Lekha Washington, The Dot Chair Front
Malati Kallapur Vijay
The mushrooming décor market in India has given ample opportunities to young designers to turn entrepreneurs. Guided by the needs of the market or driven by the passion to engineer environment-friendly design solutions, new-age designers are launching their products, brands and stores across India and abroad, creating some of the most innovative products made in the country. LuxeBook lists six designers to watch out for.
Inclined to nature
Nayanika Bhatla and Gazal Bawa, Idam
The shared love for textiles and prints, got Nayanika Bhatla and Gazal Bawa, both, 28 and NIFT Delhi alumni, to launch Idam, a contemporary home and lifestyle products’ brand, in 2015.
Nayanika’s textile designing skills and Gazal’s graphic designing expertise combine to create delightful textiles of the brand. Committed to using only fair trade certified natural fabrics, their collection includes bed linen, table linen, kitchen linen, quilts, dohars, rugs, tea sets, etc. They also have a kids’ range in 100 per cent organic fabrics with hand-drawn sketches and doodles of ice creams, popsicles, watermelons, fishes and bugs. Idam has an online store and is also available on major lifestyle portals. “Creating a good visual content has been helpful to gain traction and create a niche,” says Gazal.
Awards: Interior Lifestyle Award (2016) at Ambiente Frankfurt, 20under35 by Design X Design; Edida nomination, Bedroom Category (2017) and Best Design Project, The Pool Show (2018)
Nayanika Bhatla & Gazal Bawa, Idam
Shape shifter
Lekha Washington, Ajji
35-year-old artist, actor and designer, Lekha Washington’s art company, Ajji, established in 2013, has been taking functional art, which plays with different forms, across the globe. The signature Dot chair looks like a giant dollop of paint. The Pink Sink looks impossible to sit on until one does. Her creations are shown at ICFF NYC, Ambiente Frankfurt, AD Design Show and Design ID.
The graduate from National Institute of Design recently designed an installation for Forevermark – a giant diamond refracting light that was bounced off by highly reflective walls, luminating a space that the visitors could walk through.
Awards: Exhibitions at ICFF NYC, Ambiente Frankfurt, Design ID, Burning Man, Nevada, USA.
Lekha Washington, Ajji
Global Indian
Spandana Gopal, Tiipoi
Bengaluru girl Spandana Gopal, 31, went to London to pursue an MA in Contemporary Art, worked for a few galleries, an auction house and a few years later launched Tiipoi, a product design studio in 2014.
Her products exude a sophisticated Western sensibility and are made using Indian crafts. “For me, it is important to make things relevant to living here (in London). The product must have its merit and credibility – it needs to satisfy a need,” says Spandana.
Even though her studio is in Bengaluru, she doesn’t retail in India yet. “People commit to your product by buying it and believing in it. There is no consignment system, which essentially allows the retailer to return damaged goods or move to someone else if your brand isn’t selling. Sadly, we haven’t found a retail partner in India who wants to nurture brands,” she says. She is now preparing for a special showcase at the Dutch Design Week, which borrows from the North-East of India.
Awards: Tiipoi’s Mirror 6, a large cast metal design, was exhibited at Sir John Soane Museum. Spandana was invited by Vivienne Westwood to show her collection in their Milan store during Milan Design Week.
Spandana Gopal, Tiipoi
Bamboo and beyond
Sandeep Sangaru’s Sandeep Sangaru Design Object
Sandeep Sangaru, 44, has honed his skills in shaping the humble bamboo into fine furniture, and has made three dresses as an installation art for Varana store in London. The Founder of Sandeep Sangaru Design Object, launched in 2010, is currently experimenting with bamboo crafts in Qingshen, Sichuan Province, China, on the invitation of the Chinese Government.
Sandeep likes working with craftsmen and using traditional techniques to create something unique that is not seen as a mass consumption product. “It is about keeping the craft valuable,” he says. Earlier this year, Ambiente 2019 – Messe Frankfurt commissioned him to design a live cafe in the luxury hall, for which he used benches and tables from his Truss Me collection. “The simplicity and versatility of bamboo and its potential to transform into numerous functional applications with the help of just a knife attracted me. My exposure to the techniques used by craftsmen in Tripura encouraged me to go beyond the mundane,” says the designer, an NID alumnus with a mechanical engineering background.
His other furniture collections use turned wood lacquer crafts of Channapatna, Karnataka and traditional woodcraft of Kashmir. “I’ve worked with Kashmir walnut wood using Khatamband and Pinjarakari carving methods to introduce a small collection of furniture and lamps.”
Awards: Red Dot Design Award (2009) for the Truss Me collection, Design for Asia Award — both the Grand and Gold awards (2011) and the British Council’s Young Creative Entrepreneur Award – Design for Social Impact in 2012.
Sandeep Sanguru, Bamboo & Beyond
The Essentialist
Saif Faisal, Saif Faisal Design Workshop
33-year-old Saif Faisal’s The Saif Faisal
Design Workshop (2014) creates product design, furniture, lighting, architecture, interiors, motorcycle design, automotive racing and jewellery.
As a student of architecture, he was part of Formula Student racing for almost five years and is still guiding an electric vehicle project for the TUBITAK Istanbul efficiency challenge. “Racing is all about efficiency and performance with utmost ‘essential’ attitude to design. Every tiny pin on the chassis belongs there for a reason,” he explains.
His Blub Vide Poche candleholder that won the EDIDA Table Top category 2015 is a minimalist bowl made from ceramic and aluminium that screws onto a wooden base. The Qaiser table series employs Bidri tradition to explore snowflake motifs and oxidised Zillij patterns. “With an ‘essentialist’ attitude, I focus on sensitive, thoughtful and meaningful design. The solutions seek the harmony of poetry and functionality. Every design is essential, but not necessarily minimal,” says Saif.
He is currently working on aquaponics designs for farms, restaurants and roof and balcony systems for Eat Neat Project. He is also designing portable solar lamps for Polana Serena in Mozambique.
Awards: Saif has about ten awards to his credit, including the EDIDA and LEXUS for Craft Design, and the Perspective 40 Under 40 from around the world.
Saif Faisal, SaifFaisalDesignWorkshop
Material Man
Kunaal Kyhan Seolekar, Koy Store
In just two years since the launch of Koy Store, Pune, in 2017, interior and product designer Kunaal Kyhan Seolekar, 31, is making waves with his creations marketed across the globe. “My ideas are inspired by India’s rich and idiosyncratic heritage of craftsmanship,” says Seolekar.
His inaugural collection, Kindred Spirits, exhibited at the Maison et Objet and Homi Milano, Milan, was a family of handcrafted products and art objects made using marble metal, wood and textiles. And his latest, Yantr is a collection of objects that brings alive the power of ancient Indian philosophy with a distinctly contemporary aesthetic. “This whimsical assortment of objects brings the sublime divine to quotidian objects,” he adds.
Two of his recent interior projects are being lauded for their unique aesthetics. CourtyardHAUS, a modern 7,000-sqft villa, features a step-well, a courtyard, and a giant boulder as the dining table, copper tiles in the kitchen and gradient hued glass wardrobes. Koy has also furnished 72 one-bedroom suites of a futuristic hospitality concept in Pune set amid the lush Sahyadri hills.
Meanwhile, in his studio, Kunaal is realising the techniques to mimic natural landscapes and textures of India. The right skills to dress fibreglass in terracotta and airbrush surfaces to resemble water bodies reflecting starry nights are being explored.
Awards: EDIDA award for Young Talent of the Year & Best Residential Interior For ParkHaus, Pune by Trends Excellence, both in 2017, and shows at the ID, D/code, Maison et Objet, Milan Design Week.
Kunaal Kyhaan Seolekar, Koy Store

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