As Principal Designer of one of India’s most well known design studios, Mahesh Borse has revolutionized the home décor industry. Decades of experience and a flair for looking beyond textiles to a complete business strategy help him make Mahesh Borse Designs a name to reckon with.
What was your earliest exposure to design?
MB: I belong to Nashik, a small city in Maharashtra. As a child I was always interested in drawing, painting and handicrafts. Many people influenced me in my formative years, including my drawing teachers in school, and some seniors who could draw well. I used to pass a signboard painter on my way to school and I would watch him paint for hours. In those days there were street artists who could draw and color large images of gods and goddesses on the surfaces of roads with chalk within just a couple of hours. The proportions were perfect. I was really fascinated by this art form.
My maternal grandmother used to do khadi printing (similar to block printing) on old re-dyed saris to earn some additional money to support the family. I often watched her doing it. There were also a few handloom weavers staying near my house in Nashik and I would watch them weave fine cotton saris. These are the early influences that shaped my mind towards pursuing a creative profession.
How did that develop into a passion for weaving?
MB: After my 10th grade examination, my uncle felt my aptitude lay in the creative arts and he suggested I pursue the Foundation Course (Applied Arts) at Sir J.J. School of Arts in Mumbai. During the course I developed an interest in Graphic Design and wanted to join their four-year Applied Arts course. However, due to my family’s financial constraints I had to go for a shorter course so that I could get a job fast. My uncle suggested that I take up Textile Design, which was a two-year course. I followed his advice and began my journey towards becoming a professional Textile Designer. I took up weaving as my major and developed a great deal of interest in it. When you see your design being woven on a loom, the feeling is simply magical. After so many years, I still get an adrenalin rush whenever I see a fabric being woven from my design.
What role has formal design education played in your career?
MB: During the final year at J.J., I learnt about National Institute of Design (NID). The economic hardship that I was facing motivated me to do something better I applied to NID and was selected for the post graduate Diploma programme in Textile Design. It was called Advanced Entry Programme (AEP) then. In those days NID used to provide a stipend of Rs. 500 per month to all PG students, which was a big help for me. I could not have studied in an institute like NID without the stipend. Education makes a person more refined, and influences his attitude and thinking. My design education changed how I look at life and work. It made me realize the invisible social impact design can create. I learnt that there is more to design than just creating a ‘weave’ or a ‘print’. It involves creating a complete business development strategy.
How did Mahesh Borse Designs come about?
MB: After NID, I worked as a freelance designer and retainer for nearly 25 years. I would develop a range of products, guiding the design team at my client’s premises. As time went by, things started changing in the home furnishing industry. Clients became more demanding as they faced steep competition from Indian exporters and from other exporting countries such as China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
With the emergence of the Internet, things started moving faster than ever before. To keep pace with a constantly changing scenario and demands of the market, I felt the need to set up a fully equipped design studio with a creative team, so that the clients’ needs could be attended to on an urgent basis. Mahesh Borse Designs (MBD) came into being in New Delhi in 2010. We offer complete design solutions for the international and domestic textile and home decor industry. MBD has an in-house weaving studio, where we develop woven samples using a variety of yarns sourced from all over India. Developing actual woven samples is a big plus for us, as the client saves time and money. The samples can be sent directly to buyers for their approval.
What does a ‘complete design solution’ mean in the textile business?
MB: It means formulating a comprehensive design strategy that goes through several processes. It involves careful planning of a product portfolio based on the identified target market, deciding which products to develop at what price point. It involves everything from creating detailed theme boards, color palette, selection of fabrics and patterns to be used, to techniques and finishes to be executed. The next step is to make a finished product and decide how it should be promoted in the market – we advise the client on print media presentations and online presence. Finally, we need to create visual merchandising methods for participation in international trade fairs.
Describe your design approach.
MB: There are three approaches to developing designs in the home furnishing industry for international markets.
First, when a buyer from a particular country requests our client to develop a range of products for his market. In this case, often the buyer sends a brief, which includes the storyboard, color palette, types of patterns and fabrics to be used, and finally the targeted price point. These are generally prepared by their design and marketing team. In that case we just follow the buyer’s guidelines and develop the collection.
Second, to generate more business, our client and his team might decide to target a particular buyer or a market. Accordingly, they devise a marketing strategy. Our work begins by studying the design language of products that they are selling, their price point, material and color used, etc. Then we research various stores, interior magazines, and online stores of that particular country. Once the designs are developed, they are sent for prototyping. When ready, these are sent to the buyer with detailed specifications.
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