With a frooti juice box in one hand and a mock neck sweater that you know is vintage, Kanika Karvinkop was the absolute picture of excellent meets nostalgia—just like her brand, No Borders. What started as a charming gardenscape-inspired vintage store in the tiny lanes of Mumbai today is an online marketplace that pushes sustainability and houses brands from emerging designers worldwide. But beyond a brand, No Borders is a cultural shift, a prodigal return, if you will, to the roots of South Asia, for an intelligent and innovation-craving global audience.
I sat down with Kanika to understand how she took the lofty concept of global appeal and built it into a moving, community-fueled movement.
GUAP: Global appeal and audience are lofty ideas. How do you put them into practice with No Borders?
Kanika: It was all very organic. I never made a business plan for the people we need in New York in London. Instead, I was just truthful to myself. I wanted to create a space that nobody would be intimidated by and that people could relate to and feel at home.
We housework from designers, artists who are very senior, and even artists just starting all in one space. I also spend a lot of time researching and sharing the stories of these artists, and I think that intentionality resonates with our global audiences. I believe this inclusive feel and the talent and passion in the community led to No Border’s footprints across cities worldwide.
GUAP: I know you built No Borders from the ground up with no tangible connections. How did you find the resources and get No Borders into these prominent name editorials?
Kanika: I got my start as an intern at Grazia in Bombay. It was a good start because I got to meet a lot of designers and learn about the Indian fashion industry. But, I wanted to do more to uplift the designers at a global level… so I quit to try and do my own thing.
So, I made this mood board inspired by the Pushkar Camel Fair, highlighting Indian designers, and I started pitching like crazy. I wrote to at least 100 magazines, just guessing email IDs. Finally, the EIC at Refinery29 responded, and that’s how I got my start. Rejections never put me down because one person will say yes out of a thousand people, and that yes is all that matters.
My friends and I did everything together in the early days of No Borders. My friend and now well-known model, Nidhi Sunil, modeled for us. Sandhya Shekhar, that currently does all the big Bollywood stars’ makeup did our makeup. We were all creating our paths and growing in the industry together.
The store, too, was born out of a beautiful friendship with esteemed designer James Ferreira, who suggested we take the top floor of his shop. We decorated the place using old things in James’ garage and a lot of DIY.
Even today, our shoots don’t feel like shoots. We shoot almost every week, and we’ll call a friend, hang out, have lunch, take a few pictures, and chill. I love involving the community in this way so everyone feels like a part of No Borders.
GUAP: The No Borders Instagram posts a stunning photo from a house-produced shoot daily. What inspires you?
Kanika: I don’t keep up with trends. I’m pretty inspired by old Bollywood, my mom and grandmom, and even nature, like flowers and birds. In every shoot that I do, there has to be one interesting South Asian element, so you’ll see flowers in the hair, or you’ll see an exciting piece of jewelry and lots of exciting silhouettes, colors, and prints on prints. We also try to shoot away from sets because our surroundings so inspire me. I love shooting in the streets of NYC, the flower markets in India, and even something as simple as a colorful wall.
GUAP: What’s next for No Borders?
Kanika: We’re launching our first in-house designed collection in March! I went back to my hometown of Dharwad to work with local artisans to bring Kasuti embroidery to new silhouettes. It’s usually only seen on sarees, so I’m excited to share this centuries-old art with the world.
Discover more from GUAP’s Arts & Culture section here.