Behind the Label | Balderdash

Meenakshi Dash, India's newest design star and the creator of the Balderdash brand, travels to the most coveted corners of the globe to work with local artisans who use centuries-old traditions. Meenakshi's signature urban-antique vibe makes her scarves and jewelry ideal additions to any fall look. Read about her globetrotting inspirations.

Meenakshi Dash, India's newest design star and the creator of the Balderdash brand, travels to the most coveted corners of the globe to work with local artisans who use centuries-old traditions. Meenakshi's signature urban-antique vibe makes her scarves and jewelry ideal additions to any fall look. Read about her globetrotting inspirations.

 

Courtesy of Marie Claire

 

How does travel inspire your collection? 

I am a prolific photo taker. I am not a photographer, but I do document everything. These images have a trickle down effect, whether it?s through color, texture, or simply the feel of the collection. I like the idea of nostalgia but not quite being able to put your finger on things. I always go back to my photographs and memories as reference. When I travel, I make it a point to visit the markets ? even grocery stores! It allows you to catch a glimpse of how the city or place works. I don?t think I could do what I am doing if it weren?t for travel.
 
 
You describe yourself as a "cultural omelette". 
I have been fortunate to live in several cities with drastically varying cultures. I think I adopt a little of all of them, and subsequently, I do not feel that I belong exclusively to any group, culture, or place. I instead identify myself with many cultures. I split my time every year between the U.S. and Asia, and it is always refreshing.
 
 
How does Mumbai and other cities you've lived in inspire your collection? 
The contrasts inspire my collection. I love the local and urban contradictions ? old with the new.
 
Hong Kong and Singapore have allowed me to understand the immigrant and Chinese cultures that have in some way worked themselves into my work, be it through the materials (jade, agate, pearls) or the combinations. Hong Kong is bolder, while Singapore is perfectly manicured.
 
Mumbai gives me the freedom to splurge on my color and texture choices, while London and NYC have allowed me to see things from a Western point of view. This stops me from over embellishing with materials that are perhaps too recognizable.
 
 

Courtesy of Richard James Williams and Balderdash

 
Courtesy of Richard James Williams and Balderdash
 
Which city do you most identify Balderdash with and why?
Balderdash has a generous dollop of all the cities I have lived in. I've lived in 12 different cities on 3 different continents. It is definitely an urban-inspired brand that looks to tradition for inspiration and contemporary change for the embellishment and interpretation.
 
 
You say that Balderdash is about pairing the irreverent with the revered. Can you explain this? 
I deliberately place contrasts together. For example, the traditional tribal beads I use are ingrained in the culture of Dhenkenal ? a remote tribal village in Orissa. It?s famous for its brasswork. I take those beads and transform them with something unexpected ? lashings of neon silk that have been painstakingly hand rolled, overlapped, and intricately sewn together. I do the same with the very traditional and exquisite art of Bandhani ? I?ve taken a serious, time consuming textile that I then like to play with, through the designs, the color combinations, and by adding tassels and lace ? turning the scarf into an elaborate necklace or neck embellishment. It?s taking the serious and established, reinterpreting it, and allowing it to be fun and not-so-serious. I want the opulence and beauty, but I also want that element of the unexpected bordering on kitsch. That?s what I mean by pairing the irreverent with the revered!
 
 
Courtesy of Richard James Williams and Balderdash
 
Courtesy of Richard James Williams and Balderdash
 
Describe Balderdash in 3 words. And then tell us why you chose those words. 
A dear friend of mine came up with the name Balderdash for the brand. It?s a bundle of contradictions that shouldn?t be taken too seriously.
 
1) Opulent: There?s a sense of decadence to each piece. The pieces are one of a kind in their own way and the materials used are chosen deliberately for their sheen, weight, texture, and luxuriousness. They are assembled to be slightly over the top.
 
2) Irreverent: There?s always something unexpected, and although I hesitate to use the word whimsical because the pieces are not cute, there is that sense of wonderment and oddness that allows you to take materials like pearls not so seriously. 
 
3) Obsessive: Every piece has hours of painstaking, thoughtful work behind it. I work with incredible artisans and artists in Gujarat and Orissa. Their work is obsessively beautiful ? the beads are all hand beaten and hand rolled, the fabric is all hand bound, and then you have my equally obsessive sewing. I want these pieces to stand the test of time and be treasured, wrapped up in their muslin and silk pouches, and enjoyed, looked at, and worn, for their workmanship and design.
 
Courtesy of Richard James Williams and Balderdash
 
Bhutan. Courtesy of Scottiehottie92
 
 
Your collection of products keeps growing, what creative endeavors are on the horizon?
My work thus far has been mostly about color and texture ? now I am moving away from that into something starker and more minimal. It is still obsessive, but sans the flamboyance. Think un-dyed fabrics, tarnished metals, and natural pearls. I am also working on a line of block printed textiles and a comic-strip. But truth be told, I think I am a closeted sari-clad graffiti artist who just hasn?t had the gumption to go out and tag some walls!
 
 
Who is your Muse? Describe the Balderdash woman. 
I always hesitate to pin down an exact Balderdash woman. I want the work to delight anyone! Anyone who stops to look at the details and feel the materials is a Balderdash woman. Anyone who wants to be surprised, delighted, and respects handwork would enjoy wearing Balderdash. My muse? That?s another tough one. So many incredible artists and their work - from the eerie sweetness of Yoshitomo Nara's girls, to the detailed and informed intricacies of Dries Van Noten's garments and prints, to the insanely gorgeous and macabre line drawings of the Belgian street artist ROA. For a quick fix, if I feel a bit uninspired, I wander down to 5 Pointz Queens or Bushwick and allow myself to just drink in the stunning street art. 
 
 
Courtesy of Marie Claire
 
How would you describe your own style? Please name the three staples of your wardrobe you could never live without. 
I have things in my wardrobe that are my grandmother?s, my mum?s, and pieces of my own that I purchased or found in thrift stores years ago! I love my Magpie collection. I must have my two-toed, shiny, gold Nike Rifts, my bubble sleeve Comme des Garcons jacket, and my inherited vintage necklaces and brooches.
 
 
Tell us about your favorite piece (or one of them) and where you were when you got inspired to create it. 
My crazy tasseled 'Pinched, Bound & Sewn' scarf and my massive 'Tied, Beaten & Sewn' brass and silk cuff. Both are statement pieces, inspired by the functioning chaos and textural abundance that is India!
 
 
Your collection has a strong global vibe- What are some of your favorite cities to visit and why?
Montauk - we go here every summer. We love the drive, it's long, but perfect. We kayak, swim, eat, lounge, and explore. It is an incredibly beautiful place - we almost thought of moving to Montauk, seriously. Louisville, Kentucky - for its incredibly beautiful 21c Museum Hotel that always showcases the most interesting American Contemporary artists and for its fabulous flea markets where you will always find exquisite antique Mexican silver. Jaipur for its age, beauty, and traditions ? it?s a small city but it has a surprisingly cosmopolitan feel. I love Ahmedabad for its inherent artistic and cultural vibe, the hospitality of close friends ? all artistic in their own way, the thrill of working with very knowledgeable artisans, and the always remarkable shopping! I love Hong Kong because it was my home and it is such a smart, modern, efficient yet always edgy and visually stimulating city. Mumbai is amazing because it was also home, and because I love to love it and I love to complain about it. Singapore is one of my favorite cities ? and I promise you it?s not boring. Hip Tiong Bahru, eclectic Arab Street, crowded Little India, and colorful Chinatown are bursting with smells, textures, colors, and experiences. Singapore is my home away from the U.S. Of course, New York City and its environs! I particularly love lower Manhattan, Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. It truly is the coolest city in the world, I cannot describe it in any other way. The fast-moving, hardworking, immigrant culture is apparent on every corner.
 
 
Courtesy of Richard James Williams and Balderdash
 
 
What are some destinations on your bucket list? 
Bhutan, Vietnam, Granada, Iceland, Greenland, and most definitely any country in Africa. The colors and textures would drive me happily mad, I am sure! 

 
How would you describe your travel style? 
I am an obsessive researcher and explorer. I get anxious if I am not traveling and not learning. I think I am happiest living out of a suitcase even though you might hear me mumble and grumble about it now and then.
 
 
Which upcoming travel plans are you most excited about and why? 
We are off to the Maldives next month for a couple of weeks and we are actually spending time in Male too. The idea of a tiny, rather remote, island city that has experienced various rulers, cultures and immigrant waves in its history is fascinating to me. I am also determined to visit Bhuj & the Rann of Kutch (Gujarat, India) in the next few months. It's an artist's and designer's paradise, with several tribal villages and artists who create the most beautiful embroideries and textiles. I would love to spend a month here and just learn and work side by side with them. 

 


Which three products from L-atitude are you coveting most right now? 
Figue's Yellow Amelie Caftan, Jill Golden's New Order Earrings, and Moroccan Bazaar's Teal Babbouche Slippers

 
 
 

Globetrotter Stats
 
Souk or Department Store?
Souk 
 
DIY or Concierge Service?
85%, 15%
 
Buy Everything or Buy Nothing?
Buy nothing - all I need is a photograph to absorb everything 
 
Camping or 5-Star Hotel?
20%, 80%
 
Drive or be Driven?
Drive
 
Room service or Street Food?
Street food
 
Lots of Luggage or Carry-on Bag?
Carry-on bag

 

 Stay tuned for the Balderdash launch on L-atitude this week!

Visit Balderdash on Facebook here >>