Nothing beats the winter chill than the wonderfully bright colours and patterns of the Toronto raised, Mumbai based NorBlack NorWhite. After visiting Mumbai late last year we caught up with the team behind the beautiful hand dyed clothing to learn more about their process. Founders Amrit and Mriga gave us into how they strike the perfect balance between tradition and contemporary that is NorBlack NorWhite.

Can you tell me a bit about your individual backgrounds?

Amrit: Born and raised in Toronto.

Mriga: I was born in Hyderabad. Lived in Kuwait for the first ten years and then my family moved to Toronto.

After studying business, we were both working in advertising during the day, but were feeding our souls by throwing art shows and festivals, producing shoots and working with vintage the rest of the time. We moved to India wanting to travel, explore and learn but also carry those vibes from Toronto with us.

The NorBlack NorWhite studio is in Mumbai. What is the draw to that part of India for you?

We came to Bombay knowing next to nothing about it but immediately fell in love with the sheer energy of the city. The bustle, diversity and constant sense of movement was, and continues to be inspiring. Being such a densely packed city, it almost forces you to continuously interact with all kinds of people and absorb their energies. The trick is in knowing when to not let it overwhelm you. We might not always use Bombay as our work base, but it’ll always remain a special part of our lives and work. The chai and coconuts are a major bonus!

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How did you go about setting up and maintaining a business there? What are the challenges you face?

Being two women from India but not really FROM here when we first moved was difficult. There was a basic challenge in just being taken seriously, even something as simple as setting up a bank account! But we’ve learned a lot since then and figured our way around. Being nice is what comes naturally to us, and we’ve figured out when to be firm with expectations. That said, our work has always been at its best when we work closely with everyone like a family.

It’s not the easiest industry to be a part of and since we work with a lot of handmade textiles, timelines can get tricky. So it’s a question of educating as we go along- communicating the value of handmade, ancient crafts.

You hand dye and assemble each of your pieces. Can you tell me more about the design process behind that?

We work with an amazing, talented family of bandhani (tie-dye ) artisans in Kutchchh, Gujarat who completely understand our vibe. Aziz Bhai especially is a wonderful artist who loves to experiment, instead of staying safe with traditional styles and colours. While designing the base textile that the garments are made from, we work closely with Aziz Bhai. We narrow down colours, patterns and inspirations and let him work his magic. It’s a process of give and take, feeding off each other’s ideas and art.

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What inspires each of you most day to day and how do you combine those inspirations into something tangible through your creation process?

Our main source of inspiration is people- whether it’s the style of people we see on the street in our daily lives, or the amazing artist friends that we know across the world, doing beautiful work. Travel is always an eye opener and moving between spaces is inspiring and fuels the creative process. We also love delving into the past- whether it’s old school hip-hop or ancient Indian designs and textiles- and making it relevant to the future.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement in getting your business off the ground so far?

One of the most rewarding parts of our work has been that people can look at a garment and immediately identify it as a NorBlack NorWhite piece. It’s very encouraging and also our biggest achievement – the fact that we’ve created an instantly recognizable and distinct aesthetic, one that creates a window into our own personal lives and style.

In your wildest hope and dreams, what do you imagine the future of NorBlack NorWhite looking like?

It’s something we’re already beginning to move towards. Not just being limited to fashion or clothing, but expanding to other things we love, whether it’s making toys, books, visual art, throwing events, collaborating on music videos, curating old and beautiful finds from across the world. All the while retaining our strong identity, approach and ethics. The NorBlack NorWhite of our dreams would retain its focus on India and its many wonders but also explore Mexico, Japan and other parts of the world. Continuing to tell stories but expanding the mediums through which we tell them.


What’s coming up next for you in 2015?

We have fingers in many pies at the moment- some of which we can’t announce just yet, but look forward to many collaborations in different parts of the world, as well as exclusive capsule series for our online shop!

Learn more about NorBlack NorWhite at their website, follow them on Instagram and Twitter, and like them on Facebook.