Monday, July 13, 2009

Interview - Nipa Doshi

Nipa Doshi

My Beautiful Backside couch for Moroso

My Beautiful Backside couch for Moroso

State of Design is nearly upon us! As you know I will be attempting some kind of design festival attendance world record, and will be posting daily festival coverage here (most likely multiple posts each day actually) for the next 2 weeks! In addition to reviewing and recommending design festival events, I also have some fabulous interviews lined up with some of the festival's very special international and local guests!

But of all the events, openings and meetings I'm preparing for, today's interview is perhaps the most exciting! I cannot quite believe that Nipa Doshi had time to squeeze this is... but I feel extremely lucky to be sharing it with you. Ms Doshi is perhaps the famous-est designer I have ever interviewed! I am quite star-struck.

If you are not familiar with the incredible work of London design studio Doshi Levien, get ready to be enthused! Nipa and partner Jonathan Levien have amassed the most vibrant, varied body of work since they first burst onto the UK design scene in 2000. Their prolific output spans furniture design, product design, interaction design and even shoe design! Clients include Intel, Nokia, Tefal, Moroso, and John Lobb.

Read on for an insight into the wonderful, colourful world of Nipa Doshi!

Myth and Material installation in New York - here Doshi Levien reference India's multilayered modern culture, emphasising how opposites coexist harmoniously - sensuousness with the spiritual and austere; functionality with creativity and imagination.

Myth and Material installation - New York

Myth and Material installation - New York

Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to setting up Doshi Levien, and how has the business evolved since you first set up your studio with Jonathan in 2000?

I grew up in India, in a very diverse environment full of contradictions, where seeming opposites co-existed, a world full of creative possibilities. I studied design at NID Ahmedabad followed by a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Art in London, where I met Jonathan. After graduating we both worked for other design studios, but after 3 years we decided to be masters of our own destiny. We gave up our jobs, got married and set up Doshi Levien.

We started out designing tableware and cutlery for Habitat in London thanks to Tom Dixon who championed young designers. We have worked on a very diverse range of projects and immersed ourselves in the world associated with curiosity and the aim to learn without fear of failure. This has earned our studio a reputation where clients come to us because they want something different.

Mosaic Cookware for Tefal

Graphic Mosaic cookware base patterns (ie for the underside of each Mosaic pot!)

Your work is extremely varied - from installation design to furniture design, product design, interaction design and even shoe design! What have been some of your favourite or most memorable projects?

I don’t see how furniture design is so different from shoe design or interaction design. They are all products and objects we use on a daily basis. In interaction design you are interacting with virtual products! We never set out defining our creativity in terms of what we are designing. We spend a lot of time doing research before we embark on any design project and we have enjoyed each one. Some were harder than others due to the steep learning curve, but that made them even more challenging and fun!

Doshi Levien collaborates with traditional bespoke shoe manufacturer John Lobb

Drawings for John Lobb ladies shoes

One of Nipa's finished shoe designs for the Apprentice range. Too beautiful.

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire?

Frida Kahlo, Shadi Ghadirian, Bharat Sikka, anonymous street artists in India, set painters, unsung, untrained designers who have created most of the products I love and use everyday, Charles and Ray Eames, Cristobal Balenciaga…there are too many.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

A lot of thinking, circling around a project to find the right way in, dreaming, sketching, answering press interviews, and inevitably some business related admin too (which I wish I never had to do).

Sketches for pillows (for the Moroso Charpoy daybed)

Sketches for pillows (for the Moroso Charpoy daybed)

What would be your dream creative project?

Design a house, be involved in an urban planning project for a city and a wellbeing spa.

What are you looking forward to?

To becoming the Minister of Culture in India!

5 of your favourite things...

The old market in Ahmedabad,
my bespoke crocodile shoes from John Lobb,
Monsoon rains in India,
Alphonso mangoes,
Goyard bags

Stethoscope and doctor's bag for the Wellcome Trust window installation

More custom props for the Wellcome Trust window installation - these are medicine jars

Nipa Doshi will be speaking at
Design Capital in Melbourne this Friday, July 17th.

For booking information, visit the
State of Design website.

Thanks so much to Nipa for her time with this interview!


  1. such beautiful designs and products! i love that day bed soo much. great interview lucy.

  2. man oh man that is interesting!!!!! brilliant stuff :)

  3. Wow. Thank you for introducing me to Nipa Doshi. Amazing stuff. Chrissie

  4. I am totally needing one of those daybeds!

  5. Fascinating post Lucy - I have always loved the princess and the pea day bed - great to find out more about the designer, thanks !! Sheila