Ampersand Culture: India Design ID Fair 2018
Delhi is a city full of 'happenings' with a thriving arts, literary and design scene attracting the brightest talent from across the country. From the stunning exhibitions, installations and parties of the annual Art Fair to the Delhi Book Fair, travellers to India's capital can choose from a dizzying array of events that offer both a glimpse into another layer of Indian life and a fascinating cultural experience.
One of our favourites is the annual India Design ID Fair held in late February at South Delhi's sprawling NSIC grounds. In the same spirit of global interior fairs London's Decorex or Maison et Objet in Paris, ID takes place over several beautifully-designed marquees with stands and installations from 130 of the best known and emerging designers along with pop-up restaurants, champagne bars and art galleries.
A symposium of talks are held over the three-day event. This year saw an eclectic and starry collection of names presenting their own takes on the meaning of design along with sharing influences and ideas. Parisian chef Alain Passard of the legendary St Germain restaurant L'Arpege talked about the concept of food as art and the intricacies and nuances of display. Meanwhile, one of the most intriguing personalities in the world, 'cyborg' colour-blind artist Neil Harbisson shared life through his unique and visionary lens, living with an implanted antennae that translates colours into sound. Other speakers included British interior designer Ilse Crawford and Calcutta-born fashion doyen Sabyasachi Mukherjee who has just launched his second collection of wall coverings with Nilaya by Asian Paints. They were displayed in a ‘vintage’ train carriage, modelled on the Orient Express and an ingenious showcase for rich patterns evoking Mughal gardens and lighthearted chintz.
The golden age of travel was the inspiration for other designers this year with furniture designers Iqrup & Ritz creating a mis en scene around the home of fictional French explorer, Meurice, the bookish Lothario of 1930’s Cairo, to launch its inaugural fabric collection. The mother and daughter design duo, who are based between Delhi and South Kensington, unveiled timeless textiles with shades of mid-20th century French designer Madeleine Castaing and the playfulness of Bloomsbury in restrained and fresh hues.
India has always been an experimental culture and some of the most exciting design concepts are appearing out of the subcontinent. ID brings together a number of designers worth keeping an eye on for their sheer ingenuity. We were fascinated by Bangalore-based Oorjaa (meaning 'power'), lighting artisans. They showed pendants, a striking translation of utilitarian, made out of ‘feather’ faux cement in ombré pigments and translucent light shades fashioned from banana fibre paper as well as tree bark 'that regenerates every nine years'. Other creatives playing with unusual materials included Mumbai designer Bandana Jain who invited visitors into a room filled with elegantly-shaped furniture entirely made of corrugated cardboard, 'I created a daybed sofa for my own home and had so much interest from friends that I realised its potential as a sustainable material for home design' says Jain. 'We live in resourceful and uncertain times and need to protect our environment’.
Some of India's most exciting new design hotels, including Bikaner's Narendra Bhawan were represented by celebrated Ayush Kasliwal. His Jaipur-based design studio works to empower artisans and craftsman while creating furniture and lighting from traditional materials that sing of India's rich heritage.
This heritage, rich in myth and legend entwined in its craft traditions, could be seen in the vibrant ornaments made from jade, amethyst and malachite lined with pure gold by Delhi artisan Minjal Jhaveri who spoke of the 'stone's healing qualities and radiation of positive energies'. India's oldest heritage rug makers, Obeetee have paired up with fashion designers Abraham & Thakore to create textured and iridescent rugs. Another rug brand striking a high note was the family-owned Jaipur Rugs Company, which began life in 1978 from a loan of 5,000 rupees to buy a bicycle and two looms. Today the four Chaudhary siblings are at the helm of 40,000 weavers and sported a collection based around hand spun wool and bamboo silks.
A siren call back to nature was found at famed designer Sarita Handa's atrium-like space filled with towering plants, botanical fabrics, earthy planters and tiger embroidered textiles. This aesthetic echoes much of South Delhi's way of living - contrary to widely held perception, the city's green colonies are oases of verdant peace, further boosted by the recent opening of Delhi's 'answer to Central Park' in the shadow of 16th century Humayan’s Tomb.
February is the perfect time to visit Delhi, with its mild sunshine and birdsong a welcome escape from winter gloom. We are already looking forward to next year’s ID India Design Fair and it’s joyful celebration of India’s proud place in the global design forum.
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