Ordinarily, one would take Nappa Dori to mean a thing of Japanese genius, the kind with ornate origami on the outside and industrial machinery crackling inside. For Gautam Sinha (33), combining nappa, a kind of leather with dori or thread, was the most literal way to describe what he wanted to do. Creating something that his patrons don’t expect or imagine is just another creative quirk in the young entrepreneur’s life. The fashion major from NIFT who chose not to sashay down the ramp with his showstoppers wanted to carve a niche in home décor and products of everyday use.
He started out in 2010 with a small store embedded, almost lost, in the depths of Hauz Khas Village. Today he runs two stores in Delhi, the other being in Meherchand Market, and supplies to concept stores in Mumbai.
He believes that a brand needs to dynamic, moulding and re-moulding itself constantly. Recently, Nappa Dori upholstered and restored a 1971 Royal Enfield and set up a miniature leather workshop installation at Alliance Francaise. When asked about such experiments, he exults, “I jump at the opportunity to do anything outside my line of work. You can cut lose, explore other materials and test your design skills.” His long list of dreams features a commissioned installation project at a place of cultural relevance.
Those who love Nappa Dori love it for the graphics on canvas toiletries and the coloured steel old steel cases. “We use earthy sepia tones in most of our products but a splash of colour is refreshing.” His leather trunks come with a powdered coated sheet metal and his bags find colour in digitally printed fabric.
To position himself in the gifting circles, Sinha gives weightage to customisation. “A personal touch is a hot-seller. We indulge our corporate clientele with all kinds of gifts, the tie case fitted with a pair of cufflinks and a pocket square being an obvious favourite.” Another interesting gift idea is his custom trunk, the chef’s trunk with pockets to encase cutlery and the DJ’s trunk holds wires, CDs and other apparatus.
Nappa Dori’s leather must-haves include a doctor bag, a pair of shoes, a jacket, a wallet and a couch.
Dashing Through the Dunes
It was the summer of 2011, the sun shone over the mossy alleyways of Milan, where Avriti Jain (23) and Siddharth Daspan (23) were living the sophomore’s life at the Instituto Marangoni. The summer brightness unleashed on the streets the colourful snappy, the ruffled dandy and the sharp sartorial. It also brought to light the provocative imagery taped onto the length of trains and changing slides of mighty billboards. All Avriti and Daspan, as known to the world, saw was leather; glossy pumps deflecting light and distressed bags absorbing it.
Milan had done its bit in surfacing their inner calling. Born and bred in Rajasthan, they had aged alongside mirror-studded leather diaries, juttis (embroidered leather slippers) and colourful shoulder bags. Applying their training in modern design aesthetics and marketing principles, they launched Dhora in 2012. Sand dune in common parlance, Dhora retails bag-packs, duffels, hip-flasks, statement jewellery that is painstakingly hand-crafted from leather.
As a designer, you need to distill the foundation of your expression. “In our case, we love to create and wish to give back to the roots. Dhora just put these two desires together,” they say. They wish to give back to the roots by rescuing dying arts and bolstering community-based artists. “By applying our global expertise, we aim to develop the broadest possible skill base so that we are armed to blend in new disciplines with the old,” the duo says this approach will open up new paths.
There are a million stitches within Rajasthan, often littered with an exaggerated use of mirrors, animal patches et al. Their approach is simple, “It is important to know what you want and what you don’t.” To generate appeal with their global patrons, they have chosen the cleanest, most subtle, stitches. They tone down busy details and make passing references to traditional block printing and vegetable printing. In a reincarnation of yet another traditional art form, they leave the surface of the bags austere and embellish the handles with jewels.
Dhora, the concept that invokes the humbling power of home soil, is expressed through motifs or tones in all products.