Today we are meeting up with Kangan Arora, a contemporary textile designer who originates from North India and now resides in London. It has been an exciting year for Kangan so far - in this week's 'Shout Out' we find out about her beautifully bright home accessories collection for Heals and bold rugs designs for Floor Story.
We hear you’ve been involved in some exciting projects this year - can you tell us a bit about them?
2014 has been a very exciting year so far indeed! I launched a limited edition collection for Heal’s in the Spring that comprised of screen-printed and embroidered cushions, as well as screen-printed tea towels.
The collaboration with Floor Story was very different as I was venturing into more unexplored territory, the scale and construction of rugs was completely alien to me but it proved to be a rather exciting challenge.
How did you get involved in these projects?
Heal’s has a long and illustrious history of supporting emerging design talent and commissioning unique textiles. For Spring 2014, they collaborated with Daniel Heath, Maxine Sutton and myself. Creating this limited collection was not only a chance to enjoy the great patronage and support of such an iconic institution, it also felt like coming full circle for me as a few years ago when I was a student, I actually used to work in the textiles department at Heal’s Tottenham Court Road.
I first met Floor Story founder Simon Goff several years ago and we immediately shared a passion for travelling, design and textiles. Long believing my designs and photography would translate perfectly to the expansive world of rugs, he approached me last year to collaborate on an exclusive collection of rugs and I jumped at the chance!
How did the two commissions differ?
Both collaborations gave me a certain freedom as a designer to tell my story, rather than making it a generic design. Although Heals had a more specific brief, it was more to tie in the colours with the themes of the season to ensure the collection can be merchandised well in the store.
How does designing for someone else differ from designing for your own shop?
Designing for someone else lets you explore your potential as a designer, it allows you to make things you wouldn’t necessarily add to your own collection either because they don’t fit in your brand identity or because you don’t have the resources to make them in the first place (like the Floor Story rugs).
You have to exercise more control over the decisions you make and stick to them! Working with so many creative people, ideas get discussed and tried, some are rejected others make it through but it’s all part of a great process of back and forth which I really enjoy.
What inspired the collection you designed for Floor Story?
I have created The Carnival Collection consisting of 3 striking and contemporary pieces for Floor Story; their bold patterns are inspired by a kaleidoscopic array of circus tents and the excitement of the Indian kite-flying festival, Uttarayan. Each piece is hand knotted using the traditional Tibetan Weave at 80 knots in 100% wool... it takes a skilled weaver around 3 months to produce each piece!
What inspired the collection you designed for Heals?
The Kangan Arora for Heal’s collection was inspired by the sights and sounds of India. From the hustle and bustle of street markets to Bollywood posters, Uttarayan and graphics on auto rickshaws. I wanted to emphasise the ‘story’ so worked on some pieces with master craftsmen in Northern India who embroidered and quilted some of the pieces in the collection.
Any advice for anyone designing a collection for a high profile company?
Be open minded and work with your clients, ask for feedback so they are also involved in the process too. Often for someone working freelance it can be a very isolating experience, it helps to step away and let a fresh pair of eyes look at what you’ve done. Ultimately you will make the decisions as you’re the designer but enjoy the brainstorming, it’s a very useful process and helps you understand the market and the end customer.