Partners in life and in business, Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien have carved out a reputation for creating products that blend the unique cultural fabrics of their individual backgrounds.
In 2015, the dynamic duo was presented the prestigious EDIDA 2015 Designer of the Year award.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview following their Perth visit.
When did you first come to realise you wanted to be a designer?
Nipa Doshi (ND): I always knew I wanted to be creative. I loved drawing, designing my own clothes and having them tailored. But most of all I loved going to old markets in India, buzzing with book binders, silver smiths, weavers, food stalls, scissor makers, fruit and spice vendors. So even though I studied physics, maths and chemistry at secondary school, I applied to be an architect. After a visit to the National Institute of Design, India’s foremost design school founded on the recommendation of Charles and Ray Eames’ India report, I decided to study design.
Jonathan Levien (JL): From a very young age I used to make things from any material I could find. I left school at 16 to train as a fine cabinetmaker. I soon realised I didn’t just want to make things. My uncle who is a very established industrial designer suggested I study design.
What is unique about the way you work ? Do you have a particular design process you follow for each individual project?
ND & JL: I think it is the way we see the world that is unique to us, not necessarily the way we work. For us the plurality of the world we live in, the concept of beauty and material culture in different parts of the world, the coming together of industrial design and fine craftsmanship and the love for sensual materials forms a backdrop for all our projects. I draw, make collages and work through the spirit and visual direction for a project. Jonathan’s approach is based on a thorough understanding of materials and manufacturing technology. He sketches through making models. Although we have very different skills and process, all projects are a result of a continuous dialogue between us.
What is currently among your favourite materials to work with?
ND: Terrazzo, textiles, and colour.
JL: Malleable materials like wire and mesh.
What has been your most challenging project to date?
Every project comes with its own set of challenges. The Almora lounger for B&B Italia was one of the most complex projects we launched recently. The chair is sculptural and looks effortlessly held together without fittings. In fact it has very intelligent engineering inside and took two years to develop.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
ND: It was more a command than advice from my mother. She made it clear that I should carry on working after having a child and that it was absolutely possible to be best at both.
JL: It was my uncle again. He told me to always get to the essence of an idea.
Where would we find you on your day off?
ND & JL: In London at the theatre or opera, at a music lesson learning classical Indian music, cycling along the canal or dim sum lunch with family at Yauatcha. In India it would be at a spa in the Himalaya Mountains or swimming in Udaivilas looking over Lake Pichola.