Nimish Shah’s simplistic and endearing design ideology has acquired a loyal fan-base, and the list is growing. His clothing line SHIFT and home textiles label SHIFT Home are hitting the right spots of the conscious consumer. ‘Sustainable Living’ is not only the house tagline, but also a deep-rooted philosophy that inspires his work. The Mumbai-based designer speaks to us about the importance of making responsible choices on a day-to-day level.
What does ‘sustainable living’ mean to you from the modern, urban perspective?
It is an aware lifestyle. It involves thinking about everything from the time we wake up till the time we go back to bed – how often our kids open refrigerator doors, what temperature the air conditioning is set at, how often we wash our white clothes separately, the seasonal and local food we eat, how often we indulge in excesses, our individual carbon foot prints and a whole lot more. We need a wise balance.
Are terms like ‘sustainable’, ‘eco’ and ‘responsible’ still intimidating and unclear to a larger group of consumers? How can we change this perception?
At the moment, I think there is a ‘green wash’. Everyone is loosely using the term ‘sustainable’ without knowing the actual, deeper meaning. It shouldn’t be a USP for commercial gain; there should be a balance between raising awareness and overselling it. Sustainability should become the norm – it is an ethical practice.
How can we understand and practice sustainability in our day-to-day lives?
Don’t consider this as charity, or a soul-cleansing act. Sitting in Mumbai and eating organic avocados imported from halfway around the world is not a sustainable practice! There is a so much dichotomy in the philosophy – we have to create our own boundaries, identify our challenges and question our lifestyles.
Three age-old, sustainable household habits that we have grown up to in India?
Keeping doors and windows open for cross-ventilation in homes (before air-conditioning became the norm); sun drying anything and everything – from clothes to pickles (I am a strong believer); seasonal food consumption (naturally more nutritious).
How did the Shift Home line first come about?
It began as a happy mistake from one of our training exercises in the studio; the first sample was a beautiful accident! I insisted that the office peon also trains in basic stitching; he had to start with straight stitches. I helped him patch together small pieces of waste white fabric; it started to look so rustic and beautiful that we continued doing it for a while, and I immediately knew what could come out of it. That just fast-tracked everything else.
Have you always wanted to do a home line?
I have always been extremely passionate about home and interiors. SHIFT Home is an organic extension of our fashion line. I’m inspired by a shabby chic life – where deluxe things come together with quaint elements, roped in by a singular creative vision. My aesthetic is a balance between industrial luxury and an off-beat film set – very mundane, rustic and full of character. It makes the user seems ageless – it is all about the lifestyle. This could be a small loft apartment in Colaba, Le Marais or Notting Hill; it could also be a spacious country home in Alibaug or somewhere far, far away.
Any favourite home labels?
Muji – love the simplicity and industrial feel to their products. Sarita Handa – I love the color play and the classic sensibility that can also become trendy in most contexts.
What are the sustainable practices that resonate with SHIFT Home?
Our quilts are made from end-of-the-line fabrics – waste managed from our studio. They are done by hand, using craft practices that support women and empower them. Our products have an innately rural, folksy feel; yet they are relevant to modern lifestyles and urban homes.
A personality whose home you would love to do up?
Asha Sarabhai – I would like to be her houseguest and then try to dress it up. I love her passion for textiles, her rich knowledge of heritage and history, and the fact that she and Issey Miyake ran a brand together. I think she has that fine balance of a progressive, alternative lifestyle with a heart for craft.
The common thread between your clothing and home lines?
Both are simple, fuss-free. I call this quality ‘shabby chic’.