Island vibes in India

From the creative family that started Good Earth comes modern design brand Nicobar, and it’s the perfect combination of art, commerce and a relaxed island spirit.

Inspired by the exotic island of Nicobar, the brand is Indian at heart, but takes you on a journey of easy, youthful, effortless style. It is being led by Good Earth’s CEO, Simran Lal (Anita Lal’s daughter) and her husband Raul Rai, a Harvard Business School Graduate who gave up his career in investment banking, having previously worked at companies such as Goldman Sachs and General Atlantic.

In Spring this year, Nicobar opened its first store in Mumbai and it is truly a new home of design, with minimal interiors, statement furniture pieces, books and visual merchandising; Instagram pictures is what this store is made for. Nicobar’s second store opened in Delhi just a week ago, (interestingly, though the Lal’s are Del-hi-based, the first Good Earth store opened in Mumbai too.)

It is also interesting to note that both their stores, the one in Delhi and the older one in Mumbai, are situated over restaurants - the Mumbai store being on top of Kala Ghoda café and the Delhi one above Diva Spiced. With its positive response, Lal and Rai hope to open seven stores across India in the next four years.While the founders talk about Nicobar creating a modern Indian voice in design, you cannot help but think that it is actually a younger, more commerce-driven and updated version of Good Earth.

Be it the mugs, chanderi saris, cotton shirt dresses and palm tree embossed dinner plates, it seems like a Good Earth redux, on first viewing.However, when you walk through the store and browse through the website more closely, you realise that the store is actually making “Make in India” products relevant to the Instagram generation, while also being timeless and classic.

Now, that’s a balance that isn’t easy to achieve.Nicobar’s appeal is wider than Good Earth’s, not only because of its pricing, but because of its products too. It is cleaner, far less colourful and has its own distinct identity. And, of course, it is easier on the eyes and the pocket.So what do you look out for, if you ever get a chance to visit this marvelous store? Tableware and clothing are their standout products. Their jersey separates are perfect for travel or simply for lounging around the house - this store is more about a mindset than design.The store assistants are young design addicts themselves, be it aspiring photographers or stylists.

Clearly, a lot of thought and planning has gone into creating the Nicobar brand. The one big miss is the packaging - handbags do not come with a cover, candles are not in boxes, and while this is probably done in a bid to keep things afford-able, it takes away from the brand’s effortless yet elegant aesthetic.Nicobar is all about mixing art with commerce. It has three verticals, home, travel and clothing. Each vertical has its own head, and clothing is looked after by Aparna Chandra, a well-known Indian designer and stylist (in case the name sounds familiar, she was the costume designer behind Zoya Akhtar’s Luck by Chance).

This is a team that has both experience and passion for a “Make in India” brand.There is no question that commerce is at the heart of the product. Nothing about the brand feels forced; instead, it is all about a relaxed simplicity, about taking the spirit of island living and making it an urban experience. As Aparna Chandra says, “You don’t need a lot of clothes to build a great wardrobe. In fact, limiting yourself to just a few items will force you to keep only the best. I believe that the time is ripe when people in India should start taking individual pieces and styling the same thing differently for different occasions as opposed to buying new things for every occasion. We at Nicobar want to encourage thoughtful consumption.”

In an age where design is trying to understand how to blend the world of craft and technology, a concept like Nicobar could not be more perfectly timed. Some members of the design community may find the products too simple, but it seems like the Good Earth family is once again leading the way for lifestyle-based retail in India.

The story as it appeared : Khaleej Times