When Kanika Karvinkop quit her styling job at fashion magazine Grazia India in 2016, she didn't have a plan for what to do next, but she was sure of three things. One was that she was in awe of the fashion design talent across south Asia; the second was that this talent was underrated globally; and the third was that she wanted to give the designers the exposure they deserved, using her styling skills, with a feature shot at Rajasthan's Pushkar Camel Fair.
Countless magazines rejected her pitch, and she had almost given up when one of her emails was forwarded to Refinery29's executive creative director, Piera Gelardi, who commissioned it within minutes. ‘This was the first time an editorial spread with solely Indian designers was shared on a global platform and the response was amazing,’ says Kanika.
She went on to style editorials featuring south-Asian designers for magazines like Nylon, Wonderland and i-D and saw the enthusiastic reaction: people were desperately trying to get their hands on the clothes. Kanika realized there needed to be a central space for showcasing the designers' work. It made her think of the camel fair, crammed with color, clothes and life – and this became the core inspiration behind her concept store, No Borders, in Mumbai.
Opened in 2018, No Borders gives contemporary Indian designers a platform for showing their work to the wider world and a community where they can connect with each other. Kanika and her team personally curate the clothes by south-Asian designers, with a focus on sustainability and conserving multiple generations' worth of skill and technique.
‘I want to amplify the work of these designers, artisans and brands as well as the histories and traditions they are upholding, while helping them promote what they're doing internationally.’
Kanika also wants No Borders to be an incubator for new talent. ‘After being in this field for a few years now, I know what our community actually wants, so we work with artisans and designers and help them create their collections.’ This year, No Borders will launch a collaborative capsule collection with the Indian designer Mridu Mehra and her label, Kokun, which specializes in using natural dyes, ‘slow stitching’ techniques and handloom weaving to create the textiles for its garments.
Kanika says the thread that runs through all of No Borders' collaborations is the connection to heritage. ‘It's about sitting with the older south-Asian aunties who mix and match their blouses to their saris; it's the way the men carry themselves in the small intimate moments between friends,’ she says. ‘It's the beauty and chaos altogether – an innate desire to show the everyday moments of south Asia.’