Thursday, January 23, 2014


We live in the era of the crossover. Every furniture designer also seems to have a clothing line, handbag designers branch out into jewellery or sunglasses, and hell, even writers can't just be writers any more, you need to understand production layout, web architecture, search engines, and a million other things. So it's refreshing to come across old-school craftspeople. Artists who make just one product in a carefully curated selection, but makes them so beautifully that it's impossible not to immediately covet every piece. 

Enter Block Shop. Artists and sisters Lily and Hopie Stockman, set up this Indian textile company that uses centuries-old techniques of using hand-carved wooden blocks and natural dyes to make simple, elegant scarves. Not bags, not cushion covers, just the most ridiculously beautiful scarves. As an added feel-good bonus, the company donates part of its profits to improving the healthcare of the Jaipur community that works for them.

What so freaking lovable about their work is that these aren't business people who have just flown over to India to co-opt a village to churn out the same old designs everyone else makes; they're artists who design one of a kind patterns that are inspired by their own life adventures in places as different as New York and the Mojave desert. The end result? A look that's totally contemporary and yet utterly Indian at the same time.

Once you see Lily's own artwork though, it all starts to make sense. She seems to have such an instinctive understanding of colour and form, plus she writes one of the funniest, most personality-laden, blogs I've ever read.  


Wednesday, January 22, 2014



Every now and then, the murky depths of the internet throws a gem of bizarreness my way. Most of the time, I instantly wipe it from my mind (I have a theory that if you retained every weird image of cats in clothes you saw, your overworked brain would probably forget important stuff like how to walk in a straight line). Today though, stumbling across an oddball video competition held by the Indian Government, in which they solicit videos that show what "India is", made me question what I really feel India is all about. The competition seems so wacky not only because I can't see what the point of it is, but also because the videos themselves are so utterly surreal that watching them feels like someone put a drop of LSD into my morning coffee when I wasn't looking.

For all the madness, heat, and clamour of India, the overriding feeling in my belly when I think about it is: peace. Perhaps serenity is heightened in the midst of chaos? My mission in starting this blog was to showcase the India that isn't captured by the usual cliches of ornate decor or jewelled saris, and in many ways, the blog mirrors how I feel about the country. Although most people associate India with the noise and dirt and poverty that can overwhelm your senses in a heartbeat, it's the stillness beneath it that beguiles me.

It can take a little time to see it, but if you look beneath the chaos, you'll see that Indians rarely rush anywhere. Even when they're late. They're happy to take train journeys that last for 48 hours, and rather than complain, will turn it into a foodie adventure of dosas and masala chai. And talking of food, every single day, everyone stops for lunch, and by this, I don't mean a Pret A Manger sandwich scarfed down in front of a computer, but a full-on feast of rice, dhal, meat and vegetables.

 Makes that tuna salad on your desk pale into comparison, right?

Most of my Indian friends will never say no to a party, and yet they're some of the hardest workers I know. Working on a weekend seems a totally accepted way of life, but I've yet to hear friends in Mumbai or Delhi grumble about a lack of a work-life balance. I don't know whether it's the karmic notion of reincarnation (if you don't get something done in this life, there's always another), but it's this total zen-like attitude that keeps the country going against the odds. 

Mumbai's legendary traffic jams (via Yanick Delafoge,

Kerala. Yes, this is why everyone wants to go there.

In grey, murky, wintry Britain, where London commuters swarm like angry bees who have had their hive disturbed, it can be hard to hold on to this stillness, but it's not impossible. Meditation and yoga are always winners (Headspace, a great app that my sister got me hooked on to, is a total lifesaver and makes meditation easy for even the most fidgety people), but increasingly I'm searching for mindfulness in my day to day life.

Every morning, I now make a massive pot of masala tea - spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger - to keep me going through the day. It takes longer than dunking a teabag into hot water, but something about the ritual of it all, and the fact that the entire house smells amazing all morning, instantly puts me in a good mood.

I've started writing long-hand letters to a friend in another city. We don't text, we don't email, we just write on thick notepaper, and wait for the thud of a letter on the doormat. Slowing down to write actually changes how I think, and what I write. And, at the risk of sounding like a luddite freak, I've also switched myself off facebook for a while, choosing instead to spend precious free moments staring out of the window daydreaming about new ideas rather than gazing at pictures of what friends had to eat that day. Going cold turkey from social media clearly isn't for everyone, but if slowing down just a bit helps Indians from going all road-rage at yet another traffic jam, maybe there's something in it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I have gorgeous memories of growing up in Bangalore, and one of them is my mum bringing home massive bunches of fresh flowers every other day. We had a small city apartment back then with no garden; now thankfully, mama Shetty has a massive garden in to tend to all year round which keeps her pretty busy. But I got so used to seeing a zingy bit of greenery around the house that it makes me a little sad that I have no plants at home these days. Since I travel so much and am the opposite of green-fingered (black-thumbed??) it seems too cruel to buy plants only for them to fill our bin liner the following week. My solution is fake flowers. I know, I know, they seem beyond tacky. But hold the phone. These days, you can buy flowers that are so realistic, I bet you'll have your nose wedged in them to get a whiff of their scent before you twig (pun very much intended) that they're fake

One of the best places to get faux flowers is from interior designer Abigail Ahern. I went on one of her design masterclasses the other day, held in her jawdroppingly stunning London home, and all around the house she had massive jugs filled with flowers so pretty I had no idea they were fake. Yeah they're a little pricey, but remember that they never die and you'll probably move house eight times before you even contemplate getting rid of them. For me, I'd probably opt for the hydrangeas - big fat luscious blooms are so my thing - though these dusty pink roses are stunn.


Monday, March 18, 2013


I'm feeling all things tribal at the moment. This chunky red and blue necklace (right) I picked up in Jaipur last year has been getting a lot of wear as it seems to go with pretty much anything (excuse the shoddy image of my jewellery stand but a combo of lack of sleep and no proper camera mean that my photo skillz aren't up to scratch today). 

So I'm super excited about the Asia House Fair next month in London as it showcases products from around Asia (mostly northern Asia - India and China, and countries along the old Silk Route). There will be a whole bunch of artists and designers, but I'm particularly excited about the Adivasi Arts Trust, who showcase little-seen tribal art from around India, and Sweetlime, who make the sexist tribal meets contemporary gold jewellery.  

£575, Sweetlime

£92, Sweetlime
£147, Sweetlime

Adivasi Arts Trust

Thursday, March 14, 2013


I just did a little time travel. Looking for some vintage posters to buy, I found these two vintage Indian tourism advertisements on Zazzle and I was instantly zipped back into time through the uber-stylised 1930s graphics and the crisp, sparse copy.

Though it often feels like we're bombarded by advertising these days, I still love checking out old print adverts just because it's the quickest way to remind ourselves of the design aesthetic of an era. Adverts are by nature super-zeitgeisty and they need to capture the look, feel and mood of the time they're created in, whether that's the make-do-and-mend domesticity of the 1950s or the razzle-dazzle glamour of the 1970s.

I particularly love this Air Force on because my uncle was vice-commodore in the Indian Air Force (and his son and son-in-law are in the Air Force too now).

Bata sandals were what every kid ran around in when I was growing up in India as they're super sturdy.
I really want to try and find a print of this coffee advert. I'm a coffee-holic for a start, and this image of a family crammed on to a scooter is so iconic of India.

This is from an old calendar, and I can never get over how pretty these old images of hindu gods are.

Monday, March 11, 2013


So I was trying to find you some sneak previews from Lakme Fashion Week, one of India's biggest fashion events, that kicks off next week, but the folks over at LFW aren't sharing much in the way of preview images (though there is this slightly surreal blog you can have a look at). Then, while meandering through the rabbit hole that is the internet, I came across Kenzo's show at Paris Fashion Week, and stumbled on both this eye-popping set of images of singer M.I.A from French magazine Jalouse and the 8-minute 'Matangi Mixtape' she made for Kenzo's runway show. The music mix (click here to listen, trust me, you'll love it) is a taster of her forthcoming album 'Matangi' out this April. 'Matangi', by the way, is a kickass hindu goddess who is an avatar of Saraswati, the goddess of music and learning (geeky Indian kids pray to her before going to school; having said that, I was a geeky Indian kid too but the only altar I ever prayed at was my stack of Phantom comic books).

Photo credit: Jalouse, photographer Romain Gavras

Sri-Lankan born M.I.A's fashion sense is as genuine an East-West fusion as her music (Matangi is a blood-pumping mash-up of tribal thumping, bass bumping, sanskrit vocalising, which I'm planning to play at top volume to get me going in the morning). Like her, it's bold, but even if her music or clothes aren't your thing, it works because it's a fairly unapologetic and chaotic mix. There's no treading lightly to try and find harmony; instead, it's the discordance, the slightly jaggedness of it all that works.

Photo credit: Jalouse, photographer Romain Gavras

Photo credit: Jalouse, photographer Romain Gavras

Matangi, by Rajiv Lochan

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Most women squeal a little when they enter fashion designer Sabyasachi's store in South Mumbai. First, there's probably the delirium at actually finding the store since it's tucked away on a dusty Mumbai side street - a typically Indian 'you have to know it's there' location. Every time I go in there though, it's not the gorgeous clothes that set my heart racing (and believe me, his stuff is so beautiful you'd sell your grandmother to buy it) but the interior design of the store. Check. it. out.

A lot of the stuff is for sale, making it a happy double whammo for your wallet.

Here's the man himself, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, with actress Rani Mukherji, a la Frida Kahlo, in his store for a Vogue shoot.

Photo credit: Vogue India
This is one of his 2011 Frida Kahlo-esque creations.

If you clicked on the link to Sabyasachi's name, you might see that the website is still under construction. If it looks like anything from these mood boards below by advertising firm Grinning Tree, it is going to be as hot as his store.