Last week, fashion designer Ashish N. Soni marked his foray into conceptual and space design with a specially designed lighting installation. Yet another convert among Indian designers to selling a lifestyle instead of just clothes, Soni is associated with Czech Republic-based luxury lighting and glassware brand Sans Souci.
The installation worth Rs.30 lakh is four metres of a wave-shaped ceiling sculpture with 600 crystal bubbles of hand-blown glass with metallic colour effects. It also has folded foam inside designed by Sans Souci designer and author Martin Lukacka.
This was launched at Soni’s new 1,800 sq. ft concept store in Delhi’s Defence Colony. The interiors have black velvet panels, a Chesterfield sofa, a customized chrome-finish racking system for the collections and Sans Souci chandeliers that signify bright elegance, even though the overall lighting of the store is muted.
This is the first collaboration for Sans Souci in India, though the company has designed for Antilia, the Mumbai residence of Reliance Industries Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani, in the past.
“I have always said you’re not just buying my shirt; you’re buying into my story. So, this is just the bigger part of my story. I can’t say how much bigger it is going to get. Consumers will indicate that because this is not a one-way conversation after all,” said Soni.
The designer, who recently included home decor in his repertoire, said he wants his designs and company to have extensions that outlive him. “From being able to scale up and multiply production, to replicating stores and integrating with new markets, this will be my single focus,” Soni explained.
One of the pioneers of global-Indian fashion and among the few Indian designers to show at New York Fashion Week in the mid-2000s, Soni will celebrate 25 years of his brand next year.
“Our core business is fashion and that will continue. Having said that, the brand must grow in totality. After 20 years, people know your aesthetics, they know what you can do as they have seen a lot in the past. So, at a creative level, one gets stifled. It is time to surprise the consumer,” said Soni.
His fascination with art installations began some years ago, sparked by his frequent visits to museums and art galleries in New York and London. When he celebrated 20 years of his work in 2012, instead of showcasing a new clothing line, he only did a series of installations using waste—Coke bottles, cricket balls, etc. This was in collaboration with Absolut Vodka. Soni created a bottle, aptly called “Absolut 20”. He says it was a rewarding experience, even though he didn’t attempt it from a commercial point of view.
He then began looking for an art-fashion collaboration. Soni first met Sans Souci in 2014 through one of the latter’s distributors in Dubai. The partnership, said Soni, makes sense because both sides have the same target audience—the high-end, niche luxury consumer.
In the past, Sans Souci, known for collaborating with luxury spaces, has also done lighting and glass work for palaces in Qatar and the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Dubai.
Soni said their association will extend to his other commercial projects in the future; a store collaboration in another city or country is likely.
For Sans Souci, India is an untapped luxury market waiting to be explored. “They’ve seen that there is a large wealthy audience in the country and that people’s spending patterns have changed. If you’re building a luxurious house, your budget for lighting and art is very high. So, people are commissioning artists or art curators to work on the entire house. The lines are clearly blurring,” said Soni.
With design finally being taken seriously, and people willing to pay for it, Soni is taking his first steps towards lighting up lifestyles.