When Neha Singh was a student of home science at Nagpur University back in 2000, she had two choices to pick from: to take up textile design or nutrition. She says with a smile: I was not head-over-heels in love with either eating or making others eat. So, she settled for textile design.
Today, she has her own retail outlet on Elgin Road where she stocks home accessories including bed linen, cushions, quilts, runners, poufs and an interesting trousseau line of home linen.
For someone whos not from a business family, Singh, 28, is going great guns. But before plunging into business she had done a postgraduate course in textile design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Calcutta.
Says Singh: My years at NIFT made me aware that fabrics differ with respect to moisture absorption and maintenance. Today, I can help the customers choose fabrics according to their requirements and tastes.
After graduating from NIFT in 2004, she designed home linen for an export house, Textrade International, Mumbai. She relocated to Calcutta after her marriage and started designing stoles and scarves for another export house called Ventures. I wasnt much into fashion designing and felt textile designing was more up my line, says Singh.
In 2007 she launched her own signature brand, Neha Singh, and opened a small studio in Salt Lake. Participating in exhibitions like Parampara, India Haat and Aastha in Calcutta helped build her client base. She opened her retail outlet in 1 Allenby in May last year. Her products have also found their way into lifestyle stores in Pune, Chennai and Mumbai and plans are afoot to begin a line for export.
Her USP lies in customising products for her clients — and at affordable rates. Shes helped along in her venture by her in-house design team while the products are manufactured in her own factory.
Festivals call for new lines and her store comes alive with products specific to the occasion. For the New Year, she went with metallic shades for her cushions while for Christmas she played around with, what else but, tones of red.
Singh says that those who believe in minimalist interiors make up in the bed linen and cushions department by using very vivid colours to brighten up the rooms. Singh says: All you need is interesting bed linen and cushions to enliven a look. Singh feels that the Indian market is driven by what suits peoples individual preferences.
She says that while in Calcutta the market for designer bed linen is niche, cushions are always in demand. People love to experiment with shapes of cushions rather than stick to the regulation square ones, she says. Keeping this in mind, she designs cushions in rectangular and pyramid shapes which are refreshingly different.
The range of products offered by Singh is as varied as it is affordable. She says that she tries to offer a good mix of contemporary and traditional designs. Singh also specialises in fabric texturisation. So, you will find cushions in metallic shades, which are created by weaving leather strips. She says: I love playing with pleats and gathers in different materials to create unusual cushions and bedcovers.
Her store is brimming over with cushion covers (Rs 350 to Rs 1,100), bed covers (Rs 3,000 to Rs 7,000), quilts (Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000) in silk, cotton and leather. Shades of red, black, hot pink, purple, metallic shades and earthy tones dominate this collection.
Most of the products are heavily sequinned, embroidered or studded with Swarovski crystals. Some are detailed with appliqué work or crochet.
She takes pride in her trousseau line which comes with a floor price of Rs 10,000. It includes bed sheets, bed covers, pillow covers and cushions. To make it special, I talk to the bride regarding her preferences. I even put the initials of the bride and groom on the cushion covers.
Singh recently launched a childrens range which offers quilts, bed sheets and cushions in shapes of stars, cars and flowers. Children are sure to find the pink quilt with cows and sheep printed on it irresistible (Rs 4,000). She even designs matching wall embellishments based on the theme of the room or according to the childs preference.
Singh plans to travel to the interiors of the country to connect with local artisans. She hopes to source traditional patterns from them, which she will incorporate in her modern designs.
Says Singh: I want to visit Madhubani for their painting. I would love to work with local artisans to promote their work.
Photographs by Rashbehari Das