This November at The Stands, nestled beneath the bleachers of Mumbai’s iconic Wankhede Stadium, we discovered a space seamlessly marrying art and design — a place where chaos found its own colour. Curating this experimental art and design group exhibit were creative forces and close friends, Hina Oomer-Ahmed and Amrita Kilachand.
“The Colour in Chaos was inspired by a trip I made to Jaipur. I was intrigued by the colour, not only in the architecture but also, in the daily life of the people,” says Hina, founder of Luxebox, a luxury gifting solution enterprise. Partnering with frequent collaborator Amrita, who worked at Merrill Lynch and ABN AMRO in India before making the switch to pursue her artistic passions, they brought this unique exhibit to life.
While art shows and design expos often exist in separate worlds, Hina and Amrita’s approach acknowledges the shared space these elements occupy in our lives, fostering a visual synergy that transcends conventional boundaries.
“There’s such a vast body of art out there that people often can’t visualise it in their homes,” remarked Amrita, pondering the challenge. “So juxtaposing great pieces of design, furniture or accessories with the art is a different way of presenting it.”
This is their third exhibition and the dynamic duo claim it’s been fantastic working together. “She’s a maximalist while I’m a minimalist — we complement each other well,” says Amrita with a smile.
Hosting a soirée at the venue to discuss art, design and friendship, they invited friends and design aficionados from across the country to be part of this feature for HELLO! Naina Shah, jet-setting between Mumbai and New York, who boasts a thriving hand embroidery and beading business, Aditiany, and Lighthouse Founder Priya Gaekwar, whose expertise spans interior design, architecture, graphics, furniture, web, print and even a stint at Louis Vuitton. Noelle Kadar, former artistic director of The Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace, now consults for Art Dubai, while Ridhi Khosla Jalan, a renowned interior designer recently embarked on a spontaneous Instagram journey that gained immense popularity.
HELLO!: Ladies, how did you find your way into this industry and how has your career trajectory shaped up over the years?
Naina: “I’m from New York, born and raised and I’ve been in India for the past 10 years. Recently, I designed a boutique hotel in Jaipur called The Johri — applying my embroidery background into the interiors of that space — using local crafts and artisans from Rajasthan. That was my first project in India and we’re now working on a second in Udaipur!”
Ridhi: “I grew up in Singapore and LA, where I studied finance and marketing. But, what I really wanted to pursue was architecture and interior design. So, when I was pregnant with my second child — married and living in Mumbai by then — I went back to college and got a degree in interior design at the L.S. Raheja School of Architecture. I was the pregnant lady writing exams! I then opened a store for children and moved onto luxury residences. I took a break last year to spend time with my kids and started posting on Instagram for fun. And it blew up! I decided I’m going to see where it goes. Because two years later, the clients and contractors will still be there. But this is a fun journey, so, why not ride the tide and see where I land up?”
Priya: “I studied art at a boarding school in England and then returned to Mumbai to pursue interior design — my mother’s very creative when it comes to spaces too. Then, by coincidence, 16 years ago, I fell into luxury retail. I started working with Louis Vuitton and now, I have my own luxury advisory company called Lighthouse. But when COVID struck, I was able to dedicate those 89 days in lockdown to just paint. I use a lot of Ascemic writing in my paintings, which I discovered in a museum in Chamba, in this beautiful calligraphy from the Mughal period.”
Noelle: “I’m from the US, I studied art and design and then moved to Varanasi to work with master weavers. I now work more on the business and organisational side, with our jewellery — my husband [Akshat Ghiya] being the designer. He’s from Jaipur and we met there about 12 years ago, through another jeweller friend of ours at a wedding. I now help tell the story of the brand and put it all together!”
H!: So, how far back do you all go back?
Priya: “We all stayed at The Johri last year. Amrita was actually my junior at school!”
Noelle: “I hate all of them. (Laughs) Actually, Naina and I have been friends for many years — we met in New York, but we’re both Jaipur girls now.”
Amrita: “I work with Hina, so we’re close. Ridhi and I go way back — her sister and I are close friends, our children are in the same class. Priya and I have had common friends growing up and our mothers are best friends!”
Hina: “Amrita and I have been friends for a long time. I know Riddhi because she’s creating a storm on Instagram! Noelle, I met recently on my trip to Jaipur. She’s also showcasing here and it was on that trip that I visited the studio to see their stunning jewellery. I love Priya’s art and she’s always so supportive. Naina, I don’t know very well but I recently went to The Johri and fell in love with how unconventionally the place was done up. That’s what got us all together — a shared passion for art, design and all things aesthetic.”
H!: You’ve all been integral to the industry for years now. How do you think art has evolved in India in the last decade?
Naina: “It’s great that there are many more platforms for emerging artists to display their work. The appreciation has definitely increased.”
Noelle: “There have always been great artists here. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen it pick up — the art world is expanding, becoming more mainstream. And shows like this are important because we’re seeing young buyers and people building homes who want beautiful art. They now know the difference between a print and a painting!”
Amrita: “The space in contemporary art has evolved hugely from back in the mid-90s, when I started collecting art. There’s a lot of fresh talent to be discovered. For people to go beyond the masters and the moderns — which is great — and discover new artists through galleries or studios, is exciting.”
H!: Speaking of art, we’re currently at an immersive art and design exhibit and so, tell us about your all time favourite luxury art experience.
Ridhi: “I was the only interior designer to be invited to the launch of the PMO’s art gallery at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi! To be honest, though, my favourite experience is meeting unique people; for me, that is luxury.”
Noelle: “My favourite thing to do is sit in a hotel bar and have a martini — perhaps The Carlyle in New York or the Bowery Hotel. It’s always dark, has a certain smell and to have the time and the space to sit somewhere anonymously and just read a book is the ultimate fantasy to me. My favourite art show is the TEFAF Maastricht New York; it has a mix of art, antiquities and design.”
H!: Walk us through a typical day in your life.
Naina: “It depends on where I am and what project I’m working on; no such thing as a typical day!”
Priya: “Work starts at 10 am — well, that’s the official time but by 9.30 am, I’ve already started. I do pilates twice a week and since my sister and I have co-founded the company together and share a flat, we catch up in the evenings.”
Hina: “One part of my day is just getting things done, planning for the week and the rest of it is a little bit of exercise, family and friends.”
H!: How do you unwind after a hectic couple of days at work?
Naina: “I love to visit places where you can find different types of local crafts. We were just in Morocco, which was amazing. I’m a big fan of hotels [well, now that you’re designing them!] so that’s my biggest indulgence.”
Ridhi: “I read a lot. Last year, I read 200 books. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions and The Forest of Enchantments are definitely my favourites, though. I can also quote Harper Lee for you!”
Noelle: “My hobby has always been art — in this industry, the lines are blurred. There’s no night or day, weekday or weekend; your friends are your work, weekends spent in studios; a lifestyle.”
H!: What does a designer or an aesthete’s home look like?
Priya: “My home is always eclectic; a mix of antique pieces sourced by scouring Chor Bazaar, while the rest is clean and modern. Lighting is important. While many collect jewellery, I would rather invest in furniture!”
Noelle: “Our home is relatively minimal because I look at things all day, so I don’t want to be overwhelmed with colour or clutter. Jaipur is also such a maximalist city that my reaction to it is a minimal aesthetic at home. But we live in a great 1960s renovated bungalow with round windows and light coming in — that’s my favourite, along with our artworks. It’s a really personal, lived-in space — it’s not precious.”
Hina: “My home is very maximalist — a culmination of all the things that I love, collected over the years from our travels; parts of our lives, like a jigsaw puzzle that will continue to grow.”
H!: What’s your first or favourite piece?
Ridhi: “Ravi Vazirani — his pieces are so organic, artsy, yet functional. I’m also biased towards Art Attache and Arjun Rathi Design. They’re good friends.”
Priya: “My two Polistano armchairs, inspired by Brutalist architecture, by Paulo Mendes de Rocha.”
Amrita: “My first piece was a small [S.H.] Raza from the Sakshi Gallery; his Bindu work.”
H!: Since this is a very creative bunch, give our readers some tips for decorating the house and getting it ready for hosting!
Ridhi: “Cushions — I have different ones for Diwali and Christmas. It adds so much without having to rob a bank! (Laughs)”
Hina: “Don’t be afraid of colour. Use it well — it adds so much joy to life. It can completely change the look of the space and make it unique.”
Amrita: “This season, I’m going to go black, white with a touch of red — and green is always a huge favourite. I always love monotone spaces with a pop of colour, but you have to do what you want to live with; what excites you.”
Photos: Ryan Martis, Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand, Styling: Anushree Sardesai, Assisted By: Ila Parakh, Hair And Make-up: Puja Chaurasia
This interview is from HELLO! India’s January 2024 issue. Check out the latest issue right here.