Ashiesh Shah on building your personal brand

Ashiesh Shah / October 16, 2017

“My work is the only thing that needs to pass the test of time"

When I moved back to Mumbai from New York a few years ago, I was disappointed by the way interior design was perceived in India. I think most people dismissed it as something quite silly and inconsequential. Today, I can safely say that this is no longer the case and design in general is being taken more seriously.

Ashiesh Shah, architect and designer

This shift in mentality is thanks to a generation of young designers that has really been pushing the limits and I’m very proud to have been a part of this movement.

When I started, I was predominately working on homes, and while I received a lot of positive feed back from my clients, editors and friends. I think it was projects like Le Mill and Nido (both in Mumbai) that really helped bring my work onto a more public platform.

It was the first time a large number of people was able to really experience my work. That was an important hurdle to cross.

Initially, it took time to find my personal visual language. Geometry is an important element in my practice, and is often the point of departure for my designs. For the past several years, I’ve also been exploring the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi — this ancient philosophy of balancing elements has been a strong part of all my projects.

Making the jump from interiors to product design was a natural progression. Many people had been encouraging me to work in this space, especially clients for whom I had designed custom pieces — Shreyasi Goenka and the Dagas, for instance. They’ve been fanatic patrons, helping me to push myself and do something different. I have to say winning ELLE Decor’s Designer Of The Year, showcasing my pieces at ID earlier this year… all contributed to boosting my confidence and really jumping into the space of product design along with my architectural practice.

On some level, I always knew I wanted to foray into product design, I was just waiting for the right platform and I think my collaboration with Urban Ladder has been a great start.

Being self-made comes with a whole lot of challenges. With every project, I have to prove myself and while this definitely keeps you on your toes and at the top of your practice, it can become quite stressful.

I don’t sign too many projects through the year. I really pick and choose projects that I’m keen to work on. I have a small team and no associates, so I personally design every detail, which can be very time-consuming. I think the best way to manage time is to have clarity of thought and I think this helps me really choose what I want to dedicate my time to.

During this journey, I’ve been served my fair share of criticism. The only way to deal with it is constructively. Most importantly though, it’s where it comes from. For me, it’s only relevant when it comes from a source I respect. If not, I listen to it, give it 10 seconds of my time and then move on. With the rise of social media, everyone has a voice and a platform to compliment or criticize, and the only way through it is being able to decide what is relevant and what isn’t.

At the end of the day, my work is the only thing that needs to pass the test of time, it’s the only thing that lasts.


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