Having graduated from NIFT (Delhi) and starting his career in fashion, Gautam Sinha finally discovered his true calling using leather as his primary design inspiration. Its versatility and character allowed him to step away from the bandwagon of ‘Indian fashion’ and steer his creative direction towards producing ‘objets de luxe’ for homes as well as personal fashion accessories.He launched his own brand Nappa Dori in 2010, with his first boutique in Hauz Khas village. The name literally means ‘leather and thread’ and the brand has since then rapidly grown in recognition for its distinct designs and fine craftsmanship. Believing the essence of luxury in India needs be re-defined by celebrating artisan craftsmanship in innovative manners, his brand reinvigorates the nostalgia of vintage India and blends it into contemporary lifestyles. They design fashion accessories, from innovative belts, bracelets, bags, satchels, totes to a host of items that allow people to celebrate their individuality and make a statement that reflects their personality. And they do exactly the same thing when they craft home accessories that someone wants to place in their home, allowing them make a fashionable statement without necessarily wearing the product. The principle remains the same!
“I have approached the market slightly differently from the mass migration of students who have thrown themselves into the ‘fashion’ industry. I took a step back, evaluated that the times we live in and believe Indian luxury brands need to echo a sense of austerity yet celebrate our dreams. I created Nappa Dori as a brand that celebrates one’s intellect as well as one’s design aesthetics. There’s nothing ‘over the top’ in what I produce, yet each product stands apart in its purpose and appeal”, he says.
Besides Nappa Dori, he also has his own export line where they design and manufacture fashion accessories and home décor products for their clients. They also have a good knowledge of the hospitality industry and produce a whole range of products for international luxury hotel brands. Eg. In-room products to menu covers for a lot of luxury hotels in Dubai, London and India. Just to name a few – Jumeriah Madinat , Burj al Arab. Ritz Carton , Fairmont Hotels & Resorts , One&Only Resorts, Hilton Worldwide and independent restaurants like Nobu, Gordan Ramsay & Marco Pierre White.So what are the typical challenges Gautam faces? “The challenges are complex – from making people appreciate that you can actually produce the highest standards in fashion accessories in India, make customers align their aspirations to home grown brands versus internationally renowned ones, even making retailers embrace the value of integrating high street fashion with main street luxury accessories. Changing people’s perceptions is an ongoing battle but I aim to light my torch from the flames of successful international brands – everyone starts somewhere and I just happen to be in Delhi – this is not a challenge as I see this as a great opportunity – we are saturated with haute couture but ‘objets de luxe’ is somewhat refreshing.”
His bags have travelled, people have taken them from Soho to Sydney and they receive emails asking for deliveries to Japan – this international enthusiasm gives him hope and strength to make a significant mark in the design industry.
However, there are other realities that restrict their pace of growth; lack of infrastructure means more effort in securing raw materials, training craftsmen takes time as they have to educate them on international standards, embellishment ornaments or mechanisms are hard to find in consistent quantity and quality (buckles, zips, hinges etc) and that inflates costs. Lack of continual electricity means they have to be prepared for further delays.
“Also tanneries don’t want to deal with small companies like mine as the ‘big brother’ of our industry remains the export firm and I cant order such quantities – I sometimes compare how contrastingly different we are from Italians, who have such an innate sense of pride for each other – Indians should do the same by nurturing talent and consuming its rewards!” Gautam adds.
Nappa Dori means leather and thread and Gautam believes, the only way for him to grow is to be inspired by his own name – get a thicker skin (like leather) as he navigates these Indian rivers of creativity and become the ‘thread’ that brings old fashioned leather accessories into the 21st century lifestyles!
Gautam Sinha was the finalist of British Council’s Young Fashion Entrepreneur Awards, 2011. On asking about his experience with YCE, he says “It was a great learning curve for me, being clubbed with like minded people having achieved certain goals in their respected fields and to see the commonality in terms of struggle was something. It showed how we all can gain from each others drive and vision to succeed and create a unique platform for us all.”
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