Gujarat design studio brings luxury to the world

A few years ago, Amrish Patel and Darshan Soni, co-founders of luxury design studio Apical Reform based in Ahmedabad, were walking through the Dubai Mall, when they encountered a creature of pure beauty who would become the muse of one of their most famous creations.

It was a stingray in an aquarium, gliding through the water as if it were flying through the air. “We were addicted,” Soni said on a video call from the duo’s office. “By observing the movements of the stingray, we began to wonder if we could recreate a similar experience in our work. “

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It took intense brainstorming, several sketches, around fifty prototypes, and months of painstaking work before the final product – a superb specimen of kinetic art titled Ray– found its way into the world. “We created an abstract representation of the stingray by exaggerating its movement,” explains Soni. “When we launched her in 2018, people were mesmerized – many found her movements calming.” Currently, a limited edition iteration is sold at the MAD gallery for around $ 40,000.

Apical Reform is a rare Indian entity to be hosted by the MAD gallery, a paradise for kinetic art (objects that marry technology with design genius to simulate movements) which is led by Swiss giant MB&F, better known as manufacturers of futuristic watches. Also in India, Patel and Soni’s studio occupies a niche, selling to a handful of businesses and individuals, mostly by word of mouth. Besides kinetic art, they also create bespoke objects and functional furniture. Price between ??From 3 lakhs to 15 lakhs, their products are the furthest from any assembly line – created with the utmost precision and all their details, from production to packaging to installation, overseen by the wayward creators.

Ten years ago, when Patel and Soni started their business, the market for the products they make did not really exist in India. “Our goal was to do something that no one was doing then,” says Soni. “It took us almost three years to assess the demand and find the place. Despite the limited reach of its territory, Apical Reform has undertaken a number of remarkable projects over the past decade, particularly in the United Arab Emirates.

An Apical Reform creation
(Courtesy of Apical Cull)

“Some of our best design concepts came by accident,” Patel says. During the time they were tasked with creating a city sign for Dubai, for example, Apical Reform was also working on a piece of furniture inspired by calligraphy. “While it was being made, the object suddenly seemed to me to be in the shape of the letter B,” Patel says. This little epiphany changed the direction of Dubai’s work, which in its latest avatar stands in the city’s upscale business district. Whether it’s corporate orders or special projects to design staircases and interiors for clients’ villas and penthouses, Apical Reform’s work, with its geometric harmony and deceptive simplicity, instantly makes a mark. distinctive.

Over the years, Patel and Soni have undertaken several prestigious commissions, a complex conceptual installation made using sands from the seven emirates to commemorate the year of Zayed in 2018, the centenary of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the father founder of the United Arab Emirates. Apical Reform’s most original works also reflect the founders’ love for the natural world, as in an installation titled Melt, made with Swarovski crystals, a nod to the unfolding climate catastrophe.

Stingray by Apical Reform.

Stingray by apical cull.

“Most of our work is done using materials that are not exorbitant (plank, plywood, corian acrylic and even fiber) and that are durable,” Patel explains. The availability of advanced technologies, such as 3D printing and laser cutting machines, in India has made the production process much smoother than it was 7-8 years ago, although some tools , like 3D folding machines, are still too expensive to use outside of an industrial installation.

The pandemic and long periods of lockdown had left the duo worried for some time, but demand started to pick up again. Recent reports point to a curious luxury boom in India over the past 18 months, particularly among Gen Z consumers, who are splurging on a range of goods, from fashion to real estate. This trend is also confirmed by the experience of Apical Reform. “We had some work backlog to complete when the pandemic hit, but that said, 2020 was the best year for us in the last decade in terms of new orders and new commissions for us,” Patel said.

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Joseph E. Golightly