As the sustainable luxury brand makes it to its 25th year, designers and customers look back on favourite collections, motifs and more

Memory is a funny thing; you never know what can trigger it. A sound, perhaps, or a smell. At Good Earth, it is the fragrance of neroli with hints of frankincense. The signature scent has greeted customers since the design house’s first store opened at Mumbai’s Kemps Corner in January 1996. Another sensory teaser: founder Anita Lal’s curated playlists. For a recap, head to Spotify — the Good Earth Flashback25 has songs from the ’90s playlist, such as Mohammed Rafi tunes to Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and even Selena Lopez’s ‘Quizas Quizas Quizas’.

Anita Lal, founder and creative director, Good Earth
 
| Photo Credit:
Good Earth

But needless to say, the biggest trigger is its motifs, from flowering vines to coconut palms, that adorn cushions and quilts, coffee mugs and apparel — be it in your aunt’s parlour or (as a brand that is widely copied) on knockoffs at roadside stalls.

In the last 25 years, Good Earth has become a part of the framework of Indian home interiors. However, when Lal, a studio potter turned entrepreneur, started off, it was a passion project to create products that were universal yet envisioned through an Indian prism, to “bridge the gap between our rural potters and the urban consumer”.

Look out for…

  • The 2021 collection, Bosphorus, which is still in the making, is inspired by the Turkish strait and borrows elements from Roman, Greece, Turkish, Persian and Indian design influences.

“Over the years, this philosophy has informed our work with the kansa utensil makers of Orissa, the Naqashi papier-mâché artisans of Kashmir, the block printers in Machilipatnam and Jaipur, the natural dye printers of ajrakh, and the incredible weavers of Banaras,” says Lal, who is celebrating her brand’s silver anniversary this year with a retrospective that pays homage to their most loved designs — across textiles, tableware, and décor.

In the months to come, expect exclusive, limited-edition launches, such as the Songline Series, a range of ceramic tableware created in collaboration with potter Vineet Kacker, and Iris Garden, a 20-year-old vintage design that is being revived with a fresh colour palette on hand block printed textiles and tableware.

Good Earth’s first store at Kemps Corner

Good Earth’s first store at Kemps Corner
 
| Photo Credit:
Good Earth

#Flashback25

Meanwhile, we are curious. What has Good Earth’s journey been like, what happens behind the scenes, what have been the biggest hits? Asha Madan, the brand’s head designer and one of its first team members, tells us:

A banana palm motif from Good Earth’s design archive

A banana palm motif from Good Earth’s design archive
 
| Photo Credit:
Good Earth

The first bestseller: The Periyar collection. It was one of the first lines I designed and, as a Malayali, I drew what I grew up seeing — the coconut palms, mango trees and banana trees, the hills, the backwaters, the elephants. It is also one of the most copied of our themes.

Another motif that has been extensively appropriated is the Rainforest collection. Even a brand in Paris has done so. This year, we are reviving the line and putting out our artwork to show what the original was.

Key breakthrough: For me, it would be our hand block print quilts. Using original designs blocked on the finest fabrics, they are hand quilted by women in Jaipur. They are fluffier and lighter than most of the competition, with stitching that is finer and colours that are more refined. For our block prints, we have been working with the same craftsmen for almost two decades, a long-term commitment that has led to a close relationship.

Asha Madan

Brainstorming: We work around an annual theme, and inspirations are rooted in India, the subcontinent and Asia. And we often travel to the source of the inspiration. One of the most memorable trips was to Uzbekistan a few years ago. We were a group of about 20, on a craft tour to the Fergana Valley, Samarkand and Bukhara. It was spring, so the apple blossoms were in full bloom. We experienced the warmth of the people, and their love for India and Bollywood. We observed their pottery, visited museums and bazaars, and saw antique suzanis and ikkats [even some luxurious velvet ikkats]. One of the motifs that came out of this trip depicts apple blossom trees surrounded by the arch at Registan square.

Periyar to the Bosphorus: Good Earth’s journey of motifs

A big risk that paid off: The Sustain brand. The apparel brand grew out of wanting simple, beautiful clothes rooted in India. It was a risk because we didn’t know much about clothes. We just jumped in and, over the last 11 years, it has found its trusted clientele.

What people say

Mozez Singh, filmmaker

Mozez Singh, Mumbai

“I feel a big connection with Good Earth because they literally are responsible for launching my career as a product designer. Anita Lal and [brand director] Beenu Bawa encouraged me to do my first collection, Mughal Pop — a range of Mughal-inspired furniture, but in acrylic and with gems and semi-precious stones.

“I am a big fan of Good Earth’s clothes. I started wearing their kurtas in 2019, when they first introduced apparel for men. Made of the purest fabric, they are perfect even to wear to a shoot. I remember one of them was by Suket Dhir, which I’ve worn countless times.”

Soumya Keshavan, owner-curator of SouK

Soumya Keshavan, Chennai

“My journey with Good Earth started in 2005 when I first discovered their collection at Raghuvanshi Mills. A few years later, we became family when we worked together to open a Good Earth in Chennai (2008) and subsequently Hyderabad (2011).

“My personal favourites are the Malabar dinner set and the Anatolia stoneware collection. These pieces elevate a table setting. The Periyar mugs and the Narmada bed stories have also been constant favourites.”

Vinita Chaitanya, interior designer

Vinita Chaitanya, Bengaluru

“Good Earth is absolutely one of my most favoured made in India brands. I love their philosophy, their aesthetic, their attention to detail and craftsmanship. My earliest memory is walking into their store in Mumbai; the sensory experience was overwhelming.

“Eleven years ago, when we moved into our property in Coorg, I bought much of my tableware from Good Earth. I still own the sets. And my morning tea cups are still from their Darjeeling range.”

Ritu Dalmia, chef

Ritu Dalmia, Delhi

“As an early customer, I have seen how they’ve evolved from Mirchi, their first collection, to Isfahan and so many more. With each line there is a new design nuance, an interesting motif or detail that makes for a natural addition to one’s home or wardrobe [with Sustain]. 

“Over the years, our house has evolved with Good Earth. I am from Calcutta and, growing up, we never used fluffy towels. So my absolute favourite from the brand are my Kerala Towels. In fact, every towel in my house — in Delhi, Milan and Goa — are from them. The Narmada face towels, with leitmotifs of tropical palms and elephants, are a particular favourite.”

Vikram Siswawala, financial consultant

Vikram Siswawala, financial consultant
 
| Photo Credit:
Dinesh Khanna

Vikram Siswawala, Mumbai

“I have an office in South Mumbai, and [in 1996] when I was driving, I saw a little store at Kemps Corner. The store window had plates in primary colours, some dinner sets, and it was an immediate attraction. So the next time I drove past, I parked my car and stepped in. My earliest memory is that of hospitality and warmth; walking through the store was creatively stimulating… and it still is.

“Right from my morning tea mug, to my bed covers and the dohars for when I’m travelling, everything is from Good Earth. When I entertain people at home, I use their votives — the ones from the Kashmir Story are a favourite. At work too, we use their tea and serving sets.”

Periyar to the Bosphorus: Good Earth’s journey of motifs

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