milan World Expo 2015. The proceeds from the auction will be plowed back into the Young Talent Award fund, creating a virtuous circle of support for emerging designers.
In addition to the product installation, a discussion panel will see prominent international design and fashion professionals sharing experiences and discussing their approach to the future of making in a globalised world. Confirmed participants include: Amy Kazmin, Financial Times South Asia Correspondent (UK); publishers Angelika Taschen (Germany) and Yaffa Assouline (France); Armando Branchini (Italy), Vice Chairman of Fondazione Altagamma, representing Italian luxury companies and brands; Raymond Simpson, Executive Vice President of Dominion Diamond Corporation (USA); and Anupama Kundoo (India), the architect for the Samskara installation.
BE OPEN’s activity in India will be supported by two calls for ideas through a web and social media campaign. The first “Create the ultimate Indian object for our future”, will invite Indian design students to submit concepts across five home and fashion categories, awarding 1500 USD to each category winner. The second, “India Through My Eyes” is a global call for responses to the image we have of India today. Winners will be invited on an all expenses paid trip to the next international BE OPEN event.
“Made in … India” is not only about making a strong statement for Indian craft; it has global application. BE OPEN’s mission for this project will be to encourage makers around the world to explore alternative ways of using traditional skills and keeping them alive.
For updates on BE OPEN see:
Notes to editors
Exhibition title: BE OPEN Made in … India: Samskara
Venue Twin Art Gallery, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts
1, C. V. Mess, Janpath, Gate # 3, New Delhi – 110 001 India
Dates 11 – 28 February 2014
Opening hours 10.30 – 19.00 daily
Samskara comes from the Sanskrit “making perfect” or “refining”, while in Hinduism, samskaras are the imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience in this or previous lives, which then colour all of life, one’s nature, responses and states of mind.
BE OPEN is a global initiative to foster creativity and innovation, a think tank whose mission is to promote people and ideas today to build solutions for tomorrow. It is a cultural and social initiative supported by the Russian philanthropist, businesswoman and entrepreneur Elena Baturina, behind who stands an international team.
The foundation was launched in April 2012 during Milan Design Week, with the goal of becoming a bridge between the great minds of our time — philosophers, sociologists, designers, architects, urbanists, artists, writers, businessmen and opinion leaders — and the promising new minds of the younger generation.
Founder Elena Baturina says: “We engage with people across all platforms – the arts, science, education and the media – as we believe that the most innovative discoveries are made where these disciplines meet.”
BE OPEN is developing its work through exhibitions, events and panel discussions in the world’s design capitals, including, to date, Milan, Basel, London and Miami. The Foundation has also launched the Inside the Academy programme, an extensive educational platform offering support to young creatives, students, schools and universities through an awards scheme, a master class program and a ranking system.
Sunil Sethi, Made in … India creative advisor
Sethi champions India’s handmade product globally. He is the President of the Fashion Design Council of India, representing 350 Indian designers. Sethi founded his own fashion-sourcing agency for Western brands entering India, Alliance Merchandising, in 1988. The company has Armani Casa, Crate & Barrel and Anthropologie among its clients, overseeing product development and buying in India. Since 2002, he has taken more than 25 Indian fashion designers on to the global stage, selling their products under their own brands to notable stores such as Selfridges, Golf & Co, The Conran Shop, Habitat and Coin. Sethi is now senior vice president of the home furnishing and handicrafts multinational Li & Fung Group, which has a sourcing network of 70 offices across 40 countries.
Dr Anupama Kundoo, installation and branding for Made in … India
Kundoo is known for her research-oriented practice and her practice-oriented teaching. Her internationally recognized and award-winning architecture practice (founded in 1990) demonstrates a strong focus on material research and experimentation towards an architecture that has low environmental impact and is appropriate to the socio-economic context.
Kundoo has built extensively in India and has had the experience of working, researching and teaching in a variety of cultural contexts across the world: TU Berlin, AA London, TU Darmstadt, Parsons New School of Design, New York and is currently teaching at University of Queensland in Brisbane. At Parsons she was the Chair for Environmental Technologies and Material Sciences and in the various schools she has taught Architectural Design, Urban Management and Environmental Technologies. She has lectured and exhibited extensively across international institutions and has conducted workshops and reviewed student work at several Universities including Cornell University, University of Melbourne, Lebanese American University and University of Limerick.
Her recent contribution to the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale involved the full-scale facsimile of her ‘Wall House’ project. As a runner-up in the 2013, ArcVision International Prize for ‘Women and Architecture’ she received an ‘Honorable Mention’ by the jury for ‘her dedication when approaching the problem of affordability of construction and sustainability in all aspects’.
Abraham & Thakore is one of India’s most successful and respected brands for fashion, accessories and home textiles. Each Abraham & Thakore collection continues the exploration of developing a quiet and modern design voice while simultaneously drawing on the rich traditional vocabulary of Indian design and craft. The design sensibility is subtle, yet highly distinctive, with a strong respect for material, form and craft. A&T believes that real luxury lies in high quality, limited edition, handcrafted product. Each season both the fashion and home textile collections are presented to international buyers in prestigious trade salons in Paris (Tranoi, Scenes d’Interieur, Maison & Objet). In India, the collection is presented biannually at the India Fashion Week, New Delhi.
Creative director David Abraham’s first eponymous collection was launched in Bergdorf Goodman in New York. Rakesh Thakore’s forte is the design and development of sophisticated hand woven fabrics for scarves, sarees and clothing, some of which have been included in major textile exhibitions in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris and the National Museum of Hokkaido. Kevin Nigli is Director of sales and responsible for developing, and sometimes creating, new markets for the brand, as well as conceptualizing the quirky design of the A&T visual displays that have become a key feature of the retail identity of the brand.
Bobby Aggarwal founded furniture studio PortsideCafé in 2007. Wood and leather are the primary materials used and accents of metal are added to enhance functionality and stylize the products. Each piece is handcrafted and hand-finished using an array of innovative staining techniques, a testament to Aggarwal’s ideal of exquisite craftsmanship melded with novel design. Unique finishes and stitches, bold treatments on leather, vibrant colours, intricate detail, and easy elegance, all come together to create PortsideCafé’s unique furniture. Drawing inspiration from his surroundings, the humming, pulsating streets of Delhi, old architecture, music and even Bollywood, Bobby Aggarwal creates statement pieces with unique character.
Pankaj and Nidhi Ahuja are a husband and wife duo and have taken the fashion world by storm with their contemporary blend of Indian and Western aesthetics. Their label, PANKAJ & NIDHI, is influenced by both traditional craft techniques and futuristic garment technology, resulting in a collection that is vibrant and exquisitely crafted. Pakaj and Nidhi both graduated from the prestigious National Institute Of Fashion Technology and launched their label in 2006. The duo has won both critical acclaim as well as commercial success, with innovative yet wearable clothes. Pankaj & Nidhi have been honoured with the Elle Style Award for best debutant designer in 2008 and the Elle Style Award for best women’s pret-a-porter in 2009. In 2010 the couple also won first prize at the International Fashion Award at the World Apparel Convention in Hong Kong.
Aneeth Arora is a textile graduate from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and a fashion graduate from National Institute of Fashion Technology. She founded Péro in 2008. Péro means ‘to wear’ in Marwari, the Rajasthani dialect. The brand interprets international aesthetics using local materials and skills, to create products that are relevant to people around the world. With a core team in New Delhi, Pero employs over 80 craftspeople carrying forward the Indian tradition of handcrafting and creating unique pieces for every season’s collection. The garments subtly evoke key themes of Indian culture, while maintaining a modern aesthetic that appeals equally to consumers in London, India and Paris.
Bombay Atelier is a furniture studio based in Mumbai and the brainchild of Farzin Adenwalla, a young designer, born and raised in New Zealand. Farzin is a Victoria University School of Architecture and Design graduate, who moved to Mumbai in 2008 to work for Rahul Mehrotra Architects. Fascinated by the wide variety of Indian crafts, she decided to collaborate with local artisans to create furniture that incorporates traditional Indian styles in a modern minimal aesthetic. Farzin creates multi-functional furniture that suits any surrounding.
Samant Chauhan graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi in 2004 and was awarded the ‘Best Design Collection’ award for his graduate fashion show. In 2005 he made his first international mark at the Singapore Fashion Week with his critically acclaimed prize winning collection – “Changing patterns of Buddhism along the Silk Route”, while receiving remarkable reviews by prominent figures of the fashion industry. Chauhan’s hand made, hand woven ethical silk garments have created a unique place for him in the international fashion arena. In 2007 Samant Chauhan showed his designs at Esthetica, a Fashion Council initiative that showcases cutting edge ethical designers at London Fashion Week. Chauhan, showed in London for the following six seasons. Committed to ethical fashion, he showcased his SS’09 collection at the Carousel du Louvre in Paris, at the Ethical Fashion Show and returned to London to showcase his AW’09 line dedicated to “the silk worm”. In 2010 he started a collaboration with Anthropology, retailing his exclusive collection of organic accessories. His work has been featured in international newspapers and magazines, such as the Wall Street Journal and Vogue Italia while Sass Brown, professor at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, in her book ‘Eco Fashion’ placed Samant amongst fashion heavyweights such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Vivienne Westwood and Yves Saint Laurent in promoting eco-friendly clothing.
Gita Chopra is a textile designer whose keen eye for detail and experience in high quality interior design led her to establishing Disha Creations, her own interiors label, selling high end home furnishings. Chopra also designs bespoke pieces both for private clients and hotels and restaurants, while her designs retail both domestically and internationally.
Siddhartha Das is a Delhi-based designer. In 2008 he was awarded the British Council YCE Design Award. Das designs, strategizes and implements projects, often collaborating with a wide network of design professionals. His work is mainly focused on cultural heritage, public spaces, branding and publications. Siddhartha has a keen interest in developmental issues addressed through design and works with various traditional craft communities across India. His aim is to create a link between traditional craft communities and urban markets, be it in India or abroad.
Devi Design is an Indian design studio headed by Anupam Poddar, creating modern design using traditional craft methods. The brand raises awareness of India’s design past while looking into the future and serves as a link between designers, crafts men and artisans and the luxury international market. Designs by the studio are stocked internationally: by Anthropologie, Tom Dixon, John Lewis, Armani Casa and Gumps. Devi Designs explores metal through a variety of techniques – casting, sheet work, weaving, hammering, chiselling and wirework – and offers a platform for design exploration and experimentation pushing the boundaries of materials and design techniques. Drawing inspiration from art, architecture and geometry, Devi designs creates bespoke products for the Indian and international market.
Devi Design was established in 2000 and has two sister companies: Devi Resorts, responsible for the conservation and renovation of Devi Garth, an 18th century fort palace in Rajasthan; and Devi Art Foundation, which provides a platform for free expression to artists from the South Asian region, engaging in cutting edge, experimental work. Both these initiatives share a common philosophy to encourage the fusion of modernity with tradition.
Episode’s lineage can be traced back to 1882 when The House of Whorras, a family enterprise, successfully embarked on fashioning custom-made silverware and mementos, exploring the expanding demand for exclusive memorabilia. Deepak and brother Sanjiv Whorra reinvigorated the brand by launching Episode, creating silverware that could compete with international offerings. With a range comprising of barware, dinnerware, and decorative objects such as vases and picture frames, Episode offers a wide selection of products, striving to constantly innovate blending contemporary and classic designs based on traditional values and sensitivities.
EZMA (owned by the Essma Group) has become the emerging world leader in luxury textiles. Specialising in cashmere, Ezma is amongst a handful of mills in the world that can transform other ultra luxury fibres, such as Vicuna (Peruvian and Argentinean) and Guanaco (Red Deer hair), into high quality fabrics. Ezma is probably the only textile mill that incorporates six centuries of weaving techniques. The business recently became a member of CCMI, an institution that maintains the integrity of cashmere and camel hair products through education, information and industry cooperation.
Gaurav Gupta is a Central Saint Martins alumnus whose graduate collection was awarded ‘The Future of Couture’ trophy at Altaroma Altamoda, Rome Couture Fashion Week and ‘The Roots of Creativity’ title at the Mittelmoda Fashion awards. Having worked with Hussein Chalayan, Stella McCartney and Tristan Webber, Gaurav debuted his eponymous label at India Fashion Week in 2006. His collection was an instant success, groundbreaking in terms of its distinct garment construction and untempered experimentation with form and fabric. Gupta has been awarded Breakthrough Designer on several occasions. Besides the women’s prêt-a-porter line, Gaurav Gupta has ventured into couture, menswear and children’s wear. He has a flagship store in New Delhi and recently collaborated with Swarovski on a line of handcrafted jewelry pieces.
Gunjan Gupta founded Wrap in 2006 in New Delhi. Wrap is India’s first contemporary luxury and lifestyle brand established on socially and environmentally sustainable principles, created in response to the absence of internationally relevant Indian product design that explored the potential of luxury handcraft. Wrap seeks to revive and invigorate India’s traditional crafts, positioning them at the heart of the contemporary home. The brand has exhibited widely at trade fairs across the world including a special show at Sotheby’s in London and has collaborated on special design commissions with Droog Design in Amsterdam and with Swarovski in Paris. Gunjan is a Masters Graduate in Furniture Design from Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London. Her efforts in bringing international awareness to Indian handcrafting have won her global recognition, including several Elle Decor International Design Awards and the British Council’s YCE finalist role in 2007. She curated the India design exhibition at the Experimenta Design Biennale, Lisbon in 2009.
Ayush Kasliwal founded his own design business (AKFD) in 2006, having studied furniture design at the National Institute of Design (NID). Ayush’s design studio AKFD is committed to developing ideas using local crafts that have evolved over centuries. His main reason for basing the studio in Jaipur was to work with local artisans and create simple, everyday objects with them. AKFD’s products reflect a detailed understanding of processes and materials, be it beaten brass, stone carving or even mirror work.
Klove is a luxury, boutique studio specializing in decorative lighting installations, mirrors and screens. Founded in 2005 by Prateek Jain and Gautam Seth, the signature style flows from neo-classical to contemporary. The designer duo launches new collections every year that are inspired by their travels around India and the world, creating work with sources as disparate as Rajasthani jewels and Turkish vases, resulting in an eclectic mix of designs and forms. Klove’s award-winning work can be found in luxury hotels,
restaurants, and private homes around India. The duo collaborates with renowned architects and interior designers on prestigious residential and commercial projects.
Rahul Mishra is an acclaimed fashion designer, known for his use of the Indian handloom and for working with rural Indian crafts communities. A postgraduate from the National Institute of Design [NID] in India, Mishra was awarded Best Student Designer of the Year in 2005 and offered a scholarship to the prestigious Istituto Marangoni in Milan. Described as “the talent to watch” by French fashion doyen Didier Grumbach, Mishra won the International Designer of the Year award at the 2009 IAF (International Apparel Federation) and was featured in the list of top 20 young Indians for VISION-INDIA 2020.
Mishra is a staunch believer in integrating the rich heritage of Indian craft with the constantly varying pulse of global fashion. Committed to sustaining and empowering rural crafts people, he collaborated with the Taj Group of Hotels in 2011 and designed a collection devoted to reviving and reinterpreting the distinctive Ikat weave. His work and philosophy around sustainable design were featured in a documentary about Indian Handlooms, made for National Geographic and produced in collaboration with UNESCO and the Indian Ministry of Textiles. In 2012, Cotton Council International named him “Best Womenswear Designer” and he was invited by the British Council to showcase his designs at the Alchemy festival, Southbank Centre. His work is now held in the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Rasa is based in Jaipur (Rajasthan) and has built a reputation for designing quality everyday and boutique womenswear, together with a range of home furnishings. Block Printing is very much part of India’s rich textile history, where it continues to be used for textile production despite competition from mechanised printing techniques. Giving regular work to the skilled Block Printers and Block Makers ensures that their ancient trades continue, and provides work for many people, compared to the less labour intensive mass production methods. Many layers of work from direct printing, resist printing, discharging, dyeing and washing can be required for a piece of fabric to be completed. On average a printer would need to make about 300 impressions to produce one meter of cloth with five colours in the design. The end result however is a beautiful and unique piece of fabric, carrying the printer’s skill, creativity and culture.
Sahil & Sarthak founded their eponymous design business in 2009, having graduated with masters in design from the Politecnico di Milano. During the prestigious Project I-nova scholarship program, they worked with the Poltrona Frau Group, under the mentorship of Guilio Cappellini. Their work reflects the belief that ethic, ethnic and ecology should be integral to contemporary living, with sustainability always a significant factor. Their expertise is in customizing products – furniture, lighting and even installations – through the innovative use of Indian craftsmanship and materials.
The studio also provides holistic design solutions such as creative management, knowledge of the overall production chain, graphics and communication, and most importantly synchronizing all these different elements towards building an overall customer experience to yield future business opportunities and build brands. Their work has been shown at the 2010 Salone del Mobile Milan, 2010 Alchemy Festival London and is part of the collection at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan. Today, Sahil & Sarthak products are available at boutique stores across India and abroad. Their Katran Furniture Collection was awarded the Elle Décor International Design award, India 2011 and India Design Forum award (Best product Category) in 2013. Recognizing their efforts and innovative business model, they were awarded the Young Creative Entrepreneur Award (finalist) by the British Council of India
Vibhor Sogani established his eponymous studio in 1994, in New Delhi, providing design solutions in the fields of product, graphic retail and exhibition design. Sogani and his dedicated team of design professionals and skilled craftspeople produce experimental and research oriented design combining functionality, quality and modern urban aesthetics.
Ashish Soni is a prominent Indian fashion designer, who launched his label Ashish N Soni, in 2000, at Selfridges in London. Since the launch he regularly shows his collections at London Fashion week and was the first Indian designer to be invited to hold a runway show at the Olympus Fashion Week in New York in 2005. Immaculate tailoring and attention to detail, derived from his menswear design background, define his distinct collections, which remain original, reflecting the designer’s personal experiences and his Indian surroundings. His work is stocked in high-end fashion boutiques internationally.
Sunil Sethi Design Alliance teams up with designers to create textiles, handicrafts and carpets. Since 1988, Sethi has represented the world’s most celebrated lifestyle stores and elite international designers for their design, product development and buying from India. To honour his contribution in the field of exports, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts and Carpet Export Promotion Council. With his vast experience in this field, he launched Floored by Art and Floored by Design for Charity where he worked with the top artists and designers to showcase the element of design and product development on carpets. He was subsequently awarded the Lifetime Humanitarian Award for an outstanding contribution in the world of differently abled, presented by Ms. Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Thukral and Tagra work collaboratively to produce exuberant and darkly humorous works in a variety of media, including painting, installation, video and graphic and product design. Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra use their multidisciplinary practice to criticize and participate in the globalised, rampant consumer culture in India. By blurring the lines between commercial and artistic, product placement, exhibition design and media hype, they explore the juxtapositions of East and West, traditional and modern in the Indian culture and identity of today. Their work has been featured in museums and galleries internationally in both solo and group exhibitions.
Sameer Wheaton is the founder of Wheaton’s Design, an interiors and furniture design company manufacturing high quality furniture and contemporary interiors accessories for the Indian and international market. Wheaton’s Design also produces bespoke design pieces for businesses and individual consumers internationally.