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Gautam Sinha on The Story Behind Nappa Dori

Arushi Sakhuja

Meet the man who reinvented leather, Gautam Sinha, Founder and Director of Nappa Dori. A brand that has transformed the leather artistry in India, Gautam Sinha is a force to be reckoned with. Over the years he has seamlessly reinvented leather with a keen eye for detail. Almost 15 years ago, in 2010, Sinha launched his brand Nappa Dori with a small store in Hauz Khas, and today the brand evolved immensely to become one of the best leather stores in the country.

Having spent the early years of his career designing fashion accessories for numerous renowned high-street brands and eventually discovered his love for leather as a material, which eventually gave birth to the Nappa Dori brand. Today, the brand is synonymous with minimal and elegant leather bags, trunks, home decor, tableware and stationery all while championing local craftsmanship. Through his leather brand, Gautam has been able to showcase the wealth of craft, heritage and craftsmanship of the country while pushing a minimalistic design language in maximalist India. Gautam’s design approach is rooted in his Indian heritage yet is a confluence of contemporary interpretations that align with internationally aspirational aesthetics.

As of 2023, Nappa Dori has flagship stores in India and the United Kingdom, but also retails online and is available at leading design stores including the Fortnum & Mason, Conran Shop, Selfridges and other reputable outlets. Along with its boutiques in New Delhi, Mumbai and Dubai. Ahead we spoke to Gautam Sinha, founder of Nappa Dori to learn about this journey and creative instincts.

Tell us about your journey and when did you discover your love for leather artistry.

Leather has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. For me, it’s the versatility of the material that truly takes the cake! Leather artistry is a field that feeds both my creativity and my curiosity as to how much I can push the boundaries of what can be achieved using this material!

How would you describe Nappa Dori in a few words and how did you come up with the name?

So, the name 'Nappa Dori' is essentially a thoughtful fusion of two elements central to our brand: 'Nappa,' the premium quality leather we use, and 'Dori,' which means thread in Hindi. The coming together of these two elements mirrors my intention to platform our Indian heritage and the associated craftsmanship on a global level.

How did you manage a contemporary edge to the leather market in India?

From the time we started off, I was very clear that while I wanted my brand to represent my Indian heritage through local craftsmanship, it was equally important for me that it imbibe my love for the contemporary in design. Sharing our Indian heritage with the world has always been the goal of our brand and I strongly feel that we’ve achieved this with our use of timeless traditional craftsmanship to craft new-age designs with a global appeal.

How do you tie together India's rich heritage and artistry with leather?

In this context, the reference to Indian heritage is through the timeless techniques of craftsmanship we incorporate in our making of genuine leather goods. India's rich heritage of traditional skills results in a unique blend of the past and present, celebrating our culture and also the artistry of our craftsmen!

You were one of the first few individuals to introduce the concept of experiential stores in India. What urged you to bring together concepts here and what and where was the first experience you had at such a store?

Yes, I think, having had my travel experiences shape a large part of who I am has had a direct influence on the way I view the retail experience too. Retail to me is therapeutic and that’s the kind of wholesome experience that we aim to create across our stores. From Dhanmill, our first store to our most recent one in Gurgugram the intent has always been to create a unique space where our customers can both shop and also unwind. And I think that’s exactly what the introduction of Cafe Dori and Dori Living did for us in terms of creating a lifestyle experience so to speak.

My first experience of a concept store was in Brooklyn in the late 90s. It was an idea that had just started doing the rounds in those days, with a few really cool stores that had their retail space and manufacturing come together under the same roof to create a one-of-a-kind experience!

What is one of the design themes that is common across all stores in India?

When it comes to interior design across all our stores, in fact, both in India and internationally, we like to keep it uniform as it enables us to deliver a seamless experience at every one of our stores. Our interiors are an amalgamation of Indian craftsmanship, mid-century design, and the concept of minimalism. While a large part of the inspiration comes from travel, literature, and art, the primary influence is the principles of minimalist design that I hold very close.

Nappa Dori stores in Pune, Gurugram, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chandigarh

At Cafe Dori, what inspired the menu and dishes?

Essentially, we wanted to give our customers the experience of a global palette both in food and design. It’s that end goal that inspired us to curate the menu in its current form- a timeless amalgamation of pan-European cuisine, carefully curated to offer a unique and diverse culinary experience!

What inspires you the most when you’re designing a new collection?

Well, my sources of inspiration have been quite diverse, be it, travel, literature, art etc. The principles of minimalism specifically, have had a great influence on both my personal aesthetic and that of the brand’s designs. Aesthetics aside, functionality is the driving force behind the creation of all our collections and I strongly believe that it’s important to establish that for the products to make a mark. I feel, that over the years, we’ve learnt and adapted to the changing environment while ensuring consistency in the core essence of the brand.

With brand collaborations leading industries is something we can see from you in future?

As a brand, we’ve always been very particular about who we choose to associate with, hence the limited number of collaborative ventures over the years. It’s most important to us that our collaborative partners mirror our brand DNA and add value to the resulting synergy. Having said that, currently we’ve got one of those exciting collaborations taking shape. It’s one that we’ve been looking forward to for a while now, however, we can’t yet make an official statement, so here’s a hint for your ears only; it’s got to do with 2 wheels! Take a guess!

What can we expect from Nappa Dori in the near future?

Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of R&D in vegan sustainable leather alternatives and will be launching a new collection made from Apple leather soon in 2023, so definitely watch out for more in that space!


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