‘I dropped out of college’: Aaquib Wani from Kashmir makes it to ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ list

Image Credit: Forbes India.

As a super-achiever, Aaquib Wani’s story is a medley of inspiration and grit

As a young child, Aaquib Wani immersed himself in the rhythmic movements of artisans and how their hands and legs on looms deftly turned delicate silken threads into sprawling patterned carpets.

“My father’s handicraft business meant that I often accompanied him to several carpet factories. I noticed the craftsmen at the looms and their work captured my imagination,” Wani said.

Taking inspiration from their expertise and creativity, Aaquib Wani, 29-year-old spatial, graphic, and visual-designer from Kashmir has made it to the Forbes 30-under-30 list under the Design category.

Born and brought up in New Delhi, the young designer always preferred art and music to studies. Wani’s family influence, from Safa Kadal in Old City, played a major role in shaping up his world view.

“I was very bad at studies. As a result, I failed twice in the eleventh standard. Imagine that! I loved to do art and play the guitar instead, which might not generate an approval from most of the parents,” Wani said.

Wani’s love for music and art grew with time. He soon began to draw his band’s art work T-shirts, CD covers, posters, and gave guitar tuition classes.

Photo: Vijay Kate.

“These activities gave me satisfaction and I also made some money out of them. In the meantime, I also dropped out of the college because I could not convince myself further for the academic learning part. I realized it is something which I should let go,” Wani said.

This momentous decision came with consequences. He had to put up with taunts of “being a vagrant”, “what will he do with life without a steady academic record” from many people.

However, he remained unfazed and in 2010, the lady luck smiled at him and he got an opportunity to do an internship at music magazine Rock Street Journal.

Within four years, he rose to the position of an art director.

Photo from Aaquib Wani’s Facebook.

The year 2014 marked a turning point for Wani’s career as he joined the design studio Scenografia Sumant. Since he had first come from a print design background, initially he was overwhelmed by the demands on his skill that it made.

Gradually, he learnt the value of not just 2D but also 3D design.

In 2018, Wani ventured out on his own to start Aaquib Wani Design.

“Our studio keeps on innovating. It’s not just one theme and design but we experiment with multiple things and mediums keep changing. They range from logos, wedding themes, music album covers, interior designs, music festival installations, stage designs, mural wall paintings,” Wani said.

His bold and no-holds-barred approach to design has impressed clients and social media alike especially on Instagram where thousands of followers follow him.

His repertoire ranges from designing limited edition hand-painted customized jackets for international brands such as Levi’s, Adidas and Gas to design of the Craft Mela bazaar for the wedding of Isha Ambani.

Among his other notable works is building gigantic installations on a hilltop for the NH7 Weekender and creating a space-themed anti-gravity experience for the launch of Adidas’s Ultraboost 20 sneakers, in addition to working with Coca-Cola, United Nations and MG Motors.

Aaquib is also passionate about preserving the traditional art forms across the country. He collaborates with the local artists and craftsmen and produces a design which has a contemporary touch and retains the art form at the same time.

“It all started in 2018, with a jacket. I got it painted from a local painter and it grabbed the eye-balls. This led to the hand-painted wearable campaign.”

Photo: Khalid Wani.

As part of this drive to create sustainable wearables customised to the likes of each individual, Aaquib employs the skill and labour of these talented craftsmen who despite all adversity, refuse to let the nation’s proud art-forms perish.

“I wanted people to wear this traditional art and not forget them in some abandoned corner of their home. These pieces have exotic art-styles ranging from intricate Kashmiri Aari work, to Madhubani and Pattachitra,” Wani said.

The designer from Kashmir is currently collaborating with paper-mache artists for this campaign.

“I feel I am someone who can bridge the gap between the people and the artists. Take for instance, everyone has a paper mache jewelry box but not a paper mache jacket,” Wani said with a smile.


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