The idea of creating an environmentally conscious product entices me
Brand Differniture is a proper blend of art and design, form and function, aesthetics and practicality. In a conversation with Vikas Bhadra, Aakriti Kumar, Founder, Differniture, points out her intricate woodworking which was otherwise deemed implausible borrows heavily from Mother Nature itself.
What led you to become a designer?
I was always interested in art and design. I grew up in a family where art was appreciated. I was inspired by my mother who is an artist by profession When it was time to choose a career it was obvious for me to pick design. I was intrigued by the fact that something can be made to look beautiful and yet be functional and useful. Thus, I decided to major in Product Design and that’s where my interest for wood working grew.
Where did you receive your professional education for design? Who are some of the designers you worked with?
I studied product design in college at Parsons School for Design, NY. One of the main focus apart from learning how to create functional and practical products was to keep in mind the importance of a sustainable design process. As designers it was up to us to create pieces that have a minimal impact on the environment. This approach stuck with me even after graduating from design school. When I returned to India I took this ideology with me and started my own brand called Differniture. The idea of creating an environmentally conscious product comes easily to me and I look to nature for inspiration. I have used various natural inspirations through out the ideation of my products ranging from waterfall to ripples in water and topographic undulations in the form of step farms in mountains. Since the best way to be inspired by nature is to use natural materials I decided to look for a raw material that had been used once and discarded.
Who are some of the furniture designers you adore or look up to for inspiration?
I appreciate the works of Charles and Ray Eames, Reitveld and other furniture designers of that time period, they are inspiring because they shook up the system when it came to designing furniture with materials and techniques that were completely unheard of. But for me nature is my inspiration. Be it the endgrain texture in a log that determines how long it has been standing or the natural form of the tree knots and all.
What led to the inception of Differniture?
I was interested in wood working in college. I was convinced that somewhere down the line I would like to start something of my own. While I was studying I didn’t have anything fleshed out but after graduating and getting a feel of the manufacturing sector in Germany, I returned home and incepted Differniture after a brief training in a leather export company in Gurgaon. At this point in time, I also figured out my business plan and more importantly how to survive in the manufacturing world in India and dealing with skilled and unskilled labour.
What is the secret behind the name Differniture?
The name came to me as part of a conversation I was having with someone. I was trying to explain the type of furniture I design and it was difficult enough to define! The first word that came to mind was that it just different from what’s out there. Later that night at my desk, I was scribbling down names for my studio and Differniture (Different Furniture smashed together) came up effortlessly. I hope to spend every day and every design living up to this name!
Which was one of your first widely appreciated creations?
The first piece I ever created was the topographic coffee table. We had just finished a renovation in our home. I asked my parents, if I could use the services of the carpenters to create something once they were free. After a considerable amount of discussion with them, I was able to elucidate my design concept and the first product formalised. This was before Differniture came into being.
From the drawing table to the finished product, are you personally involved in the entire process?
From ideation and sketching to the actual execution with my in-house team of skilled workers, I manage the entire process. I must add, when it comes to getting things done on the shop floor, it is a different ballgame! The nuances of the material and the way things come together is an exciting challenge for creating a product in a different way. If you check our chairs, they look very different from generic versions available in the market
The nature of your creations demands the participation of skilled karigars, how easy or difficult is to address that part of the story?
With the advancement of technology there is little that cannot be done by machine. But having moved back to India after working on sophisticated machines, I wanted to take a step back from automation and actually address what India is known for. It is not an easy task to work with hand made crafts. Thus, I decided to start my own in-house production led by a team of karigars who had inherited the art of wood working from their ancestors.
Your products showcase exquisite and intricate woodworking? Is there a specific technique involved?
I look at Differniture as a blank canvas. Discarding all the known interpretations of furniture design over the ages, I utilised traditional joinery and other techniques according to my interpretation. This led to a confluence of art and design, form and function, aesthetics and practicality in a perfect blend. I have created a wooden upholstery technique that makes people question the flexibility and comfort of solid wood.
What is level of customisation possible if the client needs a customised product and how much time is required?
We do understand that every client is unique, it their space and requirement. So we are open to altering our design in terms of the customisation desired.