Firmly rooted in Indian origins and literally translated meaning ‘leather and thread’, Nappa Dori blends together contemporary interpretations in design, material and craftsmanship. Here, RLI sits down with Founder Gautam Sinha to discuss the history of the brand and to see what’s in store moving forward.
Inaugurated in 2010 in a quaint village situated at the heart of Delhi, the Nappa Dori story is a global one that invites everyone to the nostalgia, mysticism and romance of the historic landmarks, vibrant culture and landscapes of India. Offering a unique mix of design and craftsmanship, every handcrafted piece of the company’s accessories or luggage range is an expression of fine individuality. Today, Nappa Dori’s success story is applauded by many as it has disrupted conventional design mandates and created its own unique creative ideology through its simplicity in thought and action.
“Before the inception of the business I used to design for Scandinavian countries, predominantly doing leather belts and small goods. With Nappa Dori, I wanted to do something in India which portrays the country and its artisanship but also at the same time has a very international palate,” explains Gautam Sinha, Founder of Nappa Dori. The last 12 months has seen the company take great strides in terms of its expansion and development, with the opening of its first store outside of India, a flagship in Covent Garden, London. The brand is promoting Indian artisanship but at the same time creating experiential retail spaces.
“Last year we opened our largest base in India, which we call the experiential centre. It’s a 7,500sq ft space where we have our store, our signature café, which is called Café Dori. It also includes a library with design books and was created to engage more with the customer and help us expand into being a lifestyle brand, rather than just being a pure leather company,” says Sinha. The brand currently operates seven stores in India, one in London and one in the Maldives. In the next three months they are scheduled to open two new stores in India, in Bombay and Delhi. Further down the line the company would like to open a second outlet in the UK and grow its online presence and increase its offering.
The business produces timeless, handcrafted products that are made out of age old techniques, ensuring the brand evokes a certain kind of charm for the old way of doing things. Rather than creating products using cutting edge technology, Nappa Dori is trying to revive a craft and leather products that have an authentic, hand-made feel to them.
“We are not a trend-based brand. We are trying to evoke a nostalgic value and a certain amount of emotional connection with our clientele,” explains Sinha. Social media has been, and continues to be a key element for the company, with a very strong and engaged Instagram following. The Instagram account is still handled personally by Sinha, so every image that appears on the page, such as people working or Sinha’s dog coming to the office, is selected by him. He believes this stance on social media is important as it offers a personal connection and a human element to the brand that customers can see.
So why does Gautam believe that customers remain loyal and what differentiates them from peers in the market? “I would say loyalty comes with quality. If you provide a product that is of a certain benchmark, a person will keep coming back. We’ve added into that a personal touch which we felt people understand and respect. Our products are what differentiate us. For example, when a customer carries a Nappa Dori bag, they know it’s of high quality and that it’s not going to go out of fashion anytime soon.”
Talking about the ethos of the company, Sinha explains that the brand beliefs are artisanship, craftsmanship, promoting Indian craft and India, as well maintaining its nostalgic value. What lies ahead for the company and what is the greatest challenge facing them? “Well, I’ve never really planned how the company is going to grow. I began this business because I wanted a change after many years designing things for other people, I wanted to do something that was my own and that I could call my own. I never dreamed we would have such achieved such fast growth, so the target is to continue growing,” Sinha says. “While this is what lies ahead, it is paradoxically our greatest challenge as well. We want to expand in the UK and for it to be our base outside of India. We are a small company, and finding the right way to grow in a saturated market like the UK is the challenge facing us.”