The Story of Keph
National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) graduates Keyuri Bhargava and Resheph Christian rediscover their creative acumen through Keph, a multi-disciplinary design studio based in Ahmedabad that offers an assortment of products ranging from stationery, home decor, fashion accessories to furniture.
An intricately carved centre table that exemplifies the strains of wood and the workmanship, stationeries with intricate detailing identifies the varied range of products that Keph produces. Locally crafted, indigenous designs and close collaboration with craftsmen celebrating the material and the hand that crafted it, Keph is a new age design studio that infuses a fresh breath into the design community. Keph is born out of the passion of two young design educators who desperately wanted to change the stagnant methods of education. Both young faculties in 2017, Keyuri and Resheph, decided to bring a revolution through their practices to provide a holistic design approach to the students, and on this journey, they rediscovered their own creative capabilities and the urge to challenge mainstream design sensibilities. A year later, they quit their jobs to create Keph, strengthened by the combination of their varied expertise in diverse disciplines.
“As the brand name suggests, Keph is an amalgamation of both our names, Ke coming from Keyuri and ph from Resheph and thus the brand takes its soul from combining the expertise of both partners bringing together diverse fields of design. We call ourselves a multi-disciplinary design studio as we offer a large assortment of products across stationery, home decor, fashion accessories, and furniture as well,” says Keyuri.
Like most small design enterprises, the duo was discovered by Raw Collaborative, a design exhibition that spots new talents and brings them together on a platform.
“The most challenging expectation ever offered to us was to make a table out of our wood and resin journals. This was one of the most interesting projects so far,” narrates Resheph, “When we approached the team of Raw Collaborative for display space, we were called upon for a meeting and seeing our products the entire team was excited but these product categories did not fall under their product brief. So, we were offered to scale up and design furniture and lighting products to be put up at the exhibit. This brief is what got us recognition and the first furniture design piece, the Lupt Tolli centre table brought us a lot of appreciation from the design community.”
Though this was the first product that brought brand recognition, Keph’s first product was not furniture but handcrafted journals that used craft-making skills available in their vicinity.
“The first product had to be different, it had to be luxurious and needed to have a story that moves everyone. We both love collecting stationery paraphernalia. These journals were a part of Keyuri’s graduation project in the final year of NIFT. And so, we knew there was no better product to launch Keph with. Having worked extensively with craft clusters back in college, we decided to club our need for safeguarding various craft practices followed in our country with the ancestral value of teakwood through the ages. And thus came the collection of our luxury journals that has a tale to tell beyond being just another graphic diary,” recounts Resheph.
Taking us to the present scenario, the two designers are excited about their current project wherein they are designing and developing the entire table-ware and server ware collection for the Green House Café at the House of MG. “Being the most prestigious heritage hotel in Ahmedabad, The House of MG is a home for locally available arts, crafts and design. This is so special because it is the first large scale project KEPH has bagged within the past three years. Working directly with a visionary like Abhay Mangaldas and designing the entire collection has been the most invigorating experience.”
Like many small businesses, Keph seems to have had a setback too during the pandemic times yet the two youngsters have found positivity in these difficult times and have strived hard to keep their business afloat focusing on business building and presence enhancements through social media., which has also aided them in their business to an extent.
“When the pandemic suddenly hit in early 2020, KEPH was on a rise after being a part of the Raw Collaborative exhibit. We had hundreds of enquiries for our newly launched furniture pieces. We were excited to convert each one of the enquiries into a sale. But then the lockdown was imposed and the whole world came to a stand-still. Investing in luxury didn’t make sense anymore. And we lost our entire client base overnight. The first week was so challenging for us even though we do adapt and move on through crisis. It happened so quickly that there was no time for pre-planning.”
“Being young entrepreneurs, we could never find time to attend to all the aspects of the business, and one of the most neglected fronts was social media. But with time at hand, we invested it into social media platforms, engaged in numerous collaborations, explored interesting content generation and most of all, interacted with more people. And within a span of three months, we were featured in magazines; collaborated with massive platforms like Etsy India and Shop Black Taxi and engaged in a number of offline collaborations which makes us who we are today,” says Keyuri.
The designers might seem young, but their design sensibilities are very much mature and raring to take them places. “Details aren’t always about aesthetics or intricacy; in fact, it isn’t even restricted to the tangible aspects of design. A well-thought design has got more to do with the intangible aspects that give it meaning. One of our products which always gets attention is our Tai Chi corner table. It is our personal favourite as well,” says Keyuri.
The designers explain that the corner table or the Tai Chi does not seem impressive in the first look.
“Tai Chi is designed on the principle of cross-balance theory, taking inspiration from the Zen martial art, Tai Chi which is an ancient practice from China. A 5-foot tall, vertical display table that challenges the safe ritual of asymmetry in design. Using the cross-balance theory, Tai Chi is a martial art practised on the belief that “the whole is more important than a part”. The stability of this table doesn’t come from being symmetric from the centre, rather being tactfully asymmetric at every level to let each part balance the other,” explain the designers.
The two designers are waiting to explore all aspects of materiality and craftsmanship to arrive at products that are exemplary but they are equally thankful to their mentor in design, Soumik Halder, Professor at NIFT who taught them of the importance of developing a disciplined and progressive ecosystem for design education.
“What you see here with Keph is physical designs backed by weeks of research, observations and failures. But behind our confidence in bringing out such different products was our professors’ guidance which gave us the confidence to pursue even the most far-fetched ideas and not give up because the road to achieve them might come with a lot of challenges.”
All Images Courtesy KEPH