The Coalition Profile #2: NorBlack NorWhite
30 January 2014
Our second profile in the run up to The Coalition takes a side step from music and casts its gaze to a discipline that shares a long outstanding and very intimate relationship with it.
The realm of fashion is notorious for its divas, cut-throat attitude and relentless ability to swallow up and spit out the most hardy of souls. Interning in this industry is one thing (pretty much the equivalent to bidding adieu to any form of life you have) but starting your own business, creating your own label, that is plain crazy. That is why when people manage to keep their heads up while simultaneously excelling in all that they do AND in a manner that is conscious, deliberate and plain old fashioned brilliant, we stand back in awe.
That is how we feel about the ruthless, un-compromising and very meticulous energy that goes into NorBlack NorWhite, commanded by Amrit Kumar and Mriga Kapadiya. And we haven't even got started about how dazzling and sensational their clothes are. The interesting thing about this business is that it is not just about the clothes, their label is about the whole journey, all the connections made along the way and how they document and share this with their fans, admirers and peers. There's a lot that can be learned from the experience garnered by these girls, we simply had to find out more...
Describe what you do…
We tell stories through design - preserving and paying respect to ancient practices while sparking the light of the future.
Tell us how you got here
We grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, a diverse city made up of immigrants from all corners of the world. We both did the university thing, studying textbook business, but always felt confident, creative and inspired outside the school environment. This led us to feeding our tummies by working in the ad sector for a few years while feeding our souls by immersing ourselves in the emerging Toronto artist community. We got our hands dirty with everything from producing art festivals, fashion shows, capsule collections, photo shoots, re-working vintage and managing artists. The both of us grew closer, creatively and as friends and continually overlapped our creative circles while always supporting each other from the very beginning.
We shifted to Bombay in 2009 with no clear plan of what was about to happen except for the intention to explore and learn what the city and the country was all about. We were immediately exposed to many inspiring art forms and were drawn to the creation of textiles, artisans and craft, which helped give birth to NorBlack NorWhite.
What is unique about your company?
All who we work with are close to our hearts. From our Master Tailor, to the beautiful bandhani family that we create with, the core of our work starts with the people who are making it happen. If the vibe is not right and the energy isn’t pure, we stay far away, far, far away.
What is the vision for your company?
Having a flourishing online platform that can help fans across the world easily access our work, 24/7. Designing everything we’ve dreamed of from theatre costumes to toys, sarees to furniture, creating bodies of visual art shows and creating the NBNW staple item, that one piece that everyone and their mom needs and wants.
We are very excited for NorBlack NorWhite to explore Mexico, Japan, Ghana and the crafts of the world. Collaborating on limited edition collections with all our favourite artist friends!
What is your biggest obstacle at the moment?
Bills! Bills! Bills! Finding a healthy balance of staying true to our creative process while holding integrity to showcasing handcrafted textiles and translating this commercially to run a successful business within the current mass produced pace of the fashion/consumer world is a massive challenge. We are still working hard to educate the world about the idea of valuing handmade. Another BIG obstacle is being two women, running a business based out of Bombay.
What do you feel is your largest achievement to date?
There’s a few that we’re proud of! Completing our first collection and putting it out into the world!
When we read that Frida Gianni, Creative Director of Gucci, picked us as the winner of the Grazia’s Young Designer Fashion Awards and said this: “‘I like NorBlack NorWhite more than the others because I see more uniqueness and more originality in this label’s work. I liked how they’ve treated colour. Sometimes when you’re so young it’s not easy to understand tonalities. I love the fact that they have an exotic vibe. Colours, embroideries, the partnership comes well together. Knowledge and respect for their culture but in a modern way of course.”
What do you anticipate being the key to your success?
Successfully communicating the value and importance of respecting hand-made, ancient practice and slowing everything down to create our own path, instead of trying to play catch up with the rat race. And finding the ultimate business mentors that will help us make sense of balancing the commerce with the creative,
Who/what inspires you and why?
People watching. Whether it’s on the city streets, in the villages, on boats or through airports, people are fascinating to observe across the universe. Underwater life, birds and all types of tropical creatures make us happy. We respect Sabyasachi for what he’s contributing to the Indian fashion and art world, running a flourishing business and how he’s representing India internationally and while brilliantly designing handcrafted Indian textile. Oh and Michael Jackson, of course.
Why do you need the Coalition?
We are looking specifically for business mentors that can help take our work to the next level. We feel this could be a great platform to unite with these people, as we have ideas flowing freely and are looking for people to help make these come to fruition.
**Join NorBlack NorWhite and a whole bunch of other like minded creative entrepreneurs at The Coalition's inaugural event taking place 14-16 March in Delhi. To see if you're eligible to attend you'll need to register here. For more information head to The Coalition Website. - If you're still craving more NorBlack NorWhite goodness, check out the videos below and see the girls in action.**