Fashion Without Borders
Housed in a 19th-century ancestral bungalow of Mumbai, India, No Borders is an up-and-coming concept shop that celebrates the intersection between fashion, culture, and art. Founded and curated by stylist Kanika Karvinkop, the store brings together the talents of various South Asian contemporary designers, visual artists, and designer labels from around the world. The store features independent brands such as Eka, Oshadi, Nor Black Nor White and Suket Dhir, along with vintage designer pieces from Marc Jacobs, DKNY and Christian Dior. Surrounded by the prettiest pastel alleyways, No Borders cultivates an evergrowing community united by the core beliefs of supporting artists and designers and the power of self-expression.
Milk spoke with Karvinkop about the origins of her store, the Indian fashion industry, and some of her favorite pieces.
For those who aren’t familiar with No Borders, tell me more about this concept store and the community it has fostered over the years.
No Borders is a concept store that focuses deeply on diversity in fashion, culture, and art. The concept of No Borders stems from the idea of celebrating great works of creatives from around the world. I wanted to share their amazing stories, their cultures and have the world look closer at what they really wanted to say through their unique work. It amazes me how little we know about our neighbors, their cultures and their stories. I also wanted to, in my own little way, erase these lines that divide us on maps and discover a little more about these talented artists and designers from around the world.
What made you start this store, how did it all come together?
I’ve been intrigued by creative expression through any form of art. I am constantly on the lookout for artists, designers, and creatives who have a story to tell. Stories that have been inspired by their own roots. Every person is so uniquely wired and has their own distinct voice. Self-expression through any art form, helps us understand one another, even if we don’t speak the same language art can sometimes speak the same language.
No Borders was born out of this need to find these talented people and their voices in their works of art, that speak about who they were and where they came from. Art, music, fashion has no language, no boundaries and can be a platform that breaks the unseen lines and borders between us. Art belongs to no one and yet, it belongs to everyone. No Borders started off as a passion project for me but soon turned into a much bigger one. I am very proud of where we have reached and excited about the journey ahead.
What made you name the store ‘No Borders’? What does it mean to you?
There’s so much more that Indian fashion has to offer that is unknown to the rest of the world. The designers I have come to meet and who are now on the roster of No Borders, paint a whole different picture with their amazing craftsmanship and their aesthetics. They are inspired by their country and the places they come from. It’s fascinating to see how they still use traditional methods and techniques to manufacture their clothing. The whole approach is inspired by the deep-rooted heritage of their ancestors and the methods they adopted in the past while creating contemporary pieces for today. Creating a perfect balance. It all started from there and now we focus on designers and artists not just from India but from countries like Peru, Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Philippines and many more. I want to focus on the stories they want to tell via their brand. Each of these designers has their own unique voice and style of working which is very interesting and is something I want to showcase through No Borders. I have personally visited many of their factories and talked to the local artisans as well whose families are supported by these designers. A lot of the designers I work with specially train underprivileged women in the art of tailoring, weaving, embroidery, etc and help them support their families. We are bringing in these designers and artists along with their fascinating stories from all over the world. The idea behind the name is quite self-explanatory but I’d still go ahead and say it. There are no borders when it comes to creativity. It’s our vision to bring together and share great cultural and art forms with the world.
What are some challenges you encountered while bringing this store and vision come to life, how did you overcome them?
I opened my store in the midst of a personal tragedy. A month before No Borders was officially opened I lost my dad to cancer. Watching him suffer was the hardest thing for my family and me. My dad is easily the biggest inspiration in my life and it was so hard to see him go through that pain. It was obviously a struggle setting up the store parallelly but that’s when my dad gave me the little nudge I needed and helped me to overcome the pain. He told me to focus on what’s ahead, on those dreams and that’s exactly what I did. Opening the store and starting NB really helped me mentally that whole year, after he passed away I had to continue and invest all my time and energy into building up the brand step by step.
No Borders is focused on building community and supporting social movements. What are some things you would like to see change in the fashion industry, especially in India?
Yeah, the first year of NB was all about building a community. I really wanted people to understand the message and what we are trying to convey via the brand. For me, No Borders is not just a store, it’s more than that. It is a creative space for people to come in, share experiences, explore ideas and a great place where you can meet new people. In India, I would definitely love to see more people looking for inspiration from their own country. I sometimes feel that as a country we are very influenced by the west when it comes to fashion. Growing up in India has been such a blessing and has been deeply inspiring for me. The country is incredibly diverse within itself that you can see completely new practices, languages, and traditions while traveling just 100 miles in any direction. You experience so much and it’s still surprising how much there is to explore within this magnificent country. For me, I’ve grown up witnessing all of these fabulous cultures around. As far as I can remember as a kid I started experiencing this diversity very early in life since my dad was in the Indian Air Force and we moved around a lot. We would travel the length and breadth of the country finding new friends, living new cultures, eating new foods and celebrating new cultures altogether. I just feel that India has so much if we look within for inspiration. Every state in this country is so unique and different when it comes to the language they speak, the cultures and traditions they follow. Even the styles and the approach to fashion and textile it’s all so inspiring. I believe that when we look within we can find a whole lot more than looking outward. I personally am inspired by how the women wear their saris at the flower markets. The way they mix prints it’s so raw and natural and it looks so good when put together. Another strong source of inspiration for me is looking at my mom’s and grandmom’s old pictures. The way they dressed at that time is so beautiful to see.
Who are some of your favorite designers featured in the store? Why?
Too many really! Some of the designers we stock are Suket Dhir, I am Isigo, Eka, Nor black nor White, Inne, Knobbly Studio. Each of the designers and artists that we carry has their own unique voice and aesthetic and that’s what I Iove the most about each of their work. In the coming months, we are also collaborating and working with a whole new bunch of really talented designers from countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Peru, and Africa.
What are some of your fondest memories and highlights managing the store/or at events?
What started out as a casual pop up event soon grew with so much support that it had to become something bigger. Every day at the store is a blessing with so many different people walking in and the conversations and perspectives their share makes it so interesting to be a part of. We have had many events at the NB store in Mumbai and even the pop up in New York that has really been so memorable. Again with the amazing support that we have had so far, it has been something special and I hope that this only grows more and more.
Are there any designers or brands you admire and would love to work with as well?
I love Brother Vellies and what Aurora James has done with the whole brand, love her vision and the message she sends across. We had their pieces at our NY pop up but would definitely love to do an exclusive collab with them.
Tell me more about No Borders Journal, what drove you to launch this project?
No Borders Journal, a platform to create space for the South Asian diaspora and beyond. The NB journal expands on brand No Borders’ vision of focusing on diversity, exploring its intersections in culture and politics. Through the NB journal, we aim to create meaningful connections between readers and the storytellers and cultivate a representation via new narratives in fashion, art, music, religion, and politics. It was always something I wanted the brand to extend to and I am very excited about it. It broadens our reach and the following we have. It’s a way of reaching out to a larger audience and help get our stories out there.
No Borders paired up with Nor Black Nor White for a pop up at A/D/O in New York last year. Will there be more events in the near future?
Yes, we will be doing something in NY soon. This summer we are doing an event in London with Fashion Revolution so I’m super excited about that.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND INTERVIEW: Harshvardhan Shah