If one’s experiences in childhood and the influences in later years can have a cumulative and regenerative effect on design style, then Bobby Aggarwal (Portside Cafe) is a perfect example of this. Having spent his childhood in Bhopal, living next to a lake and sprawling woods, the environment cultivated a desire for simplicity of form and a need to express what came naturally to him. This led to an organic process of creativity that was not encumbered by linear thought and became a distinct feature of his work in later years. Bhopal also exposed him to Islamic cultural elements in design that influenced a lot of his work. Later on, his close interaction with the Parsi community would give him an in-depth understanding of their culture and heritage. All these various influences were to inspire Bobby’s work and creativity in leather furniture India.
Bobby decided to experiment with relief work -playing with pattern and texture using staining techniques.
As a man who seldom walked the highway and frequently meandered into every jungle trail to find new horizons, his thought process has always been more intuitive and design inherently emotional. He wanted to do something different. All through this journey, he had not considered furniture retail in India. He wasn’t sure if that was a route he wanted to take, but the possibility of doing something entirely different excited him.
Five years ago, he decided he wanted to take his design experience a little further, and bring in all the cultural and personal influences that enriched his life. He also realised that to use colour and pattern effectively one needs confidence. He finds that most people are intimidated by the possibilities.
Keen to showcase his work in a retail environment, he discussed the idea with a friend in Pune (who was only too eager to support him).That was the beginning of Portside Café furniture studio as a brand. For inspiration, he delved into his own experiences and drew from Islamic architecture he saw in Bhopal, the Havelis of Old Delhi and the vibrancy and colour of Bollywood culture.
Mixed Metaphor was conceptualised. It was about India and its heritage in a modern avatar-brimming with activity and vibrantly expressive. The collection also reflects Bobby’s personality—fun- loving and explorative. “I don’t think furniture should be taken too seriously”, he says. “It should inspire you and make you happy”.
The retail success at the Pune furniture store, led to a store in the by-lanes of Lado Sarai in South Delhi. To decorate the store, Bobby created his own rules—much like his own life.
Leather and colour were used in an unconventional manner from coloured tiles on the floor in random patterns, to varied textures on the walls. A total contrast to the ivory canvas that most designers use to showcase their products. But then Bobby wasn’t interested in selling a product. He was setting the stage for a concept.
Bobby now has a franchise store in Mumbai, where his conversation with leather started so many years ago, coming full circle. When asked what his future goals are, Bobby says,” I have never planned the future, but believe that the promise it holds is just waiting for me to lend a new definition.” There will soon come a day when the allure of Portside Café will find its way into Europe or other parts of the world.
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