True art speaks for itself and always has a story to convey, thereby vibrant designer duo Sahil and Sarthak, always try to convey a story through their designs by effectively blending the traditional art with contemporary theme, finds out Nisha Shukla
There’s a famous saying ‘alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much’. This quote goes well with this unique designer duo Sahil and Sarthak. Indeed together they have created so much and have left a lasting impression through their beautiful and creative designs not only in India but internationally too.
Sahil Bagga and Sarthak Sengupta, the head and heart of the Sahil and Sarthak Design Company, formed their studio at Delhi in the year 2009. Since then this designer duo has worked across many areas of design, from furniture to lifestyle products, graphics to brand communication, interiors to installations.
Both Bagga and Sengupta are designers with diverse design backgrounds, who have mastered the art of synchronizing their individual skills to create objects that are reflective yet contemporary. Their partnership was conceived in Milan when they were pursuing their Masters in Design from the prestigious design school, Politecnico di Milano.
After completing their major, they were selected for the prestigious Project I-nova, a scholarship program by Scoula Politeca del Design, Milan. Under this program they were given the opportunity to work for the historic furniture company, the Poltrona Frau Group, under the mentorship of renowned architect and designer Guilio Cappellini. This experience gave them an international perspective towards the Indian market and also the opportunity to converge their varied design skills in an effective way.
The Zero Kilometer Concept
Since the inception, the studio has designed products and interiors that are beautiful, functional and ASAP (As Sustainable As Possible). Taking inspiration from their ideology of Ethic, Ethnic and Ecology, Bagga and Sengupta introduced the Zero Kilometer approach.
The Zero Kilometer design concept was introduced with a view to design beautiful and functional projects which focuses on combined efforts to involve and preserve local traditions and local craftsmanship specific to that locality.
Their first interior project, the property at Lakshman Sagar Pali district in Rajasthan, was where the concept of Zero Kilometer was put to practical use for the very first time. The duo faced major challenges while executing the project, as the terrain of the property was harsh and irregular. Since the destination was remote, resources were limited; the duo converted the hurdles into strengths by applying the Zero Kilometer design approach where with the help of local skill and materials re-contextualised to modern concept. Besides, the duo has won the Young Creative Entrepreneur Award by the British Council India for their innovative business model of Zero Kilometer. Also their work has received numerous other awards such as the EDIDA, the IDF design awards 2013 and most recently the Asia Talents award in 2014.
Based on Zero Kilometer concept, Sahil and Sarthak came up with another interesting concept of Katran Collection. Katran in Hindi means small pieces of leftover colourful cloth which is the by-product of cloth mills, which is either cotton or georgette. These same cloth pieces are collected by farmers during their off seasons and spun into ropes and sold for the purpose of weaving traditional Indian day beds (‘khatiyas’).
The idea behind this collection was to make use of this vibrant material in an innovative way to create a collection of contemporary furniture and products that are sustainable having a high perceived value and Glocal (Global + Local) appeal. The furniture under this collection is completely handcrafted and is available in various textures and colours which have been carefully catalogued as per the taste and requirements of the customers, making each of them exclusive pieces.
Recently, pieces from this collection were showcased at the Trienalle Design Museum Milan and also the Katran Love Chair was awarded the Best Product by the India Design Forum 2013. This collection has also been recently awarded at the Asia Talents Exhibition in Bangkok.
The Kerala Connect
Bagga and Sengupta have also contributed to designing customised lighting installation for contemporary home and traditional set up. The latest collection in contemporary decorative lighting by the duo includes the pintuck collection. The pintuck lamp is a pendant drop lamp, hand crafted in brass or copper, accentuated by folds inspired by the pintuck technique used on fabric.
Besides, Kerala Sutra by Mango Tree Craft & Design, a Somany Ceramics initiative, is a collection of inimitable lights designed by the duo. The key theme of this design project is to rediscover, reinterpret and represent the traditional objects and crafts practices of Kerala, as a collection of 20 light installations.
The central idea of this project is to narrate the story of Kerala by stringing together five key element of Land, Legend, Legacy, Love and Lifestyle. These five elements are like five chapters in a book that has been linked together by the thread of time, therefore justifying the use of the metaphor ‘Sutra’.
Another beautiful example of installation set up by Sahil and Sarthak is that of shadow puppetry plays in Kerala. Tholpavakoothu, the ancient form of shadow puppetry practices in Kerala is performed using leather puppets. Keeping the cultural aspects of this play in mind, the designers had a central idea to re-contextualize these traditional objets d’art for contemporary spaces. The installation structure is made of wood with an internal light source to make these leather puppets glow with the reminiscence of traditional Kerala puppet performances.
When asked about their source of inspiration, both of them appreciate the designs of Manish Arora in India and internationally, they look up to the designs of Fabio Novembre, Nendo and Jasper Morrison. Also, the duo revere the works of legendary Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi and would love to replicate his style of nature-inspired architecture and use of colourful tiles chips as a contemporary mosaic (e.g. Parque Guell) in their Indian projects.
The designers are currently working on a resort project on the Andaman Islands. As the property is very pristine, the sustainable Zero Kilometer approach has been applied by using local materials and local skilled labour in order to reduce the carbon footprint.
Through each and every creation, Sahil and Sarthak have a narrative which communicates its simplicity and traditional aspects in the garb of contemporary design. Through the ups and downs, one motto that kept them going and which they would like to pass on to budding designers is ‘Innovation is simplicity redefined’.