Amrit Kumar & Mriga Kapadiya
Meet Amrit Kumar and Mriga Kapadiya, the designers of the hip label NorBlack NorWhite. At the intersection of their vibrant identities, extensive travels between Canada and India, and their love for 90’s R&B and Hip Hop, lies their brand — a space where they can embrace and create new meaning to ancient practices of textile designs. NorBlack NorWhite is the story of self-expression woven by two women who are unafraid to speak up, stand up, and stand out.
How does your identity translate through the way you dress?
We are lucky to have the space to even think and choose about what we wear on the daily. Most of the things we wear have a story or moment attached to it. Since we now understand the behind the scenes of the making of a garment, we respect each piece for its details, the time involved in creating it, and the hands behind it. Since we are in India via Toronto, our style most definitely is influenced by both regions and also the travels in between. We wear bandhani with kicks, salwar kameez with Timberlands or a Colombian-beaded necklace with a mangalsutra if that helps paint a clearer picture.
How do you both reconcile your dual identities and navigate through the different communities you belong to?
It's an ongoing process and we are now feeling more comfortable with being neither from here nor there. We have embraced our multiple communities by staying local wherever we may be. Respecting each place and its people for what it is and being unapologetic about coming from a mash-up type of upbringing.
What does NorBlack NorWhite mean to you?
It's our baby. A place to question and to experiment our identities and journey. We get to connect with many beautiful people from around the world and it's a meeting place of ideas. Although the face of NBNW is revealed through textiles and fashion, the process involved in creating everything, including the platform itself, is the most exciting part.
Do you think designers have a social, political, or environmental responsibility?
Two hundred percent. Everyday is political. The way the bank manager speaks to us as female entrepreneurs, the manner in which Muslim male artisans communicate with us, the way we are perceived at a New York tradeshow as brown girls in a very white industry, are all levels to this existence. It's important for us to share that journey and also understand how the world works and how we are doing our best to contribute responsibly in our own way. We've been hit up by large corporations multiple times, which we've kindly had to deny. No matter how much money they dangle or more realistically, their "no budget for India" conversations reiterate the levels of exploitation and ridiculous demands of the companies with the most resources. We are lucky to have the language, the learning, and the experience to say NO. As long as we exist, we have a responsibility; there is no hiding from that.
What is one thing you would like to share with others about your culture?
Our culture is influenced by many cultures and that makes it sooooooooo fun. Also please don't say "namaste" at an end of a yoga class; it makes NOOOOOOOOOO SENSEEEEEEEE.
How would you describe yourselves in the context of We, Ceremony - a visual platform that celebrates the diverse voices of women of color, while challenging society to confront issues rooted in systemic racism?
Women make the world go 'round.
The world has never been black and white. As much as the coloniser still tries to push that agenda, we are working slowly to challenging our practice and what we have put out in honour of our families and all the lives who came before us to pave the path. We feel privileged to be celebrating our 7th year of NorBlack NorWhite, a space where we explore everything in between.