Magazine - Jade Jagger and the India connection
In the first of a regular series of columns, the fashion and interiors designer reveals why India is a country truly in touch with its design heritage.
We have a cookie cutter approach to design in the West. It wasn’t always like this and it doesn’t have to be this way but, in recent years, a lack of artistic input – from the high street to our homes – has left a legacy of homogenous design.
As a fashion and interiors designer, I travel the world working and looking for inspiration. My hope is that countries with strong design identities, such as the big new superpowers, India and China, don’t end up heading down the same route as the West.
India has been an important place for me. I have a house in Goa where I spend a great deal of time, using it as a hub to visit the rest of the country. I’ve worked in India for 20 years now, with many of my jewellery workshops based there, and the country is one of the few places that still really reveres the kind of hand-crafts that I’m interested in. There is huge attention to detail and old-fashioned standards. Good design in is their DNA.
Of course, India has changed a great deal in that time. But while it has embraced global influences like coffee shops, the streets aren’t littered with Starbucks. Instead, they have a home-grown brand, Café Coffee Day, that is hugely popular with the nation’s youth, and which shows you can do large scale without being bland.
Fab India, a clothing and homes store which reminds me a little of Habitat in its glory days, has a similarly individual feel despite its prevalence. Thousands of rural producers help to create their products, using traditional techniques and skills. This makes for a multitude of different styles so that, say, if you find a tablecloth you like, the chances are you won’t find one to match. To me, this is hugely exciting.
India itself has a number of different design identities. In Mumbai for example, people dress differently to those in other Indian cities so it is a Mecca for inspiration. The women are much more embellished and the men sport more outrageous styles than you find elsewhere.
The refreshing thing is that this sense of style, this love of great design, runs through every social class. Everyone in India, whatever their financial situation, cherishes and owns items that are beautiful and unique. Whether it’s a fabulous shawl, a hanging on the wall or jewellery, you can see that everybody invests as much effort as they can to decorate themselves and their homes with great design. In India, if you’re looking for some metal furniture, for example, you’re more likely to go to the ironmonger and create your own chair than go to a shop. This is a country in touch with artisan production.
Fine workmanship and craftsmanship is expected and appreciated. Let’s face it, an India full of shops selling the same items in Mumbai as you’d find in Manchester or Miami - like a design fast food chain -would be a design disaster. There are differences culturally and I think we should maintain and celebrate them. No design should ever be a carbon copy.
Whether I’m working with unique fashion pieces, or on larger scale interior design projects for yoo, I always seek to deliver originality. This is why the amount of design duplication in fashion frustrates me. I don’t see why the high street can’t come up with some of its own original designs instead of endlessly copying other people’s work.
India aside, there are several other places close to my heart which have a distinct design quality and a kind of visual language that is inherent in the local culture.
In Morocco there’s definitely still a love for intricacy, while in Ibiza that Mediterranean whiteness and cleanliness remains strong. In northern Europe, of course, we lean toward darker colours and generally a more cosy way of finishing off our homes.
My home in Ibiza is a good example of integrating with the local culture. The design for it is quite minimalistic in a way, in terms of colours, but the house has got a great combination of Mediterranean courtyard, a main room with a grand double height ceiling, and a smattering of Moorish influences.
I’ve currently got projects running in Portugal, Morocco and India and, while the odd client still wants some imported marble or the like, I’m finding there’s an increasing desire for a look and feel with heritage and authenticity. People want design that is defined by their country and that sits harmoniously with the environment.
In a world under threat from insipid, homogenous design, we should celebrate those who constantly seek the unique.
Jade Jagger is a Creative Director at yoo, www.yoo.com and Jade Jagger Ltd
Visit Jade's website: www.jadejagger.com