Interior designer and architect India Mahdavi re-designed the second floor of KaDeWe. We met her for an interview
India Mahdavi got her social media breakthrough after she presented her new interior concept for The Gallery at Sketch, a tea house and restaurant in London’s Mayfair district, in June 2014. With that, the Parisian designer pretty much proved that pink seating doesn’t have to look plushy and that it can even look superbly stylish in combination with a whole Armada of David Shrigley prints – and at the same time, still challenge what we’re accustomed to seeing.
Her second interior design success comes two years later – India Mahdavi re-designed one quadrant of the women’s fashion floor of Berlin’s luxury department store KaDeWe. The shop-within-a-shop solutions for brands like Céline, Balenciaga, and The Row now shine with the glamour they deserve: the floors are a captivating interplay of different types of composite stone, the pattern partially circling around a small marble table and nestling at the underside of the well-formed, gold-framed mirror in the changing rooms. A spot of color here in the midst of a lot of pink, gold, and reserved hues: the touch of green velvet covering the stools and benches.
We met India Mahdavi, a true artist and a trained architect, for an interview on the occasion of the re-opening:
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How did you get into design?
That is a long story. I trained as an architect, but at first I wanted to become a filmmaker. So, from filmmaking I went into architecture. After I finished studying, I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I just knew that it wasn’t easy to get into the film scene. And also – when I started – architecture was a very male dominated area, which wasn’t easy either. There are a lot of similarities between movies and architecture and one is the time frame: It takes time to make a movie, and also time to make a building. So I went back to interior architecture because you design something, and then you see it a month later. As an architect, you plan something and it comes out a year or 6 months later, if you are lucky.
When did you start working on the new floor at KaDeWe and how long did it take?
I think we started exactly one year ago – the floor has been open for about three or four months now, although it wasn’t completely finished or officially open. When Vittorio Radice [editor’s note: Vice Chairman of Rinascente Group] contacted me, he said: “This is the first floor we want to open and we want to reopen it as a fashion floor.” I had to react very quickly and come up with the concept very fast. But then we had a bit of an adjustment, because Rem Koolhaas [editor’s note: under whose aegis the entire project is taking place] was changing the spatial concept. Therefore we had to do the carpets at a different time, and then some will be traded out in a few years.
You are based in Paris. How does where you work inspire or influence you – or does it relate to your work at all?
It influences me in many ways. France is a country of producers and they have fantastic and sophisticated craftsmanship. Basically, you can imagine and do anything you want. You have somebody beside you who is following you and your thoughts. A lot of the people I work with like working with me because I take them somewhere else.
How would you describe a normal day in India Mahdavi’s life?
I travel once a week, on average. Either I am going to meet manufacturers, or I go to see the sights – like I did when I came here. When I travel, I travel.
On a normal day, however, I wake up, go to pilates, or have a gym session. Afterwards, I come back home and have breakfast before I maybe go to the office and start working with my team. My day is always a bit chaotic, because I am a multi-tasker.
Right now this is the way my company is set up: I do many different things. Even at the studio, I do projects that range from designing a ring to designing a building. In between, and because I trained as an architect, I design shops, homes, furniture – I do it all. That’s one part of my everyday life. Then, for example, we produce the furniture. Since the very first day that I have been selling my own furniture line, we have also done the sales ourselves. Furthermore, I communicate with my showroom and my shop. I build an eco-system around me and, in that way, I am very dependent on my company since I do basically everything.
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Please describe your style in three words.
Colorful, poppy, happy.
What’s your first design memory?
I always remember, growing up in the United States, that my first memories are all in technicolor.
What’s your favourite breakfast?
Fruit like mango.
The song that makes you dance?
Daddy Cool by Boney M.
The book you’ve reread many times?
I don’t reread books many times. But, there are books that I’ve consulted many times. One is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.
Who was your childhood hero?
Bugs Bunny. Later on it was Mary Poppins, and then it was James Bond (Sean Connery).
Do you have pieces of jewelry you wear every day?
I only wear one piece everyday, but it changes. Usually it’s bigger pieces rather than smaller ones – one big statement piece, basically.
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The designer you would love to wear head to toe when you’re a granny?
What’s your favourite color?
I don’t like making colours jealous of each other, so I don’t have just one favourite.
What’s your dream car?
I think it’s the one in James Bond, but I don’t dream about it too much.
Your favourite animal?
What’s the most inspiring movie you’ve seen?
There are a lot. 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Body, La Dolce Vita…any movie that has a very strong visual background.
Do you have a style icon?
Not really. There are a lot of women that are amazing.
When you want to relax, where do you go?
It’s not a trip just for the weekend, but when I really want to relax I go to the desert in Egypt.
Your favourite restaurant?
Le Bouchon in Paris.
What’s the last cultural discovery that blew your mind?
Tino Sehgal’s exhibition at Palais de Tokyo. And The Shchukin Collection from Russia at Fondation Louis Vuitton. It includes probably the largest collection of works by Matisse, which is fantastic.
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Follow India Mahdavi into her world via Instagram.
All photos show different interior designs and concepts India Mahdavi created.
Translation: Melissa Frost
Born and raised in Munich/Germany, Veronika’s professional career has developed from being a model to a fashion editor, to online luxury retailing and most recently style editor of Harpers Bazaar Germany. She currently lives in Berlin where in the beginning of 2015 she started a company with Julia Knolle, the ex-editor at large of Vogue Digital.
Oh, and she loves pugs!