The Fuschia Tree
Editor's Note.
We coincide with people and events all the time--wonder at its impossibility, marvel at its luck or blame it intelligent design--but it is when we bump into ourselves, some previous character or moment that wisps by us like a hand on a street or a fleck of dust, that we stop. We stop to remember, before it rolls away. We hold our breath because, not knowing what it is made of, we don't want it to set sail again, just yet. Human life is made up of a series of these encounters, what Rushdie calls, in A Ground Beneath Her Feet, a "bouncey-castle sequence of bumpings-into and tumbling apart".
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By Nora Wendel, Issue 22, Coincidence: Fortune's Strange Math.
Print this picture: Daddy of leather goods, Gautam Sinha, sits at his head desk situated in the middle of the office- laptop open to incoming orders- sample ipad covers, iphone cases and a new men's bag scattered around the master's hands- a continuous stream of workmen file in the door showing, gluing, stitching lines and embossing leather. “Yes, no, again”: Gautams expert eyes scan the minute details of his designs, nothing gets left unnoticed. The workmen file back out the door. Angles coincide with others with exact measure, lines meet where they were unlikely to, but with seamless obstruction. Satisfied with the progress, Gautam sits back in his chair, folds his arms, looks at me and says, “Coffee time?”

TFT: If you could live in any era, which would it be and why?

Gautam Sinha: It would most definitely be the 1820’s, before the industrial revolution.  I feel the phrase “Handcrafted” actually stood for what it meant, people were a lot more evolved in terms of their craft, and knew a lot more about their materials and how to make the most of them. In this day and age we depend on technology a lot more, with computer-generated products rather then actually touching the material, feeling its instinct. Though I love technology in my normal life, I do value a hands-on approach to designing.

TFT: In those days, design was more practical, people designed things for the use it brought them. Do you think design today has become more conceptual and less related to objects we need?

GS: Not really, good design is always about end use. No matter which day and age we live in, it's the method that’s changed, tools we use and the reasons we use it for that have changed. But the basic fundamentals remain the same.

I feel every design, simple or complicated, is derived from a need to create something better. I always tell people when they ask me about Nappa Dori and its design philosophy, that we are not trying to reinvent the wheel: it's done, it works. We just make it look better. Simple sells, and that's engraved in me.

TFT: What is your ‘simple’ bestseller then? Did you know it would sell that well?

GS: The laptop bag. It’s got a lot of recall value, and I guess with the nostalgic imagery, it connects people to an age when things were slower.

TFT: Do you think that design/designing has an element of coincidence to it? Take me through your processes of an idea to fruition.

GS: Well the process is pretty simple: you think! You sketch! You make!  Now the important question is will it sell? That’s something we cannot predict, but what we know for sure is that what we designed is simple! Aesthetically appealing! And evokes a certain desire to acquire a forgotten past that is rendered in the contemporary.

TFT: Is there an object, favourite pen, hideaway place that helps in your ideation?

Well, whenever I need time alone or just need to reboot myself creatively, I usually go back home to Dubai. There is so much going on in that city in terms of design and just being home helps.

TFT: What is the one item you use everyday to complete your work?

GS: A Measuring tape. I carry it everywhere I go, it's always in my pocket. I end up using it at least 50 times a day, while checking if the dimensions are right.

TFT: So if you had to redesign the measuring tape, what features would you add on for today’s use?

GS: As I said, the best design is simple design. Hence I won't like to change anything about a measuring tape :)

TFT: If you had to pack your life in one of your trunks, what would you pack?

GS: Wow. That would need to be a massive trunk.  I guess the essentials that I cannot do without. Most importantly a sketchbook and lots of pens and stationary.  Music! Books to read! And my phone. A nice pair of jeans. And if I am allowed I would put my dog “Max” into the trunk! Cant live without him!

TFT: Have you designed some things for Max your dog?

GS: Sadly max has nothing from Nappa Dori. But I have always wanted to design a nice dog collar for him!

TFT: If you weren’t doing Nappa Dori, what would you have been keeping yourself busy with?

GS: Well, I cannot see my self doing anything which does not require the use of the right side of your cerebral cortex. Maybe an architect!

TFT: Favourite shade of leather?

GS: I love muted colors, so browns and tans are my favourite. I feel they keep the essence of genuine leather alive.

TFT: No guilty feelings regarding animal cruelty?

GS: We are against animal cruelty in a big way. And I love animals. But one needs to realize, that we can't be hypocrites when it comes to leather goods. It is similar to eating chickens or beef or meat of any sort.  Also we make sure the leather we use is from tanneries that have Euro Standard approvals, and all the leather is Vegetable Dyed as well.

TFT: What do you think is the biggest coincidence that has happened in your life so far?

GS: As soon as I left my last job , I really didn't have a plan in terms of how and where I would like to take my professional career and one day, I got a call for an aunt of mine asking me if I had ever worked with leather and would I like to make belts? An offer that I happily accepted, not knowing head or tail about how to make belts, but the fact I was working with a different material excited me. And well you know the story from there. It's been 8 years.

TFT: What has been the strangest inspiration for one of your designs?

GS: Well my designs actually come from a very practical thought process. I don't go wild with my imagination but work more on functionality. I guess the strangest thing that I might have wanted to convert into a product would be a first aid kit. And make it into an artisan’s kit. With the same function but for a completely different use (though art saves lives too!). Also, taking used tyre tubes and making them into inflated seats with leather on them. So that what we sit on in our office coincides with what we sell, so that what we make coincides with how we live.

As told to Nora Wendel, an audio visual artist based between Nepal and Delhi.

Gautam Sinha is the man behind Nappa Dori, product designer, coffee drinker and master of details.

Also in this issue

Illusion: Seeing Beyond Seeing
Meaning: In Search of Significance.
Melody: A Different Tune
Rhythm: Ordering Time

Dhrupadi Ghosh is an old friend of mine. We have often had long sessions of adda late at night, discussing her dream projects since her college days at Santiniketan, where she majored in Sculpture.