From carpet factory to cover of Forbes, Kashmiri lad designs enviable success story

Dr Shujaat Ali Quadri


Young Aquib Wani, who has figured in Under 30 list (Design) of prestigious Forbes magazine, has trained himself to see patterns of beauty and meaning in everything he perceives. He saw the energy and passion of the tiger, India’s national animal, in the national cricket team and used the “tigerish” impression in the new One Day International jersey. Yes, the new Indian ODI jersey is artwork of this young Kashmiri lad from downtown Srinagar.

Earlier Wani, who is now Delhi-based 29-year-old spatial, graphic, and visual-designer, designed for Rajasthan Royals cricket team for Indian Premier League and Real Kashmir FC for I-League.

In fact, Wani has tried his hands at almost everything in the designing world. From helming the design for music concerts to drawing up sketches for clothes and even designing weddings, he has done it all.

The story of Wani is being treated as that of a super achiever in the Valley. It is layered, like his craft, with many curbs of finesse and surprises.


Failed Student, Successful Artist

Born and brought up in New Delhi, Wani always preferred art and music to studies. He failed his Class XI exam two times. “I loved to do art and play the guitar instead, which might not generate an approval from most of the parents,” he told a local Kashmiri portal.

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.

Though he failed in academics, he excelled at art in school. He was also the lead guitarist of a thrash metal band called Phobia.

His father did handicraft business and thus young Wani got a chance to accompany him to various carpet factories. He used to closely observe the looms and the craftsmen’s creativity. Their splendid work caught his attention and kindled his imagination at a very young age.

Wani recalls that the designs crafted by the workers at carpet factories reminded him that every piece of work has some emotions and touch of culture attached to it.

While Wani was with his school band, Phobia, he designed posters and did merchandise for the band. He started receiving wide acclaim along with offers to design and merchandise for other bands too. He began to draw his band’s artwork T-shirts, CD covers, posters and also gave guitar tuition classes.

He dropped out of college to pursue his passion, and began to struggle while chasing his dreams.

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. The road was paved for his journey.


Studio of Art

In the year 2014, Wani found a new beginning — Scenografia Sumant. Wani, until then worked with the print design but at the studio, he had to cater to a wide range, scale and complexity of imagery for various projects and spaces. In the year 2018, Wani started his own studio, Aaquib Wani Design. At his venture, not just one, but Aaquib experiments with various things and mediums ranging from logos, wedding themes, music album covers, interior designs, stage designs to mural wall paintings. His designs started receiving huge love from clients and social media.


Designing India’s ODI Jersey

Love for cricket runs in the veins of Kashmiri youths. Wani has been no exception. He said in an interview that he used to breathe cricket. If he had not been a designer, maybe he would have been a cricketer, he says. In his imagination, he designed jerseys of Indian cricketers many times. And then one day, after his reputation grew, an offer came from Adidas to create a new jersey for India’s One Day International cricket team. He readily grabbed the opportunity and tried to give it an innovative look. He used Ikat technique that is thought to be the most effective resist-dyeing method. His design used an imprint of tiger in Ikat style on the jersey.

The new jersey portrays the fearlessness of the nation’s cricket team.

The simplicity of the design and the specific kind of ‘blue’ chosen to write India, led to this jersey getting sold off on the Adidas website within two days of its release.

Earlier this year, Wani designed the kits of Rajasthan Royals team for the Indian Premier League tournament. Diving into the state’s cultural fabric, Wani decided to weave a pattern out of stepwells – something that Rajasthan is known for – to figure on the IPL team’s playing jersey.

Plus, says Wani, it was important that the players wore the beauty of the Pink City (Jaipur) on their sleeves, rather than sporting something away from what Rajasthan really meant.


Pashmina for Real Kashmir FC

Another remarkable design that Wani crafted is the jersey of players for Real Kashmir FC club. Here too, Wani chose something that will reflect the quintessential Kashmiri identity: Pashmina shawls. “A simple pattern that will remind players that they are carrying pride of their state with them was the whole idea of the club jersey,” he said in an interview.


‘A Little Bit of India in Every Design’

For Wani, it is important that each of his designs evoke emotions. According to him, the kind of history the country has in its culture and textile is seldom seen in designs. “What we have is a treasure and it should be celebrated,” Wani says.

“I ensure that something of India carries with my designs,” he said in an interview.

In his other notable achievements, Wani has also worked with Coca-Cola, United Nations and MG Motors. He also designed part of Isha Ambani’s sangeet and Akash Ambani’s wedding.


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