Legacies Collide When We Put Kulture Shop’s Creative Director In A Pair Of Iconic Nike Air Max

Legacies Collide When We Put Kulture Shop’s Creative Director In A Pair Of Iconic Nike Air Max

Amid a design landscape now splintered into infinite subgenres, Kunal Anand’s  ( Kulture Shop / Cabein ) sensibilities manage to find context for both the roots of his own personal history and the relevance of right now. That’s about as specific as we’re willing to get in any attempt to categorize the maverick designer. He’s a collector of identities, of influences and catalysts, never straying or stopping in one place too long, and it’s this knack for picking what appeals to him the most from different cultures that sets him apart from the pack of wolves that form the design community in this country. It’s also what led him to dig his own little den at the Kulture Shop Headquarters as their co-founder and creative director, where they’ve churned out an entirely fresh approach to design by giving a fantastic platform to latent Indian graphic design talent.
When Nike launched its ‘visible air’ unit in 1987, it was (and still is) considered to be a groundbreaking innovation in design too. Conceptualized by designer extraordinaire, Tinker Hatfield, he happened to have been inspired by The Pompidou centre in Paris. Since then, Nike Air Max been re-imagined a countless times over but its inherent nature holds intact and it remains the only sneaker in the world with an entire book of art dedicated to it! Considering Kunal’s inspirations and influences run just as deep, we were in unanimous agreement that he’d be a perfect fit for our #LeaveYourLegacy campaign, in collaboration with Nike Sportswear, featuring the Nike Air Max. 

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Over the years, he’s thrown himself neck-deep into various burgeoning design scenes that span the globe, right from London’s Asian Underground movement (circa mid 2000s) to India’s more coming-of-age sphere, currently. And considering he was born in Zimbabwe before he went all wanderlust on life, his visual communication has created a truly unique voice for itself over his various relocations. The irony of his choice to champion other Indian artists through his work at Kulture Shop wasn’t lost on us either.
As such, with so much synergy in the air, we threw a young, upcoming and (highly) self-critical photographer, Rhea Baweja into the mix in the hopes of inspiring fresh talent to work towards their own legacies and the rest, as they say, is history.
Scroll on for a detailed photo narrative, accompanied with words exchanged between Kunal and us—an effort to navigate what goes on in his (largely) uncharted mind.
I. Kunal, what (older) era of art do you feel you would have fit into best? 
Well, not too sure where I would slot into the garment of art history, but I would avoid the impressionists. A daunting task to paint alongside any of them.
1960’s London and NYC’s pop art scene would have been an interesting time to have developed work coming from a graphic design, print-making and painting background. Where art started subversively commenting on commercialization, advertising, mass production and the very role of the artists in the work.
II. If you could be any powerful leader in the world, who would you be and what’s the first thing you would do to solidify the kind of legacy they were leaving behind? 
Robert Mugabe (aged 90). To solidify whatever legacy he may still have since gaining independence in 1987, he should step down from office to give Zimbabwe’s people a chance to define their own country without oppression. That’s what I would do.
III. Is it easy for you to leave work at work when you go home to your family/ friends?
When I go home to family, it is much easier to put the pens, pencils and laptop to one side and spend some quality time with them, as they are dotted around the world from Zimbabwe, South Africa, UK and the United States. With friends, most are creative types so it’s not really seen as work.
IV. One of your teachers once told you that it’s important not to be normal if you’re going to stand out. Since you’ve taken that to heart, how would you score your grasp on everyday reality? 
Blissfully living in bubble, that occasionally does pop. Does that make it 10 or is that -1?
V. If you had to pinpoint 3 incredibly defining moments in your life, what would it be?
A. I designed a pair of mens formal shoes that went into production, for my dad’s shoe shop when I was fairly young in Zimbabwe.
B. Seeing my work printed in a publication in the UK for the first time because it gave me an enormous kick to put my work out there in the public sphere.
C. Leaving the UK to discover new opportunities.

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VI. And describe a moment you realized you had come further than you ever expected.
When I arrived in India. Quite literally I had never been so far from home and on a lone adventure in the motherland, that seemed familiar yet oh so different.
VII. If there was one cause you’d love to dedicate what you do towards, what would it be?  
I like doing work that creates some sort of change on the socio-cultural scale – especially the subsets I find myself in. I think I’m already on that path with some of the work I’ve done in recent times.
- Cultural change through design and art – Kulture Shop
- Giving a face to developing sub-cultures – Ska Vengers (Ska music out of Delhi) Shiva Soundsystem (Asian Underground)
- Working with others who are challenging the norms (Sridhar/Thayil and Tejal Shah)
- Documenting some of the things that make India great – (Gods & Robots)
- Working across different medium of expression – The Boy Sculpture
You can find links to each project on my site cabein.com. In terms of the kind of legacy I’d like to leave behind with my work, this sums it up pretty well
VIII. How have all the different countries you’ve lived in influenced both your outlook on life and design? 
I have lived in Zimbabwe, South Africa, UK and now India.
Zimababwe – My view on life and design was rather simple here. I used to paint and draw a great deal of landscapes, still life and animals in a photo realistic style.
South Africa – where my mums side of the family are from, had taken design and identity much further after independence and watching this change and growth of a nation had a big impact on me. The rainbow nation, rebranded with a new flag and bold tradition African motifs.
UK – In the UK, I attended art college and was exposed to so much more, that I could never go back to the simple life of Zimbabwe. The London College of Printing library was an overflowing resource of information that I took full advantage of. Equally I also found my tribe, of close and dear friends who I miss dearly. All this injected a second wind of enthusiasm to always think nothing is impossible.
India – Quickly slapped me on the ass as it was a whole new start to take all I had learned and apply it to new set of parameters. Still learning and taking it all in everyday.
IX. “The eye to the ear.” What kind of relationship does/ did your art have with music? 
That quotation from Nerm (Chauhan) relates more to Shiva Soundsystem (electronic underground) and the reflection of a bubbling scene and sub culture than the music itself.
X. How does Nike Air Max fit into your personal style? 
The original Nike Air Max 1 came out in 1987. I was only 5 years old but I remember the style of the 80s pretty well from growing up with an elder brother and sister. The new Nike Air Max’s are a retro throwback to my youth and it’s great to finally have a pair to rock out in Bombay. You have to have a good, comfy, well-cushioned pair of sneakers if you live in Bombay. For those days when every rickshaw seems to be occupied and the only way you going to get to your destination is by walking. In the case of these Lunar 1, it puts a spring in your step and the urge to move in any direction. I also love the speckled green sole, a colour that matches my Cabein.com logo branding. From a design perspective, it pushes the sneakers into a futuristic vibe instead of a retro one.

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Quick Questions:
A. What was the first moment you realized that art/design was definitely going to be a huge part of your life. 
Arriving in London and being bombarded by new graphic styles and languages cemented my interest in art & design all the possibilities that lay ahead. Five years in university and a further eight years working in the design industry have helped fine-tune my own palette, its now embedded into my DNA.
B. One design project you wish you’d worked on. 
I’ve been following Delhi-based design house Codesign’s recent endeavour – Project Rising, which focuses on visual communication to drive social change. It’s a fledgeling project but you can read more on http://projectrising.in.
Codesign’s been doing some generally fantastic work towards design in India, including their other initiative called the Unbox Festival, that helped designers, architects, engineers, etc work towards creating better lifestyles in rural sectors
You can find links to each project on my site cabein.com. In terms of the kind of legacy I’d like to leave behind with my work, this sums it up pretty well
C. A moment in your life you’d like to live on repeat.
One moment? I’d take a whole year. 2008 was an epic year of fun and lunacy in the UK.

Zimbabwe design and home (2)
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Photographed by: Rhea BawejaSee more of Kunal’s work over at Cabein & Kulture ShopShoes Available on Myntra

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