Cultural Exchange

Growing up in India surrounded by native handicrafts, designer Nipa Doshi developed a fondness for textiles. Some 4,000 miles away, in Britain, Jonathan Levien studied cabinetmaking and, later, industrial design. In creating a new line of upholstered benches and cushions for Moroso, the two designers drew on their different backgrounds, combining the skilled workmanship of Indian craftspeople with the industrial expertise of Italian furniture-makers. The covers for all the pieces are embroidered in a small workshop in Gujarat, while the frames are manufactured in Man­zano, a region of Italy known for precision woodwork. “We were trying to find a balance between a European sensibility and the Indian influence,” Levien says. “We’re combining the best of both worlds.”

Called Charpoy (“four legs” in Hindi), the pieces are named after and inspired by a kind of daybed found throughout India. “In markets, for instance, you have these open-front shops with broad mattresses that cover the entire floor, and you have a sense that your interaction with the vendors is more than just a commercial transaction but a social interaction,” Levien says. Though made for the gallery-going connoisseur, the Moroso daybeds still allude to the original charpoy’s social function: each cover is stitched with an image of the cross-shaped board for a popular game called chaupar. “We liked the idea of bringing some of these social values, if you like, to a product that would be sold in Europe and America.” Here, Doshi and Levien take us through their design process.

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