The Circle


Chinoo Sharma, Creative Director

Talks to us aboutcomprehensive design and split-personality style.

Chinoo wears saree by Anavila and earrings by Atelier Mon

Q How did you get started as a graphic designer? What are some of your favourite projects?

A. My first job was actually on the Ogaan logo. That was in 1989. At that time I wasn’t on my own, I was with another graphic designer called Satish Sood. Later, I founded my own company, Design Squared. I changed the name to I Me Am • Design around 2000. We work in various industries: fashion, real estate, hotels, spas, publications, retail, packaging. A project I started on about six years ago and am still doing work for is Mamagoto. I did everything, from the conception of the name, to the logo, to the branding, and the interiors – the full monty. That’s something that’s actually created quite a revolution in the F&B industry. Another project I did, completely opposite to Mamagoto, is Jahan-e-Khusrau, the sufi festival. The first one was in 2001. I did the branding, graphics, and posters. From a very spiritual, sufi space to funky Mamagoto – they’re at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, and I think that’s my forte. Adapting to what is required of the project – to solve a problem and not necessarily have a standard style.

Q Tell us about designing for a specific brief.

A. I do a lot of weddings – the invitations, and hopefully the spaces too, soon. Everyone who comes to me is very different. Someone is boho, or kitsch, or may want something very chic and elegant, or Indian traditional– so to cater to all those looks, that’s something you have to pick up on when you meet the person. When Mamagoto came to me, they said they wanted a fun place. I did a lot of research on the name – Mamagoto actually means playing with food. I looked at Asian pop art and ancient Chinese art. Today, research is at your fingerprints, and then you translate it. So many similar places have mushroomed since Mamagoto launched – giving that same aesthetic to the brand. I take it as a compliment.

Q You’ve been working as a graphic designer in Delhi for 25 years. How have things changed?

A. When I started out (in 1989), design was handled by advertising agencies. There was only Satish Sood – very few people went to a specified graphic designer to do anything. They all went to ad agencies. There was no visual branding. There were hardly any brands! People didn’t think design was something you had to pay separately for. Even now, people are reluctant to pay for design. But it has mushroomed into a full career. The young designers have a mind, they think for themselves, are so much more aware of society, and good at technology – they have a certain confidence.

Q How would you describe your personal style?

A. My style is very diverse. On one hand I could be a goth – I’m serious! – I have that tendency, which comes out in soft ways. I’m not a jeans and t-shirt kind of person. I love funky jewelry – I’m kind of known for it. In my Western approach I’ll wear these Japanese-style pants, flowy loose clothes, not the regular Zara look. I am a real ‘80s leftover! I’m thrilled to bits that there’s a huge flashback to the ‘80s. I feel very much at ease in a sari. A huge part of me is very Indian. If I’m going out for a ten-person dinner, I’ll wear a casual sari. People say “oh, why are you so dressed up,” but it’s a question of mood. I buy a lot of Indian traditional saris. I’m not a georgette, designer sari type. I wear modern South Indian saris, and a lot of bandhej. The way I dress in Indian clothes is diametrically opposed to what I wear in my Western clothes – my black gear and flowy pants. For a wedding, I’ll be one of the more heavily dressed, with a lehenga, the gajra, the gota, everything. It’s really two opposite personalities that come out.

Q Tell us about the saris you wore today.

A. I like Abraham & Thakore saris, which are both modern and traditional. I have one similar to the one I wore for the shoot. I also have an Anavila sari, and have dressed it up and worn it to a 300-people formal dinner, and also to a 30-person dinner. It’s one of those saris. It’s about how comfortable you feel in what you’re wearing, at the end of the day. I’m not comfortable in a dress, so I don’t wear one.