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Ikea’s Only Indian Designer, Akanksha Deo Sharma Is Sure Sustainable Will Capture Our Imagination

  • IWB Post
  •  March 14, 2020

Creative minds know no boundaries. Also, when creativity combines with a sense of responsibility, it crosses the shallow definition of the current or trending, ‘it becomes what is expected of us at this time in the world.’

Akanksha Deo Sharma is one such creative mind whose credentials and talent stand out. The only Indian designer at IKEA, Akanksha has made it to the 30 under 30 list of Forbes India. This young talent speaks with maturity, yet the bustling desire to make a difference in the creative world is not amiss. So is her deep-rooted understanding of making fashion sustainable and being mindful of local cultures and aesthetics in design.

Having studied design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Delhi, Akanksha had also worked with various brands such as Cell Design, Raw Mango, and Love Birds before she stepped into a designer’s role at IKEA. She was roped in as an intern with IKEA during her graduation years that culminated in a full-time job in 2017. Since then Akanksha has worked on various projects such as TÄNKVÄRD, ÄNGLATÅRAR, and FÖRÄNDRING. Each of these has Indian design elements and of course, the sustainability approach, a fundamental idea that finds a place in IKEA’s Democratic Design Principles. Though all her projects are exciting new perspectives in home décor, FÖRÄNDRING is of particular interest where she has worked with rice straws as material. Burning of rice straws contributes to massive smog and pollution in the Northern region, and the collection aims to tackle the issue.

We caught up with Akanksha to talk about her projects, her experience at IKEA, sustainable and local designs, and more.

I feel immensely humbled and honoured to be listed under Forbes India 30 under 30, class of 2020 in the design category among a fierce group of game changers across different disciplines like technology, sports, healthcare, media and entertainment🙌 Thanks to the industry experts who nominated me along with the cool crew at Forbes India.💥🙏 @transcend0518 @namratasahoo @forbesindia @ashieshshah. Wearing my fav @rashmivarma . . Gives me so much energy to push myself and do even better work! So fortunate to be able to do what I do here at IKEA. 2020, let’s roll! @ikeatoday @ikea.india ⚡️⚡️ . #forbesindia30U30 #design #ikeatoday #2020 #forandring #craft #textiles #art #visual #ahkang #fashion #entrepreneurs #youngandrestless #sustainability #circular #empower

796 Likes, 116 Comments – AH KANG * Akanksha Deo Sharma (@akanksha.sharma) on Instagram: “I feel immensely humbled and honoured to be listed under Forbes India 30 under 30, class of 2020 in…”

Excerpts,

A textile designer, an industrial designer, a visual artist, an actor, there are so many ways to describe you. How would you best describe yourself?

Akanksha: Evolving, constantly evolving.

From your initial days at 11.11 to IKEA, what difference do you see when it comes to a small-scale company vs. a big company?

Akanksha: There is a lot of difference, and the most obvious difference is the production scale. In a smaller set-up, you can put in a lot of personal attention and you can add a lot of value to one particular piece, but when you are producing in a big quantity, you have to be very efficient with your production techniques. There comes an additional sense of accountability with the work you do because it’s used by many.

At IKEA, you have worked on multiple projects. Which according to you has a larger integration with Indian textile and fashion? Which one do you personally like more?

Akanksha: ÄNGLATÅRAR collection was specially designed as a tribute to India, so it was made in India and for India. TÄNKVÄRD is a very global collection, but in terms of technique, I have really tried to get inspired by Indian crafts like block printing, quilting and creating a texture that feels handcrafted. And FÖRÄNDRING made out of the rice straw from India, so it’s very hard for me to pick and choose, but all of them have very unique expressions that represent India in some way.

Akanksha

In your view, how is the trend of sustainability being affected by a shift to nuclear families in India?

Akanksha: Moving out and living in a nuclear family has nothing to do with using more sustainable products. Being sustainable or being mindful of what you are using is applicable to anybody, living in big or small families, living alone, being old or young. It’s something that is going to stay because it’s not a trend, it’s what is expected of us at this time in the world.

What do you source from the local artisans for your projects? 

Akanksha: It’s as much about manufacturing as it is about sourcing. The idea is to utilize what we have around us; we have to find the best way to make things. So even if you talk about food, as you can see now, people are slowly understanding that consuming imported foods is maybe not the best way, maybe going local and use what is available in the local climate is the solution to reduce your carbon footprint. Similarly, when we are producing, it really depends on the market we are catering to, we try to keep it local. And of course, we really appreciate the art and craft that the people create in Vietnam or Thailand or India, so we try to celebrate those cultures, textiles, and techniques in our designs.

Do you see women artisans equally participating with equal opportunities? 

Akanksha: Yes. We work with only certified suppliers and our suppliers have criteria to fulfill such as good working conditions, equal pay, equal opportunities for men and women, etc. The women that we work with have equal opportunities at IKEA. But if we talk generally about what’s happening in the world, we are far from assuring equal opportunities. Women have to fight harder for the same opportunities and that is a constant fight, on top of that, we also have to prove a lot in our personal life. We are expected to perform higher than men, both professionally and personally.

You are an avid traveler. How do you think traveling has evolved you as a designer?

Akanksha: I think by traveling you become more aware of your standing in society; you become more aware of the other’s existence. I was able to learn a lot about people and their practices in different parts of the world, how they live, how they eat, what matters to them and how we can learn from each other. I feel traveling has enabled me to understand people’s problems in a much more comprehensive manner; it has also helped me understand myself in that process.

IKEA-FÖRÄNDRING-collection-to-reduce-air-pollution-866x487

Though all her projects are exciting new perspectives in home décor, FÖRÄNDRING is of particular interest where she has worked with rice straws as material.

You started by studying commerce and then decided that it was not your cup of tea. The fact that you switched your academics to find your true calling is remarkable. What advice would you give to youngsters who are not sure about what to pursue and how would you guide them to find what they are truly born to do?

Akanksha: I think the first thing is to have the willingness and openness to try new things. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. You never know what opportunity comes your way and how it will manifest itself in the future. Be curious about things around you and show interest in learning.

Wrapping up, what are your upcoming projects? 

Akanksha: I am working on the development of a lampshade project with the use of textiles. Then I have a collaboration with designers from Jordon and Thailand. Right now my summer collection Solvinden 2020 is out, for which I have created the seasonal lighting in collaboration with another Finnish designer. Then there will be some handcrafted cushion covers coming out in a few months. The FÖRÄNDRING collection will see light this year.

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