"Design is art that makes itself useful."-1984 poster for Die Neue Sammlung, Munich design museum
A few weeks ago when browsing one of my favorite design blogs, Decor8, I nearly fell out of my chair in delight. There on my screen was an actual pink rickshaw. Yes, a pink rickshaw. It appeared on a chic cushion (pictured top right) from the newly launched UK based online store Plum Chutney. Naturally, Pink Rickshaw had to learn more about this lovely cushion and the whole line that includes other Indian inspired home decor goods that press articles, blogs and Decor8 aptly deemed Bollywood boho chic. PR had the pleasure of speaking to Plum Chutney's founder Anita Mackenzie to learn more about her home store and the Indian inspiration of her collection.
PR: What was the inspiration for the pieces you selected for the launch collection?
PC: I grew up amidst the chaotic hustle and bustle of India. I love India's sense of drama and what I like to call the 70mm approach to life. Having moved to Britain in 2005 and now being settled here, some part of me constantly misses the mad throng and riotous colors which surround you back home. Those memories and an abiding love of all things Indian is the inspiration for many of my designs. I have picked everyday images like cycle rickshaws, autos, Ambassadors, Indian lorries (trucks), men in turbans and more. I have then applied to them a contemporary design lens--simple, graphic and quirky-- both by working with designers to develop new designs and while sourcing very selectively from existing companies in India. You will see the colorful results in our Passage to India cushions, Men in Turbans shopper bags, trays and more. The other source of inspiration has been imagery which is quite symbolic of the Raj in Britain--the whole Maharajahs and elephants imagery of India.
PR: Do you have any design advice for how to utilize some of the pieces in a home?
PC: Many of our pieces make a very clear statement and I would say don't try and match them with a decor and aim for them to stand out and be a conversation piece, like the Candy Stripes and Rajasthan cushions or Truck art. In general, neutral and contemporary backdrops work better when accessories are colorful and bold. I happen to be very fond of mid-century furniture and find my pieces work well in a room which blends modern with more vintage or retro styles too. We also have some lovely floral cushions which are quite colorful but very easy to blend win with variety of schemes and colors. The lamps on Plum Chutney are lovely combination of soft motifs on strong silhouettes. They make a very unique statement and could practically design a whole room scheme around them like the Botanic tripod floor standing lamp. Once again, I suggest to be quite bold because I believe one outstanding accessory can lift an entire room and make it memorable.
PR: What's the story behind the name Plum Chutney?
PC: I am married to a British man and my life embodies a confluence of British and Indian culture. The design ethos of my company draws inspiration for all things Indian but presents it in a style that borrows from a very British sensibility. I always knew my brand would reflect this confluence too. Plums are quintessentially British fruit and chutneys are one of Britain's long standing cultural imports from India which have been lovingly assimilated into British culture and food. So, Plum Chutney was born--it's fun, it's tangy, it's Indo-British and it's miles away from the average interiors brand.
PR: I know it will be hard to pick, but what is your absolute favorite piece in this collection?
PC: Without a doubt, the Maharaja in his Darbar cushion. I absolutely love all my designs. But sometimes a collection has one piece that summarizes the rather complex philosophy of a multi-faceted design-led brand. Plum Chutney distinguishes itself with its love for color, its mature sense of fun, its graphic design style and its impeccable quality. The Maharaja collection epitomizes all of this.
PR: What can we expect from future collections?
PC: See now this is the fun of starting a design company which derives inspiration from Indian imagery--the possibilities are endless. We have just done a new range of fun elephant tea towels, stunning hand quilted throws in a traditional gudri style and shopper bags in the Men in Turbans design. I have currently got a fixation with the image of the 'Chaiwalla' and am hell bent on finding an artist or illustrator to develop a unique range of products on this theme. Some of the other design inspirations I am toying with at the moment are traditional polki jewelry--think the Nizam of Hyderabad's jewels, Courtesans and Maharanis, Indian flower markets, and old black and white photos of local tradesmen.
For all the latest happenings for the British shop including upcoming exhibitions, what Anita has coming up or to just see more of the collection and read about the talented designers, be sure to visit the Plum Chutney website.