Our earliest memory of Nappa Dori is as a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop in Hauz Khas Village filled with retro steamer trunks, canvas totes with pictures of historical monuments, and beautifully handcrafted leather accessories. Nothing much has changed, except that the brand is now conquered vaster horizons. From a boutique in London to collaborations with Kiehl’s, Chivas Regal, Qatar Airways, and Levi’s, it’s been a journey that’s tightly wound in “leather and thread”. As the brand completes 11 years, we talk to the designer and founder, Gautam Sinha about the threads that bind it all together.
Founded in 2010, the leather good company is a tribute to Indian craftsmanship and a minimal contemporary aesthetic. The neatness, attention to detail is what have led it to stand the test of time. Throw in some nostalgic influences, it’s become one of India’s modern icons for design. The brand has been constantly at the helm of innovating and expanding into new product lines. From their eatery Cafe Dori in Dhan Mill, Dori Living (home décor and glassware) to their upcoming collection of men’s leather shoes, the journey continues.
What led you to specialise in leather goods and accessories?
Well, it was not about leather goods or accessories, at the time it was about making a living and just doing something that I truly loved. I feel it was life that made me start this.
What challenges did you face in establishing the brand?
When I had started the business, I had no knowledge about starting a business and how to handle it, so every day was a challenge. Just understanding the basics was difficult. No one can give you a degree in being an entrepreneur in India, it’s something you need to learn while doing it.
The biggest takeaway or lesson from 11 years of Nappa Dori?
Leaving emotional attachment aside from designing things, there is a big difference between being an artist and a businessman.
What’s your favorite piece from the Nappa Dori archive?
I think it has to be our trunks, they set us apart from the rest of the competition and have been our benchmark design piece that has defined us as a brand.
How has your style and aesthetic evolved over the years?
I feel we have a strong DNA in terms of our aesthetics and design philosophy and over the years we have fine-tuned it but haven’t diverged too much from what we started, we have a strong understanding of classic silhouettes and focus more on Indian minimalism which has become Nappa Dori’s signature style and we want to keep it that way
Any landmark moment from the journey that describes or?
The best moment that I can remember is meeting sir Paul Smith, who has played a big role in the type of designs I wanted to do.
The brand has been constantly adding verticals to its repertoire. Where do you seek constant design inspiration?
We initially started off as a leather goods company, but we can truly call ourselves a lifestyle store now, with a lot of collections and different verticals. I feel the best way to get inspired is to travel, enrich yourself with different design aesthetics and cultures, 2 of the strongest influences in my life have been my visits to Scandinavia and Japan.
What special projects or launches are in the pipeline?
We are opening our second flagship store in Bandra, Mumbai and at the same time are in the process of opening our largest space outside the country in Dubai. It’s a huge space in the same lines as our Chattarpur store. Our shoes are our latest addition to the Nappa Dori catalog of products, and I am super excited about that.
All Images: Courtesy Nappa Dori.