London-based design firm Doshi Levien has its roots in India. Their fantastic designs make India proud.
When the Mumbai-born Gujarati Nipa Doshi married her Scottish college mate Jonathan Levien, they gave themselves a wedding gift: a design firm that they christened Doshi Levien. Since then, there has been no looking back for the duo, whose work explores the merging of cultures, technology, story telling, industrial design and fine craftsmanship. Doshi is an NID graduate
who won a scholarship for the Masters Degree course in Furniture design at the Royal College of Art. After completing the Masters course, she worked with SCP and David Chipperfield for some time while Jonathan worked with Ross Lovegrove. Their own firm has worked with renowned companies including Moroso, Cappellini, Intel, Authentics, Camper and BD Barcelona.
Nipa and Jonathan bring together two distinct and complementary approaches to their work. While Jonathan presents a European approach to design, Nipa´s work is strongly influenced by her Indian roots. They combine the hand made, the unique and the symbolic with the machine made, the industrial and mass manufactured. As Nipa points out, ´Globalisation and international trade are generally viewed as destroyers of local cultures and the material environment. We like to view globalisation as a way to enhance diversity and disrupt homogeneity; as an opportunity to combine the best of both worlds.´
Chandigarh Sofas and tables for Moroso
The city of Chandigarh is the subject and name of the new collection of sofas by Doshi Levien for Moroso. The principles of modernism have inspired Nipa and Jonathan in the creation of a quintessentially con¡temporary seating collection. ´For us, the Chandigarh sofa is the coming together of modernity, sensuality, graphics and eccentric qualities´, says the designer couple. The ´Chandigarh sofa´ is soft and comfortable yet compact, visually slim and lightweight. The seat is in moulded foam and rests on a frame in iron. The covers are in leather or fabric with a printed pattern designed by Doshi Levien. A series of tables complement the Chandigarh collection, further enriching the architectural material palette using a combination of glass, terrazzo, polished metal and tubular steel.
Chandlo for BD Barcelona Design
´Chandlo´ is a dressing space with an architectural juxtaposition of forms and planes to be viewed from all sides. ´Chandlo´ means moon shape and also ´Bindi´ associated with an Indian woman´s shinghar. The seemingly abstract compo¡sition of the mirrors, cabinet and surface is based on the gestures and daily ritual of dressing up and grooming, celebrating the enjoyment of getting dressed. ôOur intention was to create a composition in which the elements are holding each other in position without actually touching. To maintain the simplicity, we had to conceal the production methods. This presented many technical challenges overcome masterfully by BD Barcelona,ö share the designers. The dressing table is accompanied by a rotating stool with silver embroidered lines on leather cushions.
Charpoy day bed
A range of four day beds called ´Charpoy´ marries the skilled workmanship of Indian seamsters with Italian expertise in industrial production. ´Charpoy´, meaning four legs, is derived from the ubiquitous Indian stringed bed used to sleep on or lounge on.The ´Charpoy´ is made using cotton and silk mattresses embroidered with the ancient Indian dice game of ´Chaupar´. This game plays a pivotal role in the epic Mahabharata. It is said that Mughal emperor Akbar was also very fond of this game.
The textile techniques used for the ´Charpoy´ are local to the western state of Gujarat, known for its embroidery, applique and mirror work. Each piece has a completion date and the names of makers embroidered on it. This detailed hand work is contrasted with lacquered under-frames, CNC-mach¡ined in Manzano, a region of Italy that specialises in precision wood work.
Mahabharata side table
To accompany the ´Charpoy´ range, DL designed a Corian side table feat¡uring a miniature pain¡ting by Indra Sharma. This painting portrays a scene from the great Indian epic Mahabharata and features the game of Chaupar too.
Tools of inspiration pillows
The idea for ´Tools of Inspiration´ was presented during a collaboration with master textile crafts¡women in Ahmedabad. These women use very beautiful utilitarian tools like hand-forged scissors, thimbles, marking chalk, etc. DL thought of getting them to meticulously embroider their own tools on to a pillow. They extended this idea by creating artworks that represented the simple objects we use everyday. Some of these objects are anonymous design classics from around the world and other objects tell the story of everyday rituals. In all, there are nine different designs.
My Beautiful Backside for Moroso
´My Beautiful Backside´ is a seating colle¡ction launched by Moroso during Salone 2008 in Milan. Inspired by a miniature painting of an Indian princess in her palace sitting on the floor surrounded by multiples of cushions, ´My Beautiful Backside´ collection has a composition of floating cushions in celebratory colours and shapes. Oversize badges, used for buttons, are displayed on the cushion backs. This collection is upholstered using felt and wool, reminiscent of couture English suits. The wool fabric was embellished with graphics in silver and gold foiling, introducing an opulent, ostentatious Indian character.
You clearly have an Indian connection. How deeply rooted is it?
Nipa´s approach to design and the material environment is naturally rooted to her Indian upbringing; she unconciously brings an Indian cultural sensibility to our design practice.
What about India inspires you the most?
The plurality and complexity of the culture and the inherent contradictions in all aspects of Indian life. The sensual everyday rituals and the celebratory and joyful approach to life.
Which is your favourite India-inspired line of furniture?
Charpoy and My Beautiful Backside sofa, both for Moroso, have a strong Indian influence. Whereas, the Charpoy combines storytelling with fine Indian hand craftmanship and Italian industrial precision. My Beautiful Backside sofa is inspired from an Indian miniature painting.
Are there any Indian architects or designers whose work you admire?
Bijoy Jain´s architecture and Sooni Taraporewala´s photographs of the Parsi community.