05 November, 2019

Some people are born bursting with creative abundance. You see them and just know that they’re brain is working differently. Akanksha Sharma, designer at IKEA is one such person. I’ve been lucky to see and know Akanksha before IKEA happened to her or before JODI happened to me. We went to the same design school. While passing each other in corridors I would always see Akanksha hurrying past, spilling over with knit explorations. She’d take time out and explain them to me. She always spoke so passionately about how she viewed the world and its various details. What I adore about her is that even now, after all these years Akanksha has the same abandon. She’s as warm and easy to speak with. Almost like we could be back in our school corridors, chatting away. So choosing her as one of the women we focus on was no surprise. She embodies a JODI woman. 

Born and brought up in New Delhi, India - Akanksha was the first Indian designer to be handpicked by IKEA and also their youngest. 

Here we dig deeper into what’s stewing at her end.

Tell us a bit about what you are working on right now. Not just with regards to IKEA but also your personal projects.
I’ve been working on a collection that involves collaborating with local designers and craftsmen from Middle-east Asia, India, and South-east Asia.
I also recently gave a talk session as a part of Democratic Design Days in Basel, hosted by IKEA Switzerland. 

What did you think about when designing? What was the process like? Do you start with one piece and design around that or is it add-as-you-go?
The objective and intent of an initiative are important. Having said that, some projects can solely be exploratory. 
The process is always dynamic with each project depending on the context and the message you seek to put across. Designing in IKEA has a lot to do with coordination. Any product at any given time has to harmoniously co-exist with the existing range at all times. You always have to keep the bigger picture in mind.

Akanksha wears the Yayoi Maxi Dress

What are the challenges you face as a designer? What do you pay the most attention to?
A challenge that I recently faced during one of my projects is to design a well made, handcrafted product available to many and not just to a certain section of people. The design process is demanding, yet fun. You have to understand the cost and the heritage of a craft, the standardised quality a product needs and pricing the products so it can be affordable to the many. 
Sounds cliche but attention to detail always counts. Tactility, the essence of a material and the emotion it evokes in a person is what I particularly pay attention to. 

Tell us a story about one thing in your collection.
The lampshade from the collection that was developed using rice straws - Förändring, was initially thought out to be a bowl. We then later decided to keep the same shape and turn it upside down. And we dipped it in shades of blue, deep to light to convey the transition from darker times to bright blue skies.

Förändring the rice straw collection. copyright © Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2019.

Your work now delves quite deeply into textiles too. We ourselves try and work with common textiles in India and try to showcase its beauty/versatility. What about Indian textiles intrigues you?
What I find fascinating with Indian textiles, is that it’s so vivid and eccentric in its colours and patterns (and in its entirety). Yet everything co-exists and complements each other in complete harmony. I respect and genuinely value the deep old traditions of the diverse crafts we are home to. It tells the story of our people and our communities.

© Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2019.

We as a brand work deeply in print and colour.  In your own work - how do you treat these elements? What draws your attention?
Oh, I can have periodic phases however my love for indigo is a constant. I often find myself being attracted to Bauhaus primary color pairings as they’re sensual and playful simultaneously. 

Akanksha wears the Frida Co-ord Set

You have a very distinct personal style. What informs it? Who/what are your influences? 
I enjoy acquiring garments that have a specific story. My love for art and cinema constantly shapes my mood. The idea that I can be whoever I want to be on a given day, inspires me and makes me confident. One particular thing I don’t follow is trends. 

Which JODI looks did you enjoy wearing the most and why?
The Frida set. Ideally, I wouldn’t have picked it, but after wearing the piece I really enjoyed how the print on print coordinates looked together on me.

A city that you’ve enjoyed travelling to.
Copenhagen and Shanghai 

Akanksha wears the Mother Of Pearl Pleated Dress

What are you listening to right now?
Jalousie, by Angèle

A movie or TV show you recommend watching. 
One of my favourite classics is The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky. And also The Dreamers by Bernardo Bertolucci 

If you could host a dinner at home, the top three names on your guestlist.
Bjork, Olafur Eliasson and Elon Musk lol ;) 

Photography- Aditi Gupta