Akanksha Sharma, Product Designer
The turning point in Akanksha’s career in design came when textile designer Martin Bergstro%u0308m popped up at NIFT Delhi to discuss IKEA’s first ever collection inspired by India. Svartan, meaning blackness, is a modern and textured monochrome collection that takes inspiration from the winding gullies of the capital, the distressed walls of the Hauz Khas fort and the pillars, rocks, trees and railings peppered around. What began as a two-month workshop at NIFT led Akanksha to become the first Indian designer to walk through the doors of Ikea’s headquarters in Sweden as part of the core design team. The 25-year-old designer who finds inspiration in ‘new cities, old taxis, Rei Kawakubo's neon knitwear and noble silence,’ was creatively inclined from her early years. When she missed the deadlines for scholarships at the art schools of her choice, design seemed to be an organic alternative and turned out to be exactly what she needed. ‘I chose to study design as it gave me a way to express my ideas but with a purpose. I’m fascinated by how design is a part of our everyday life, and we hardly notice it. Also, during my course in Knitwear Design, I grew extremely interested in the diverse textiles India has to offer,’ says Akanksha.
Svartan moves away from the vivid colours that are synonymous with India and reinterprets the country through a filter of black and white. The monochrome collection features plush rugs, textiles, mouth-blown glassware, textured bowls and metal tables. When Martin pooled in 25 students for the workshop, he gave them paper, ink, yarns, paint, tape and charcoal to explore carte blanche. By the close of the workshop, the team had around 2,000 prints for the collection, which were later curated to fifteen. ‘The collective vision of the prints was to be a contemporary, raw and an alternate interpretation of India. The idea was to take inspiration from the subtle textures and abstract patterns around us to see beauty in the seemingly mundane.’
Akansha keeps trying to re-work and re-invent her taste and aesthetics. ‘I am a very visual person and I love strong, powerful visual language. I’m fascinated by the bold usage of colours, I love the depth of indigo and the sensuality of red. I’m more interested in the process of creating something than the final outcome. The stories that lead to the product is what makes it more interesting and adds layers to the design,’ she shares. The designer presently working on a collection of handmade rugs for IKEA, which opens its first store in the country this year, in Hyderabad.
Text Ritupriya Basu