Fine threads connect Nicobar with its venerable elder Good Earth, also run by Raul Rai and Simran Lal - natural materials, flowing lines and detailing that doesn’t give up all its secrets at first look. But where Good Earth is lush and maximalist, all bright colours and historical motifs, Nicobar is austere, modern and hybrid.
Like the teasers they’ve been posting on Instagram, Nicobar’s merchandise tends toward black and white, with small pops of colour showing up on a button here and a glass rim there. We can’t spot many statement pieces; the clothes and travel accessories are all designed to be simple and serious, and will probably weave themselves into your closet rather than inspire you to start from scratch.
With prices just a couple of notches above mall-outlet fast fashion labels, Nicobar is also more affordable than Good Earth, although this varies depending on whether you’re buying chambray or chanderi. (There’s a fabric wheel you won’t find at Good Earth.) Unlike mall fashion, everything also looks ready to wear or use in a sweaty, style-obliterating Indian summer.„In spite of being named for a small group of islands neglected in India’s memory and history, Nicobar doesn’t feel like the frivolous pursuit of a tropical exotic. „If you like low-key basics, separates that you can layer, and clothes that don’t scream for attention, Nicobar's tops, kurtas and dresses will speak to you. A gauzy ivory chanderi shirt dress with tiny monochrome motifs is probably going to be sold out in the time it takes to read this story (sorry!); and a racerback grey striped dress is so muted that slides past the eye, until it's arrested by floral trim peeking out of the hem.
The homeware underlines the Good Earth connection more sharply; here are unmistakably Indian designs of palm fronds, floral motifs (did we see frangipani cushion covers again?) and meticulous geometry. A single steel thali with borders moulded like a lotus makes the perfect consolation for dinner alone; also pay close attention to a salad bowl with a palm tree etched into its curve. You might also like hunting for gifts or replacements for your own ceramics among a batch of alphabet mugs and mix-and-match bowls and glasses. We do wish the colour pops here were weren’t so heavily inclined to fuschia and lime green, now pretty standard as far as surprise details go.
Something tells us you’ll see the jersey tunics and slouchy pants in the travel section, minimalist and layering-friendly, on a number of other fellow travellers on flights this summer. The accessories look like they’ll really change our travel style, though. With about a dozen tiny but helpful products, including cute laundry bags and packing-planners, we’re relying on Nicobar to help take the headaches out of our packing ways soon.
We’ll keep coming back to Nicobar to find more things that feel subtly, comfortably right to us, and which we need in a quiet way rather than lust for in an acquisitive blaze. In spite of being named for a small group of islands neglected in India’s memory and history, Nicobar doesn’t feel like the frivolous pursuit of a tropical exotic. Its muted colours, versatile structures and breezy fabrics seem to gesture at an expansion of the Indian imagination, to a kind of eastern island modernity.
Getting there: Visit www.nicobar.com. Mumbai also gets a Ropewalk Lane flagship store that opens today. You, dear Delhi or Bangalore shopper, must play snatch-that-lotus-thali online while they scout for a suitable location in your city. NB: bpb saw some of these clothes on invitation at Nicobar’s studio.
View story here: Brown Paper Bag Review