Sanju Rao, the founder and creative director of Sihasn – an e-commerce company that is taking Indian fabrics beyond apparel and using it as upholstery on furniture, spoke to DCabout the whole concept, the fabrics’ sensible attributes and also the recently launched Kanjeevaram themed collection. Being an alumnus of The University of Chicago and The London School of Economics, she has combined her passion for economics and design by starting this company that curates fabricas from all over the country for its long-standing traditions, culture and stories it brings with it - from the foothills of Nagaland to the salt floors of Kutch!
How did you come up with the idea of using apparel fabrics for furniture?
The greys and beiges of typical upholstery are so bland and boring. Bokja Design in Beirut has taken Central Asian and Middle Eastern apparel textiles and upholstered furniture, Folk Project in Guatemala has done the same, and we should too. American companies like Anthropologie are upholstering barstools with Indian Ikat fabric and actor, Robert Redford, buys sarees from India, upholsters chairs and sells them at premium prices in the US. We should use our own apparel textiles and capitalise on this opportunity.
How do you think the traditional fabrics meld with contemporary choice of interiors?
Absolutely. In fact, they enhance contemporary interiors. They infuse contemporary modern interiors with vibrancy, and motifs and materials that are timeless and classic.
Are these fabrics durable and strong in comparison with the usual ones like leather?
No fabric exists in the world that does not wear out. Even leather wears out and, in fact, leather can be a pain to maintain. Only synthetic leather and plastic-based fabrics are durable and ever-lasting and they are easily the ugliest fabric options. That being said, it is important for all upholstery fabric to resist wear-and-tear at least for 10 years and our upholstery fabric does. From a hygiene perspective, it is very important to use slipcovers and reupholster furniture every 5 to 7 years at least. Otherwise you invite all kinds of bugs and bacteria. It’s like getting your car or air conditioner serviced. Furniture is the same.
Talk about the new Kanjeevaram themed collection
The Kanjeevaram saree is synonymous with Tamil Nadu. The brocade weaving technique, the designs, and the motifs are all unique to the weaving town of Kanchipuram. To celebrate this heritage so unique to Tamil Nadu, we decided to upholster a lounge chair with a Kanjeevaram when we launched our retail tie-up with Cape Kamoryn, a luxury boutique, in Chennai. It was a good way to present to people how it is possible to use an heirloom saree as upholstery especially if you never plan to wear it but still want to enjoy it in some way.