Founder Anita Lal on 25 years of iconic brand Good Earth
Indian sensibility is often seen as maximalist and regal, sometimes kitsch and even ethnic. To embrace India’s cultural diversity requires a broad and compassionate vision. Anita Lal of Good Earth, a terrific name in Indian design, has managed to do just that. As 2020 puts our homes back in the spotlight, Lal says, “My deepest desire is that we look at the wisdom inherited from our ancestors.” With a mission to showcase products that bring joy to everyday life, Good Earth has grown into a design brand in its own right, focusing on home, clothing, textiles and international partnerships. More importantly, it is also a destination to respond to a collective aspiration to our culture. As the iconic brand turns 25, we follow its evolution through 15 of its biggest milestones.
1996: The Beginning: The First Good Earth Store
Anita Lal, a passionate potter herself, recognized that the craft of Kumbhar the potters of the village were dying. Terracotta matkas gave way to lighter, unbreakable plastic containers and severely affected livelihoods. Revivalist and patron at heart, she opened the first Good Earth boutique in Kemps Corner, Mumbai, as a platform to connect village potters with urban consumers who might appreciate Indian, with a twist. 1997: Sentier des épices, the first history of design The distinctive brand mark and the language of design make it possible to recognize patterns and products everywhere. “Chillies” celebrated the quintessential Indian red and green chili peppers on hand-painted porcelain in indigo, with accents of saffron, red and turquoise. Be careful, they are reissuing this vintage print as part of their flashback campaign this summer.
1997: Spice Trail, the first history of design
The distinctive branding of the brand and the language of the design mean that one is able to recognize patterns and products everywhere. “Chillies” celebrated the quintessential Indian red and green chili peppers on hand-painted porcelain in indigo, with accents of saffron, red and turquoise. Be careful, they are reissuing this vintage print as part of their flashback campaign this summer.
2000: God’s Inspirational Council: Periyar
“When you think of home, it’s always the bed sheet first. Textiles were a natural progression for us. Ms Lal’s vision for a coast-inspired line included a hand print on linen with designs of majestic elephants and verdant groves of palm, banana and mango trees. This successful collection includes a range of cushions, bedspreads and tableware. The palm print cups alone have sold over 75,000 pieces to date!
2005-2007: A refined taste: Raghuvanshi Mills Flagship Store & Tasting Room, India’s first wine bar
A growing presence meant a bigger space. By chance, a 20,000 square foot space of Raghuvanshi Mills in Mumbai was identified. Previously a textile factory, it was designed to be as evocative and romantic as the products themselves. In 2007, they launched The Tasting Room, a cafe with the intention of celebrating wine in a warm and romantic space with a library.
2005: Sacred metals: artisanal innovation from Kansa
“Copper pitchers, dohars… These were not common when Good Earth brought them back to the market, although they are now everywhere, ”recalls Lal. Kansa metal is gaining popularity for its anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties. The Good Earth version features placemats hand-beaten by tribal artisans. Its alkalizing effect on water and food is said to promote countless health benefits. Kansa has been one of their ongoing commitments since 2005 and has led to the reverse migration of an entire village of Orissa – the very idea that Good Earth started with.
2010: Second Skin: Launch of Sustain, the first clothing line
When Good Earth launched Sustain, its first clothing line, the clothing market was saturated. But Lal felt that no one was meeting the need for stylish everyday clothes that celebrated Indian crafts and textiles. Historical silhouettes such as distant and choga were modernized to accommodate Indian corps. “We never followed the western size chart. Our labels represent a small size like a petal, a little bigger than two petals, then a blooming flower. “Some of Sustain’s notable innovations over the years have been chikankari on khadi, varaq work of Jaipur, reviving the royal craft of hand-cut gota embroidery and Ajrak on velvet.
2014: The Royal Renovation: Rajmahal Palace
The team restored the Rajmahal Palace in Jaipur, comprising 17 rooms and four royal suites. Elephants in ceremonial processions and geometric lattices of Mughal garden pavilions found their way to the palace to celebrate the region’s endless heritage. This formed the basis for a collaboration with Asian Paints in 2016 to create the Nilaya wallpaper line.
2015: An international call
The twentieth year was marked by the support of “The Fabric of India”, a flagship exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Iconic Indian textile products were on display and for sale. Parts of the museum have been transformed to look like Kashi; decorative umbrellas woven from Benarasi silk brocades, roses and jasmine flowers were airlifted from Mumbai. Indian films and Shehnai music were used, and the V&A dome was illuminated to evoke sunlight and sunset over the sacred river Ganges. It was an ethereal and quintessential Indian experience. 2015: Textile traditions: Developing gyasar brocade
2015: Textile Traditions: Developing Gyasar brocade
The signature gyasar brocade is proof of their seriousness towards textile innovation. In the Kashi collection there are four warp threads through each tooth (twice as many as the average brocade including 200g of gold zari). A huge technical undertaking, carried out in a trompe l’oeil effect, it seems almost embroidered. In fact, each cushion cover takes about six months to make.
2018: A break: PARO, launch of a luxury wellness brand
“Paro is a deeply personal luxury, but not in some sort of embossed initials on a bag,” says Lal. Using Indian flower names such as juhi and Chameli for its beauty offerings, Paro was designed to provide a break from our lives.
2018: Countdown to Sewing: The Miniaturist
Good Earth’s first couture collection debuted at Lakme Fashion Week with just 27 looks. The royal craftsmanship of hand-cut gota embroidery served as inspiration to create sets with sheer silhouettes that reflect a contemporary sensibility. Crafted in small numbers, with no bulk pressure on the karigars, it helped craft clusters experiment and improve their talent.
2018: Conscious consumption: sustainable packaging
Recognizing that sustainable design is only as durable as its packaging, the brand has embarked on a shredding process using 70% recycled paper and 30% virgin kraft paper.
2019: Good Earth X International Waters
The Good Earth X Soneva Fushi collaboration saw a six-month pop-up store in the sustainable property of the Maldives. The island also inspired the Maladvipa collection, with patterns of leafy palms, mirihi, red hibiscus and champak flowers on textiles and fine porcelain. Its recycled glassware blown in cobalt blue tones is reminiscent of Maldivian waters.
2019: An Ode to Sindhu: first stand-alone presentation
On the occasion of Sustain’s 10th anniversary, a standalone fashion show showcased the craft and textile traditions of the Indus. The 72-piece collection included a men’s line for the first time. The focus was on the ancient art of block printing Ajrak, with pieces recreated in different media such as fostat brocade.
2021: A new FLOW: Launch of Handloom RTW
Taking Sustain’s philosophy in a millennial mindset, Flow launched in April. Designed for a conscious audience, this capsule collection includes dresses, suits, classic pants and tailored blouses mainly hand-woven in Malkha and kala cotton – two more durable forms of cotton textiles. The palette of indigo blues, neutral grays and earthy tones counterbalances their signature “mogra white”, sparking new conversation.
Download your digital copy of the April 2021 issue of ELLE here.