Ishrat Sahgal’s luxurious carpets made of sari scrap are giving upcycling a new meaning.

Image courtesy: Mishcat Co, Photograph by Nayantara Parikh.

Born and brought up in Chandigarh, Ishrat Sahgal was enamored by art and its finery since her childhood. Her passion led her to pursue a degree in Interior Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design.  

Working in New York helped her develop an ability to view the sphere of interiors through an unconventional frame. Sahgal observed a gap in the Indian market and noticed how carpets were never considered to be a centerpiece while laying down decor scheme for space. She did not just want to explore carpets as a medium of her creativity but also refurbish their image. With a philosophy of ‘Floor Art’ being the focal point of her plan, she launched Mishcat Co in 2013. Her idea was to create carpets, luxurious enough so that one could build a narrative around them.

Today, Sahgal heads a design team full of passionate craftsmen who are on a never-ending drive to experiment, leading to endless ideas. She works with sustainability in mind,  making products from leftover silk yarn sourced from independent weavers. Sahgal ensures that her carpets are dyed using natural colors and are washed a limited number of times minimising the wastage of resources.

In a country where carpet making as an art form is passed on from the men of one generation to the next, Sahgal’s vision for the humble carpet stands out. Her carpets are more than just a piece of home decor vocabulary, they are collectibles, the result of art, interiors, and architecture put together.  With India growing up to the sensibilities of not just fine living but responsible living too, Sahgal is the one to watch out for. 

Here is everything you need to know about this super cool brand. 

Image courtesy: Mishcat Co, Photographer: Naina Gahlaut

1. Tell us about your formative years? Your earliest memories of design? How did the creative bug get in? 

Since my childhood, I was intrigued by small details. I used to walk into spaces, observe art and architecture and wonder, how can I make a difference as a creative.  I also always had this desire to create something “cosy”. I was always looking for little nooks and corners to curl up to spend my afternoon reading. I guess Interior Architecture just ended up being a natural choice and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was the perfect place to nurture it. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to study in such a creative, inspiring institution with some of the most talented designers and teachers.

Image courtesy: Mishcat Co, Photographer: Naina Gahlaut

2.  How did studying and living in New York shape up your creativity? Any designers/artists/architects who have inspired you in the past.

Studying in Rhode Island and working in New York city taught me to look at design with a global perspective while maintaining a strong Indian sensibility. It exposed me to a variety of aesthetics and trained my eye to look at things differently. It helped me find my own eclectic style.

This summer I’ve been looking at the Conté drawings by Georges Seurat and the Lepanto panels by Cy Twombly. My all-time inspirations include Carlo Scarpa and Tadao Ando. 

3.  What prompted you to launch Mishcat Co? 

I have always been passionate about Indian handicrafts and sustainability. I also have a keen eye for excellent workmanship and thoughtful design. After launching my interior architecture practice, I also came across upcycled sari silk, a beautiful new material which is culturally significant and entrenched in Indian history. It is a new entrant in the floor space. One thing led to another, and Mishcat Co was born. It was a very organic process and everything kind of just fell into place.

Image courtesy: Mishcat Co, Photographer: Naina Gahlaut

4. How did the idea of experimenting with carpets, saris, and wool come in the canvas? 

I ’ve always wanted to engage in different things at the same time, just to keep the fun alive.  On a macro-level, that is Interior Architecture – I try and experiment with materials and mediums in interior spaces for e.g building materials as finished materials or floor coverings as wall finishes. I try and engage in this practice at Mishcat Co as well. 

Our design team and weavers are encouraged to experiment with small swatches and samples of new things and contribute equally to new material mixes, patterns, and colorways. After three years our design vocabularies have started to blend, we have realized that the possibilities are endless. It is all super exciting and very inspiring.

Image courtesy: Mishcat Co, Photographer: Naina Gahlaut

5.  Could you throw some light on your creative process? 

We source leftover sari yarn from sari weavers down South. This is good, usable, high-quality yarn, which would have otherwise been treated as waste and thrown away. It is then upcycled. The yarns come in a myriad of luminous colors such as pinks, purples, and reds. We blend some of these colors together into skeins, and then our weavers hand knot them into carpets. Because of the different yarns available each time, and the color blending, each carpet ends up being one of a kind. 

6.  A lot of brands are becoming sustainably conscious lately. Tell us a little about your efforts in that direction. 

Our sari silk is completely upcycled. We don’t purchase new yarn and work only with leftover yarn. In this way, we engage ourselves in sustainable practices and work with sustainable materials. Further, we make efforts to use as many natural dyes as possible and also limit the number of washes we give to our carpets in tempering or finishing process. Also,  we’re always on a lookout for new sustainable materials we can experiment with for our new collections. 

7. Tell us a little about your ongoing projects? And what are your future plans?

I’m working on a super exciting project with a Swedish designer. More on that soon!

Image courtesy: Mishcat Co, Photographer: Naina Gahlaut
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