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India on my Mind: The Latest Indian-Inspired Design Collaborations

A vast land of inspiration for both local and foreign designers, India has given rise to many collections – from couture garments to home decor. We look at the latest three

A vast land of inspiration for both local and foreign designers, India has formed the core of many a collection – from couture garments to home décor. For Westerners, the country is a treasure of ethereal motifs and impressive mastery. For homegrown talents, it is a land of ancient customs to bring to modern days.

From its delicate embroidery to its plush fabrics to its radiant gems to its empirical legacy, the subcontinent has given rise to some iconic lines. In the last decade alone, a scrum of coveted Maisons have turned their gazes to India for creative sparkles. Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Etro are among the few renowned labels that have rolled out India-focused creations. In doing so, many have teamed with Indian designers, who have landed their innate expertise of India’s crafts to elevating the nation’s global image.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee X Pottery Barn 2016

LuxuryFacts explores three high-profile partnerships that celebrated India in the last half year by painting its history, presence and relation with the West.

C for Carpets, Contemporary and Classic 
OBEETEE X Tarun TahilianiLavish canvases of various motifs – from abstract geometry to blooming gardens, Indian rugs weave together the artistic history of the country, stretching all the way back to the Persian empire. Seeking to roll out this legacy of opulence and craftsmanship to the world, OBEETEE, one of India’s largest handmade rug maker, has partnered with one of the country’s top designers, Tarun Tahiliani, for an exquisite carpet collection.

Titled “From India, With Pride,” the assortment marks the inaugural Indian-inspired line for OBEETEE. Sinch March, it is gracing the luxury ABC Carpet & Home store in New York. “This is the first time a serious collection of rugs is coming out that is designed and conceived entirely in India by Indians,” said Mr Tahiliani to Live Mint. “The collection is quintessentially Indian and very contemporary from the design point of view.”

The line intertwines traditional Indian elements with Mr Tahiliani’s modern sensitivities. Split into three categories (The Antique Frames, the Chikankari and the Abstract Art), the designs incorporate details from Mughal miniature paintings, delicate chikankari embroideries from Lucknow as well as Mr Tahiliani’s abstract art. Spread over India’s past and present, heritage and innovation, they all follow the designer’s credo “All that we were and more” with a minimalist and refined edge.

The Antique Frames rugs burst with sliver-lined Persian scripts, floral figures and prancing birds that sprawl against a gold-dappled backdrop of royal blue, intense burgundy and dusky green. These nine carpets capture the painstaking symmetry that reigned during the almost three-century Mughal period. Yet, they reflect it through the bare styling of Mr Tahiliani’s austere frames.

Also cuing to the creative might of the Mughals, The Chikankari line draws inspiration from the legendary eponymous embroidery technique (from Persian, “chikan” denotes embroidery and “kari” work). Widely considered to be a cultural import from Persia, the chikankari carpets boast a distinct antique look, busy with age-revered paisley and floral motifs. Under Mr Tahiliani’s contemporary aesthetics, the century-old appeal of the rugs breaks between thick borders that make for modern patina.

While the Antique Frames and the Chikankari rugs tout potent historic references, the Abstract Art creations exemplify Mr Tahiliani’s hanker for layers and textures. Here, the ornaments evoke complex  paintings with strokes of flowing colors and floating lines. The designer’s visions warranted a special dip technique, where oils dissipated the pigments to depict masterpieces of rich detailing.

OBEETEE X Tarun Tahiliani 2017

With his proven talent in jewelry and couture, Mr Tahiliani has constructed a premium collection of rugs that launches OBEETEE’s initiative to celebrate the vibrancy of India. Designers in the likes of Raghavendra Rathore and Abraham & Thakore are tapped to carry on the work.

Between Paris and Kolkata
Sabyasachi Mukherjee X Christian Louboutin 2016The connection between Christian Louboutin, the coveted shoemaker, and Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the renowned Indian bridal wear designer, might jump out as peculiar. But it is not at all unusual. Given Mr Louboutin’s appreciation for India and its craftsmanship and Mr Mukherjee’s knack for intricacy and tradition, the two designers make a winning duo. “His Indian work is exceptional in my eyes,” said Mr Louboutin to Live Mint. “And our shoes and handbags are an Indian version of French work.”

Last year, the two brands released a collection of men’s and women’s shoes as well as bags that straddle the artistic sensitivities of France and India that come alive through a slew of materials like cork, leather and raffia.

Featuring both flats and stilettoes, the women’s line merges Sabyasachi’s signature embroidery together with Louboutin’s mainstays like spikes and red soles. Gold, black and burgundy splash over the shoes, cuing to the lavishness of both French and Indian artistry. The men’s creations do not much differ when it comes to marrying the two designers’ most coveted features.

A novelty for the two maisons’ partnership in 2016 are the bags of nappa leather, suede and pony (in 2015, they debuted their maiden shoes-only collaboration). Lined up with Louboutin’s popcorn spikes, the clutches flaunt rich floral and bird embroideries form Sabyasachi. “Our last collection was gothic and mostly comprised of black, gold and metallic,” said Sabyasachi for Vogue India. “The spirit of this collection is hipster meets steam punk meets whimsical baroque.”

Sabyasachi Mukherjee X Christian Louboutin 2016

It is also much more Indian and much more French.

Indian Frontiers at Home 
Sabyasachi Mukherjee X Pottery Barn 2016Around the same time in late 2016, when Sabyasachi premiered his second collection with Louboutin, the Indian brand presented another collaboration – its inaugural team-up with San Francisco-based Pottery Barn.

The capsule collection is a first for both labels. For the bridal design house, it is its first décor collection. For the upscale furniture store, it is its first global line.

Monica Bhargava, vice president for product development at Pottery Barn, explained to Vogue India how she discovered Sabyasachi on a design scouting trip to India, “We stumbled on Sabyasachi (the store) and spent the next two hours being completely blown away by the creativity and vision behind this brand. We unanimously agreed that we had never seen anything like it before! And none of us even knew who Sabya was—all I knew is that I had to meet the person behind this brand, and get to know them better.”

Sabyasachi Mukherjee X Pottery Barn 2016

After Ms Bhargava and Mr Mukherjee met and he flew out to USA to join the creative team for several days and parse the brand’s creative DNA, he kept the American brand’s key customer demographic in mind when  pushing his own design frontiers. The result is an expansive collection – from plates to Christmas tree decorations to jewelry boxes to pillows – that exudes Sabyasachi’s charming aesthetics of vintage floral and bird patterns. Rich in hues and posh in materials, the items evoke treasured heirlooms, passed down by centuries of Indian artistry.