Fashion Forward: In Conversation With The Elegantly Rural, NorBlack NorWhite

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It’s possible to fall in love at first sight; and conveniently so when what you’re about to fall in love with is a healthy mix of smart and beautiful. If you’re unaware of this feeling, we would suggest you to take a look at the avant-garde and eye-catching designs by brand NorBlack NorWhite which has been doing regular rounds in the press for a while now. We couldn’t resist but find out the underlying story behind the inception of the brand by talking to two of the most talented designers this industry has seen – Amrit Kumar and Mriga Kapadiya.

Tell us something about the two of you as a team.
We’re both soul sisters with a common interest in what we do. Our design aesthetics flow through the veins of India with a slight touch of modernity and elegance. Even though we grew up and were raised in different counties, we have a common sense of attachment to a certain way of living which we’ve tried to illustrate through our designs. Believe it or not, we both studied business! We then moved on to working in advertising for a while but we would always be curating art shows, throwing together fashion shows, shoots and events of sorts in Toronto. We would constantly and invariably be drawn to the similar sources of inspiration.

How did NorBlack NorWhite (NBNW) come into being?
It evolved as a natural progression of the two of us wanting to work together, wanting to explore the country, hungry to learn and create. When we moved to Bombay in 2009, we had no clear plan or goal. Then one day on a trip to Kachchh we were exposed to beautiful textiles and met some amazing artisans. It is funny how we had been admiring Indian textiles for years without really even knowing what it involves! We realised the importance of meeting the source and learning the history of these practices. We wanted to document and tell stories, and textiles happened to be the format we chose to do so.

We would like to know more about your brand and the philosophy you adhere to.
It’s a journey for us to explore India and our history through textiles, art and adventure. NorBlack NorWhite’s philosophies develop from questioning the past, appreciating the present and taking it to the future. It’s partly an anthropological experiment, part art and part fashion.

How do you manage your customer base in Canada and India, given their tastes are so varied and perceptibly diverse?
Our design aesthetic comes out of the places we’ve lived in, traveled to and the people we’ve met along the way. Even when we were growing up in Toronto, we would wear our mom’s shawls, and enjoy mixing Indian textiles with our Toronto wardrobes. We design pieces we would like to wear and our friends would be excited about so its definitely a natural outcome. It’s part of the reason behind the name NorBlack NorWhite. You can say it means nor east nor west but something that’s both, and in between the two at the same time.

Brief us about the challenges you faced while setting up a brand in India considering the stubborn market conditions and how you overcame them.
Firstly, speaking broken Hindi didn’t help while communicating designs and working, although we’re lucky artisans are visual, so we’ve found more ways to communicate. Then walking into the bank to deal with our accounts, we wouldn’t be taken seriously as two young women running a business! Another major challenge has been the realization that a large percentage of people here no longer care for respect the worth of hand-made and the ancient craftsmanship that has been around for centuries. Instead there is a high demand for Western or artificial creations. So we’re always communicating the ‘value’ behind the textile traditions of India. It’s quite exciting, actually!

You also have an active audience in Toronto. How do you so effortlessly and successfully manage to juggle work in there and here? What is it that you miss about the county most, considering you have now settled down in Mumbai?
We’re often traveling back and forth between the two cities. But returning to Toronto is about re-connecting with our family, friends and our community who are all creators and artists in their own paths, continuing to inspire us daily. Besides that, Toronto has delicious food, really great dance parties and kind people from around the world! Everything about Toronto is fun, fun and fun!

What is your work motto and tell us about the techniques you use in making of garments. How would you describe your style in a few words?
We’ve loved bandhani from the start and even though we’ve worked with ikat, zardozi, etc we keep coming back to the tie and dye magic! We work with a family of artisans in Kutchchh who we have the most beautiful working relationship with and creating with them is super fulfilling. Every bit of working with them spells satisfaction which leads to happiness.

Do you envision yourselves showcasing at Fashion Weeks in India?
So far we haven’t showed at any of the fashion weeks in India because it just hasn’t aligned with how we work. But we haven’t shut the door firmly on it. If and when we feel that it would be a representation of who we are, we’re down to trying it out!

Are there any specific designers you love and look forward collaborate with?
We’ve been huge fans of Sabyasachi and how he treats that most beautiful of garments- the sari.
As for the latter bit, we’ve started to actually build collaborations with a few designers/ artists from Bombay as well as outside India and are excited to share as the year progresses!

Monsoons can be tricky! What style tips would you like to share with MumbaiMag readers?
–    Close toed shoes. We love Bombay but not the muck during rain time!
–    Bright rain jackets (we’re working on some ourselves!) and boots. It’s a great time to switch up your wardrobe in a city that basically has only one other season.

Since you have now settled in Mumbai, a rapid fire on the city –
•    Best place to hang out in Mumbai during the monsoon: On a terrace with a view, a hot cup of chai and some tunes.
•    Favourite Mumbaikar whose style you admire: on the streets, in the trains is where you’ll find some of the most beautiful women with styles better than any celebrity.
•    One word to describe Mumbai rains: Unpredictable
•    If Mumbai had its own superhero, what super power do you wish he/she had?: Super cleaning powers, for sure!

Lastly, tell us about your future plans.
We’re looking beyond just woman specific clothing and collaborating even more with other creators. We’re also exploring avenues and other art forms in addition to textiles and fashion. It’s been a great journey so far and we’re expecting a greater one in years to come.

We’re thrilled to know these young and talented designers dwell in spectrum of simplicity and elegance. After this hearty conversation with NBNW, we sure have become their number one fans. What about you?

Post By Saloni Dahake (6 Posts)

Loves to write about fashion. Besides all the serious stuff, she loves admiring cantankerous women talk in local trains, making mix tapes for friends and clicking photos of her gorgeous cats in free time.

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Saloni Dahake

Saloni Dahake
Loves to write about fashion. Besides all the serious stuff, she loves admiring cantankerous women talk in local trains, making mix tapes for friends and clicking photos of her gorgeous cats in free time.