India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Verve People
September 29, 2016

Meet The Couple Behind Safomasi

Text by Wyanet Vaz

The founders, who do not believe that only opposites attract, are bound by shared passions that go beyond their work

Call it serendipity or what you will. A chance meeting at a mutual friend’s photo shoot led to a Boxing Day date, and the subsequent coming together of the first two letters of their names to form the home textiles brand, Safomasi — a love child of the everyday and exotic. “We met in December 2010 at a photoshoot in Delhi and have spent almost every day together since,” Sarah Fotheringham (Safo) had just left London and turned art director at the Delhi-based Wieden+Kennedy. Meanwhile, Maninder Singh (Masi), who had just returned from Melbourne, was working with the Fashion Design Council of India.

“Safomasi started as a way for us to work and travel together. Each year we explore a different part of the world and create a collection of illustrated prints and patterns that tell the story of our experience and memories of that place.” The Mithai collection is a 13-colour screen print inspired by the many varieties of Indian sweets. Kawaii — filled with drawings of sumo wrestlers, poodles, lucky cats and gardens — is a collection inspired by a trip to Japan.

“When we started Safomasi we both had other jobs. It was a passion project, something that we loved doing. We’ve been fortunate to get a great response and to see it become a full-time job. Everything has happened organically, but there have been lots of challenges along the way. It took us over a year of sampling and experimenting before we actually released our first line.” Closely connected with printers, dyers and a small team of tailors, Fotheringham and Singh are heavily involved in the running of their business. On a rare occasion you’ll even find Singh’s grandmother knitting pom-poms for their cushion covers.

Headlong into the making of this postcard-perfect brand, they often find themselves scrambling to make time for hobbies and activities. “Work totally makes its way to the dinner table! Because it started as something we loved doing, we find it quite hard to switch off.” While working together also means spending long hours with each other, the young couple reasons: “Starting a business takes up a lot of time and energy, so if we weren’t doing this together, it would’ve been hard to spend enough time with each other.”

When they’re not at the studio, or sourcing and hustling between suppliers and stockists, they are exploring exotic locales. “We travel for inspiration and ideas. Recently we went to Turkey. We celebrated our birthdays there (which are a day apart), and did a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia, which has the most stunning landscape.” Since Fotheringham finds herself away from home for most part of the year, their itinerary also includes a month’s stay with her family in the UK. “We exhibit at the London Design Fair and combine it with a few weeks of visiting friends. It’s definitely an advantage to be able to mix business and pleasure!”

Coming from different cultural sensibilities, Fotheringham and Singh have begun to enjoy a varied perspective on things. It is no surprise then that a mix of influences finds its way into their design philosophy. Like Fotheringham’s English background that comes through in the nautical stripes in the Alleppey collection. “This is our way of innovating; learning from and finding each other.”

Disagreement, like in any old friendship, is given the least importance. “We both have strong opinions and can be stubborn too, but after 10 minutes, everything is forgotten and we carry on.” The odds may be against spouses collaborating for work in most cases, because of the inevitability of job pressures entering the home — a challenge that most couples aren’t game for. But for Fotheringham and Singh (who till today blush at the thought of being in love), space and time are nothing but blurred lines. “Every day can get so busy and hectic but we make sure we don’t forget the bigger picture of why we are together in the first place.”

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