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‘Drawn from Heritage’ at Liberty, London

‘What exactly does the word ‘Heritage’ refer to?’, I hear you ask.  Well, I understand it to be an amalgamation of our traditions, our values, customs, our celebrations, our phenomenal crafts as well as our literature and culture.

Every region of India has its very own individualistic personality; each community has own food cooking styles, unique language, beautiful traditions and stunningly rich crafts.  If you were to simply zoom over the crafts of India, you will find that each region has its own embroideries, woodwork, metal-work, bamboo craft, weaves or simply wild grass crafts. This is precisely what came together in the show at Liberty, London in November of 2018.

In today’s India, we can see design intervention happening to the traditional craft and the end result is most extraordinaire. When I first set foot on the fourth floor of the Liberty store, I was surrounded by soft lighting, seriously luxurious wood panels and handwoven kilims, and amidst all that was the work from the designers, standing out. A selection of crafts and top-notch craftsmanship (read ‘India’s Heritage’) was on display at ‘Drawn from Heritage’,  a show curated by Vallari of IMBYOU at the prestigious Liberty of London store. Making a statement that there is more to India than over-popularised mirror-work, metal Buddha statues, puppets and elephants. Designers from India and some other Indian-origin artists created some exemplary pieces, that were a truly visual treat. It was certainly worth trekking into London for!

Designers who made the short-list for the show

The process for being short-listed is a long drawn process, and it wasn’t any different for this show. The criterion for selection was that the designers’ work should proudly flaunt Indian crafts, and also at the same time, be just the right fit for the contemporary lifestyle of today. With this criteria, these  designers successfully made it to the fourth floor of this iconic store:

  • Chicory Chai – creates hand-crafted jewellery and is the lingering essence of an antique shop
  • Razia Kunj – Razia Kunj stands at the crossroads of art and everyday life, creating jewellery aka ‘wearable art’ , in an attempt to bring India closer to the world
  • Dvibhumi – creates a contemporary identity for jewellery design rooted in Asian heritage
  • Ekta Kaul –  creates luxurious textiles with a focus on simplicity, craftsmanship & timeless style
  • Ira Studios – creating functional products with understated elegance using antiquated traditions with contemporary minimalist sensibilities
  • Mubhi – celebrates Indian aesthetic sensibility that stems from
    the magical reality of the past, mingled with the earthen rush of
    contemporary living
  • VH Studio – Vallari says that she finds inspiration in everything and anything. Her one objection is that her creations should serve as heirloom pieces in families
dvibhoomi, singapore, indian, jewellery
bidi, ira studios, india, furniture, tray, home, liberty show

Ira Studio’s exquisite Bidri work tray

Razia Kunj, jewellery, handmade, india, liberty show

Razia Kunj’s wearable art

mubhi, channapatna, home, india, liberty show

Mubhi’s display of Channapatna home accessories

Ekta Kaul, map, embroidery, London, indian origin designer

Ekta Kaul’s map of Liberty, London

liberty london, shopping, buyers, india, handmade, maps

‘Oohing and aahing’ with admirers of the work

india, chicory chai, handcrafted

Jewellery from Chicory Chai – taking you back in time

Selling outside your home location

When presented with such an opportunity, I would suggest that you ask yourselves some pertinent questions, before committing your time and money to a design agency or a store.

Get answers for these key questions
  • Are you ready to spread your work across continents? Do you have a strong customer following at home?
  • Do you have an understanding of what the typical customer profile (age, familiarity with Indian crafts,  style preferences, colour choices, favourite area of spending) would be in the store where you are thinking of sending your work to?
  • Have you done your research on the design agency you are planning on working with (their success in shows, references from past shows)?
  • Are you happy to send your products across to this new country on a regular basis over a couple of years? (This is the exercise of making the customer in the foreign land familiar with your work)
  • Are you looking at this (your first show) as a marketing exercise or as something to help you achieve your annual sales targets? (From experience I can say, that this a wee bit unlikely as mostly customers need time to familiarise themselves to anything new)
  • What is the end-price that the store would be retailing your creations for? Do they pass the ‘wallet test’?

As I walked back to get the tube back home, I made a mental note to congratulate the designers for their fabulous success. For a young designer’s work to be selected and displayed, was no mean feat.  I remembered what Ekta Kaul mentioned in her talk at the launch event; that it took her over a decade to ‘get into’ the Liberty store. So, a big ‘well done’ to each one of them and many congratulations to Vallari for enabling the whole event.

Rome wasn’t built in a day! Continue to create and innovate; Be Notjustashopper!

Shilpa