Spearheaded by Simran Lal, we look at her team of creative professionals who inject design into everyday living.
Aparna Chandra – Design head (clothing)
Aparna Chandra knew that she wanted to be a designer from an early age. Her mother created clothing for children and so while growing up, Chandra was surrounded by fabrics and tailors. She completed her education at National Institute of Fashion Technology and later interned with Rohit Khosla, one of India’s fashion design pioneers. She later moved into styling and had the opportunity to work with photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta. In 1992, she launched an eponymous label that ran for more than a decade. And now with Nicobar, she returns to designing, to create a line that is in sync with her own innate style.
What is the Nicobar aesthetic? How do you interpret it through your designs?We were inspired by our journeys across the Indian Ocean, and that fuss free, easy lifestyle that one connects with island living… and that is one of the core aesthetics of our brand. We explore this through our designs, fabrics, silhouettes and styling. We believe good design is not just for special occasions but part of everyday life and that is what we strive for.
Describe your personal style?
Just like Nicobar’s, my style is simple, timeless and relaxed too. I believe in being comfortable in what I wear, and light and happy in whatever I surround myself with. Things don’t have to be expensive to give me that joy but they do need to be well designed, well made and above all, I need to have a connect to it. I think it’s about being true to yourself.
Can you tell us about the fabrics, textiles that you use for Nicobar?Good fabrics are the backbone of our collection. Our big joy is to source fabrics that are simple, but we work hard to make sure they feel great. We have sourcing team that hunts for materials every few months. We like our clothes to be functional, comfortable, natural, soft, and fluid. We work with all kinds of cotton, linen, cotton silk and chanderi and place a big emphasis on fit, form, and finish.
Where do you pick up your inspirations from?All our collections are designed keeping in mind Indian textiles, our design heritage and a simple, contemporary aesthetic. For example for the current collection, our theme is ‘the land of the rising sun — Japan’ and yet you will find this undercurrent of Indian design running through all our pieces.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most? Creating, always.
Arya Nerker – Design head (home)
Born in Mumbai, Arya Nerker loves coastal living and the tropical monsoons are reflected in her designs for Nicobar’s home line. She is an alumnus of Brown University and has studied graphic design at Parsons School of Design. She has also worked for Revlon in New York. Her close association with Anita Lal at Good Earth inspired a love for Indian heritage which is evident in the pieces she now creates.
How do you interpret the Nicobar vibe through your designs?
The Nicobar aesthetic is light, tropical and inclusive. These three words guide my design process for Nicobar. I also like to think of it in terms of textures. Where rough edges of slate can sit with gleaming bronze patina. I like this dynamic play.
Why is Nicobar a good fit for you?Firstly, because of the design aesthetic and ideology. The other important thing is the open culture that Raul and Simran have built from the word go. This permeates into everything, from peer and work relationships to product design processes.
What sets Nicobar’s home line apart from the others in the market?
The fact that we don’t have very precise rules in our design. We don’t dictate how you should style your home or we don’t force you to buy pre-conditioned sets of anything. You come to Nicobar with your style and mix and match our products as they would make you happy.
How is the Nicobar aesthetic different from Good Earth?They each have their own personalities. Good Earth looks to our heritage, drawing inspiration from our rich history, while Nicobar is a brand that showcases and celebrates the newer side of India. With its own vision for the future, Nicobar looks at the world from a uniquely Indian perspective.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?I absolutely love creating products that are rooted in Indian culture and modernising them. Like we have developed a thaali (inspired by the lotus leaf) which is our contemporary take on the traditional one.
Divya Kapoor – Design head (travel)
Divya spent four years in the city of London, studying display design at London College of Communication and University of the Arts London. Following this, she also worked at Cath Kidston, Selfridges, The Pier and Moyses Stevens. Her journey led her to Good Earth, where for five years she worked as an interior stylist and visual merchandiser at Mumbai’s Raghuvanshi Mills. And now moving to product design, her journeys across Mumbai, Pune, Panchgani, London and New Delhi inspire a travel story that is reflected at Nicobar.
What does your job as the design head of travel entail?I get to make sure that people are happy when they travel! My team and I work on creating clothes and essentials that are specific to travel — comfortable and stylish with little details that are helpful during your journey. We believe that there is a bag for everything and organised travel is our motto.
What are your inspirations?We are inspired by wanderlust, by a tropical mindset that is relaxed, it is what we want to infuse in our everyday. Some of our designs come from dreaming – the safari I am still dying to go to! We put together a collection of clothes and accessories that had it all…the khaki poplin pants that you would wear while in the forest, a cotton silk shirt for a drink by the campfire. India will always be a great inspiration and the tiger will always feature in our designs. One of my personal favourites is a tote bag that has a tiger on the moon with a sky full of stars.
How do you interpret this through your designs?
The world really! We are talking travel so the canvas is huge but it’s lovely to find the connect and join the dots back to India. Sometimes our inspirations come from nostalgia, from memory of things that make us smile. The design team loves dogs and poker, and we found a way to bring that to life in our scarves. It’s a real joy to be able to do this!
Your favourite travel destination…I don’t have a favourite destination but every time I go somewhere I come back enriched and hungry for more! I bring back a piece of it back with me. I am a collector and I am curious.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?I love that I have been part of this since day one. Seeing how your inspiration board comes to life and becomes a three-dimensional product that you can take home is so exciting. I love that I have been able to create and actually see our customers enjoy our products.
Vandana Verma – Head of content
Born in the UK, Vandana Verma grew up in Mumbai, Madras, Delhi, and London. She was the editor of Motherland, the food and lifestyle editor at Time Out Delhi and has worked with brands such as Cobra Beer and the The Guardian. As a custodian of Nicobar’s voice, Verma oversees the magazine and builds the Nicobar world, from an editorial point of view.
How do you present the values of Nicobar that through the Journal?Nicobar’s own aesthetic is essential, clean, contemporary, and the brand’s content cannot help but be an extension of that. We’re careful to ensure that the imagery and stories that we put on our blog and social platform are true to the brand’s evolving story, and to its evolving language; whether by picking individuals to feature whose stories and ambitions echo our own, or whether it is showing off our line in the sort of setting that we inhabit ourselves, the one common tangent to our stories a sense of warmth and authenticity, which also means that our content naturally mirrors the brand whose story it is telling.
Who are some people who exemplify the Nicobar lifestyle?
The people we feature in our Journal do… for instance, Bani Nanda – the incredible pastry chef behind Miam who is an entrepreneur, has incredible style and is utterly and entirely charming. But it is also the people who tag us, every day, in pictures on Instagram – artists, designers, chefs, writers, homemakers, students… all of whom sit somewhere on the spectrum of the Nicobar lifestyle.
What goes into the curation of the magazine?The primary focus is and has to be, working out how to tell the brand’s story in the most engaging way possible. But a lovely, secondary focus is helping to write that story: when we’re working out what we want to feature in the Journal our focus is simple: how would this sit in our own lives, our own wardrobes, or homes? And that makes it easy.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?My team. I’m lucky to work with a lovely bunch of individuals, and they are, without a doubt, the highlight of the work that I do.
Nirmal Kaur – Brand head
Nirmal Kaur had been spearheading international business development team for a beverage company while setting up her own start-up fund. After a series of chats spread across Jaipur, Saigon, Bangalore, and many Skype sessions, Nirmal hopped on board team Nicobar. Kaur was drawn by the promise of a project that resonated with her own values.
How do you identify with the Nicobar vibe?Thoughtful in its creation but light in execution, Nicobar is locally rooted yet globally relevant. The products are anchored in thoughtful consumption and are all about sustainable living. Nicobar resonates with my own values: simple and self-assured.
What does your job as the head of the brand entail?
A voice of reason and a mediator between eclectic creative forces. I try to ensure that there is consistency in what we do.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?I enjoy the balance of creativity and commerce that the role demands. There is excitement since this a start-up, and yet there is so much strength to the brand as its an extension of an already established house. We have also nurtured a singular vision alongside the plurality of culture.
What sets Nicobar apart from other lifestyle brands?Often the label ‘lifestyle brand’ is misunderstood in India. Most brands offer clothing and accessories for various occasions constantly moving with the trends. Nicobar’s timeless, everyday aesthetic makes light of occasions, moving seamlessly across. Our open, self-assured yet curious efforts in intersecting design and culture make it unique in this ever-changing world of trends, fashion, and lifestyle.
Story as it appeared.