Design accents and Karunganni pants

Architect-designer Rooshad Shroff takes his vast catalogue online. Elsewhere, designers, both indie and established, think out of the box — we review Ikai Asai and Maalgaadi’s new e-stores

When Ikai Asai launched at Maison Et Objet, Paris, in January this year, there was no indication of what was to come. Their plans to retail small-batch products that “help consumers rediscover local craftsmanship and the artisanal industry”, as CEO Kanupriya Verma describes it, was put on hold during the lockdown, and revived at London Craft Week last month. The site went live in early October, featuring four collections of tableware, serving utensils and cutlery, made using traditional methods and material.

Verma was part of the team that brought out Ananya Birla’s CuroCarte, a site that curates decor from around the world. With Ikai Asai (which translates to ‘one’ in Punjabi and ‘desire’ in Tamil), the focus was on creating an artisanal lifestyle brand that would help revive crafts that are fast declining. The Deva line, for instance, was drawn from architect Dharmesh Jadeja in collaboration with Longpi pottery artisan Matthew Sasa from Meghalaya. It also features kansa work (bronze), resulting in a gold and black collection of vases, napkin rings, dinner plates and bowls (above).

Designer Rina Singh, founder of Eka, brings her minimalist aesthetic to block-printed table linen and ceramic hand-dyed platters in a range called Lila (seen below). For barware, furniture designer Ayush Kasliwal created Kama, a line made entirely of amethyst. Architect and interior designer Ashiesh Shah worked with Channapatna artist Noor Salma to put together six-foot-tall totem poles that work as art pieces, as well as Junoon tableware with wooden beads.

Ikai Asai Lila collection by Rina Singh  

The site features beautiful product images and a much-appreciated quick view that kicks in when a cursor is scrolled over it (and a single tap if you’re on the mobile site). But overall navigation still remains a bit confusing. If you are looking to browse by collection, head to the ‘Mood’ tab. However, only select items are listed when you try to shop from this page. There are also no options to see all products in a category: customers will have to choose a sub-category — ‘Pitchers’ under ‘Drinkware’ for example — which lessens the chances of us coming across something else we might end up liking and buying.

From ₹350 to ₹2.5 lakh

Up next: Verma promises new collaborations at least twice a year, but is tight-lipped on what crafts we might see on the site next.

From Maalgaadi’s collection

The eclectic design store tucked away in the bylanes of Besant Nagar might be downing its shutters soon, but its founders are continuing their journey online. With the soft launch last week, the e-store currently lets visitors wishlist their products and will allow orders next week.

Regulars might recall the brand’s earlier site, Well, co-founder Shahin Ansari explains that it was discontinued a few years ago as they “wanted to focus on the physical space”. Plans to revive the website were always on the cards, but the Covid-19 crisis pushed them to finally get it up. Unlike the former site, which focussed more on home decor than garments, the new fashion-centric digital store will have everything from trench coats and leather sandals to drop pendant chains and Jodhpuri drum bags. Over the years, Ansari has curated shows with an unusual mix of emerging brands from across the country. So we are hopeful. For now, large images greet you on the home page, but we expect photos from multiple angles for a better experience, and a few tweaks to the navigation.

Accessorries at Maalgaadi 

“Our focus is on sustainable labels and brands that source ethically. Of the 15 designers featured, eight are ethical labels that focus on handwoven, handspun fabrics,” she says, adding that their curation included picking brands from the existing roster — Mati, Anushe Pirani, Fahd Khatri — and adding new ones. Since the soft launch, they are seeing jewellery, primarily earrings, and Indo-western festive wear being added to buyer wishlists. The site is set to launch on October 28.

₹1,500 onwards for jewellery and ₹2,500 to ₹80,000 for apparel.

Up next: A capsule collection, Earth Pants, that is inspired by the elements of nature. Crafted using Karunganni cotton, a new line of trousers will be launched every month.

A Rooshad Shroff design

Architect-designer Rooshad Shroff has been toying with the idea of a website for years now. It wasn’t until lockdown gave him the “luxury of time” that he and his team buckled down to the task.

Clean is what comes to mind when you log on. A stunning photograph of one of his projects (a revolving format ensures a new one every time you visit) gives way to a minimal page with just three options — Spaces, Installations, Objects — in crisp black lettering. “I wanted an absolutely fuss-free website, as sterile as possible, so that navigation is easy. There is already a lot of pattern and colour in my work, so, instead of a big graphic design exercise, I wanted the attention to be on the individual piece or project,” he says.

A Rooshad Shroff design 

With its grid and list view options, the site is designed like a catalogue. (It is price on request at the moment; for price tags, wait for the Shop feature to go live.) Each entry comes with a detailed write-up, a scroll-through gallery, and an option to download the spec sheet. “The website, launched on October 2, is an introduction to the versatility of our design studio,” he says. “Many people know us only for our furniture or our Hermès windows, and not so much for our architecture projects and events.” More interactive elements like videos would have helped, but Shroff believes “if you repeat the same things from platform to platform, it won’t work”. So making videos and the like will be reserved for his Instagram.

Up next: The Shop will go live soon (right after his physical gallery opens in Mumbai next month). Expect carved marble lights, candle holders, inlay plates and more.

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