Divya Thakur is a lady on a mission. The 44-year-old design director set up Design Temple in 1999 with a clear-cut objective. “The idea was to create a global identity for Indian design,” she says. Thakur is a multi-disciplinary designer, who seeks to create and curate a relevant identity for Indian design. As director of Design Temple, she is responsible for products that are witty, informative and impeccably finished.
“We are distinguished by our contemporary Indian design language and by the passion projects we undertake across the world to promote design thinking and appreciation, through non-commercial exhibitions and shows. We have the unique distinction of having spearheaded over 10 solo exhibitions (on contemporary design from India) across the world over the course of the last 15 years,” says Thakur.
Today, Design Temple is positioned as an affordable brand that provides luxury through design thinking and detail. Initially, it began as a design firm that worked on multiple award-winning design projects/clients like Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces, MTV, Fox Searchlight, Vogue and Atul Dodiya.
In 2006, Design Temple developed its first range of products. “We started with a small collection of products, ranging from graphic prints and stationery to talking-point collectibles like our Mantra matchboxes, Cheerharan toilet paper, Holy Smoke incense sticks and Black tongue cleaners,” says Thakur. The quirky range was immediately picked up by leading design publications like Wallpaper* and went on to retail across India through Good Earth, and London, Paris and Tokyo through the Conran stores. On seeing these products, the Victoria and Albert Museum commissioned a one-day exhibit to depict contemporary India through graphic symbology. “In 2009, we held a retrospective at Bodhi Art Gallery, on completing 10 years in design. Besides showcasing our design and process, the show discussed the role of design in shaping national identity. The exhibition was the first of its kind in Mumbai,” says Thakur. By 2010, the company resumed its footing in retail with Animania—a show and collection on animals held at Gallery BMB in Mumbai, and Lodhi Gardens in New Delhi. “Our expansions westward resumed with two showings at Salone del Mobile, Milan 2011. We opened our first store in 2012 in Mumbai. Having participated regularly at design trade fairs like Maison & Objet, Paris, we have been concentrating on the online market as a viable platform for enhancing our consumer base,” says Thakur.
In 2012, the company began collaborating with several designers across the globe. Design Temple now creates over a 100 products—ranging from tableware, stationery, clothes and home accessories—that retail through its flagship store in Mumbai and through various partnerships with other design/lifestyle brands. “We are currently working to consolidate our back-end logistics to enhance our online presence,” says Thakur.
At the core of Design Temple’s philosophy is the Indian concept of ‘soul’—the inner life or fire that inhabits all animate or inanimate beings. “We have been credited with subverting kitsch and being a trailblazer for urban design from India. Our products embrace vibrancy and tactility and distinctive packaging,” says Thakur.
In addition to design direction and production control of the 100+ product line, Thakur is responsible for curating passion projects and exhibitions. Design Temple follows a policy of creating and co-creating. “We collaborate expansively with designers and brands across the world. Having worked with names like Leandro Castelao, Christian Montenegro and Seijiro Kubo, Design Temple also works with master craftsmen to co-create products. We have a small internal studio and team to facilitate and back up our various exercises,” she says.
Earlier this year, Design Temple took part in an exhibition in Millesgarden Museum, Stockholm. Titled India Past Forward, the exhibit showcased the thought that the ancient Indian approach to design was perhaps a continuous cycle of creation for the greater good of the community and not just the individual. Thakur showcased contemporary design objects that find their sources of inspiration from India’s past.
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