Leah Singh’s Signature Dog Beds Mix Design With Tradition
Handcrafted by artisans in India, the designer’s colorful floor pillows are the perfect addition to the stylish pet lover’s household.
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If you’re a pet parent with a keen eye for design, or just a lover of warm hues and eye-catching patterns, you’re going to want to know about Leah Singh’s modern home decor. Leah is a designer and entrepreneur who splits her time between the vibrant city of Delhi and the bustling streets of New York. The colors and textures of the two locales and her upbringing in India inform her line of handcrafted textiles. Each pillow, tapestry, rug, and throw shows Leah’s commitment to craftsmanship and thoughtful production.
Inspired by her adorable senior pup, Noor Jehan, Leah started making dog beds with her signature brightly colored handwoven fabric last year. They are a must-have for pet parents who covet a cute home accessory as much as they love splurging on (literal) creature comforts. We called up Leah from across the globe to hear more about her artistic process, her focus on sustainability, and of course, the dog beds we can’t stop drooling over.
Tell me about your background as a designer and how you started your brand.
I studied product design at Parsons in New York, and after graduating I moved back to India to start a business making jewelry out of repurposed materials. Once I got here, I would visit craft fairs in Delhi where artisans from villages across India come to bring their artwork. I was suddenly being re-exposed to all these textiles and techniques from all over the country, and I was drawn to the colors and textures and patterns. I met with an artisan group through one of the fairs and started developing some textiles with them. I learned that a lot of these traditional crafts were dying out because the children of the artisans were moving to cities instead of carrying on the work from their parents.
I felt strongly that I wanted to contribute to keeping the craft going and finding new markets for it. I wanted to use the traditional crafts and adapt it with my own modern aesthetic to reach a different client base and help provide income for these artisans. So, I fully switched over from jewelry to textiles, and I traveled around meeting different artisans until I found some that were using the particular methods I was most interested in that would allow me to use lots of bright colors and bold patterns.
You live part time in India and part time in New York. Why is that important to your work?
It’s always been important to me to really understand how these artisans work and understand the limitations of the craft, so I can design into that. Initially, I visited with them so I could develop that connection. Now, since we’ve built close relationships, I send them the artwork and they make the textiles without me having to travel to where they are, which is typically pretty remote and hard to get to. But we’re always in communication.
Most of my clients are in the U.S., so it’s nice to be able to meet them in person. But it’s also important to me to be immersed in the design world of NYC. I like to look at architecture, and certain movements like the Bauhaus movement and art deco — geometric patterns and straight lines — that’s where I get a lot of my inspiration for patterns and colors. I don’t look at trends so much as I am inspired by completely random things. Like, I’ll be out in the rain and see someone wearing a coat with a unique color combination, and it will give me an idea. Between being in India and NYC, there is no specific place where the inspiration comes from, but I pull what feels good to me from both.
We are, of course, the most excited about your dog beds. How did they come about?
A while ago a company reached out to me to do a collection of dog beds, and it ended up falling through, but I had gotten excited about the idea. I wanted to make something for my dog that fit into the design of the rest of my home, and that was really fun and beautiful, so I figured I would try it on my own.
The material I work with is already super durable, so I just started experimenting. The technique we use for the beds is from a western state in India and I’d worked with it for pillows and rugs. They’re made of a heavier woven cotton material that can be machine washed, and there’s no delicate embroidery or anything that can be snagged when dogs dig or scratch.
The durability is definitely important when it comes to dog beds. Can you tell me more about the materials you use and why you choose them?
I think about sustainability through every step of the process. From the beginning, I wanted to make sure that there was total transparency between me and the artisans who make the textiles. What’s nice is they’ve already been doing this for so long, they have their local sources for all the raw materials. Since it’s all been done by hand that way, there was already a sustainable supply chain in place. And I’ve been able to jump into that system. We’re also conscientious about the materials we use for packaging and try to minimize waste wherever possible.
What is your favorite part of the work you do?
The process of designing and imagining what something will look like, and then getting the samples in the mail from Delhi. It’s like opening a present. Once I send off the designs, I’m not involved in the actual weaving and embroidery, so when it comes back to me as an actual product it’s so much fun.
Also, my relationship with the artisans. It is so cool to get to work with them and develop these pieces using traditional skills and crafts. I love getting to be a part of that process.
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Maia is a freelance writer focused on using storytelling to help people treat our planet with more compassion. She lives in Chicago with her perfect pets, Maxx the dog and Rubie the cat. Find her on maiawelbel.com and @mwelbel.