This French Designer is Bringing the Collectible Design Gallery Model to India

“Everyone has their eyes on India,” says French designer Florence Louisy, who ended up in the country herself quite serendipitously but has since carved a path. As co-founder and creative director of the Mumbai gallery Aequo (Æquō) — self-described as “India’s first collectible design gallery” — Louisy encourages international designers to discover and adapt traditional craft techniques from across the country, and to collaborate with artisans to create collections of beautiful contemporary furniture. Thanks to a booming economy, the demand for the gallery’s pieces, which include many of Louisy’s own, has soared. 

Louisy studied at Design Academy Eindhoven, where she learned that “the more simple something is, the harder it is to make,” before relocating to São Paulo for an internship with the Campanas. It was here that she further developed her appreciation for applying traditional craft techniques to contemporary design. Back in Paris, Louisy set up as an independent designer and began exhibiting work through Kolkhoze. Her partner, architect Ivan Oddos, had previously worked in Mumbai, and through him she met entrepreneur Tarini Jindal Handa in 2019, with whom she discussed the lack of spaces dedicated to collectible design in India. When Oddos was offered an opportunity in India, Louisy joined him and together with Jindal Handa, conceptualized Æquō during the pandemic as a space to “invite designers from different countries all over the world, and introduce them to Indian craftsmanship,” Louisy says. As a guinea pig for the concept, she volunteered herself. 

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Panna, comprised a series of sculptural works that Louisy crafted by artfully “folding” a diverse range of materials from across India. Copper oxidized in Jaipur, burnt pieces enameled in Alibag, and felt from Kashmir were all shaped into the designer’s signature minimalist forms, celebrating the innate qualities of their components. Working in such an untapped market, as well as designing for her own company rather than another gallerist, offered Louisy a “feeling of freedom” and unbridled creativity via a wealth of ancient art forms. Soon she was working with techniques like Bidri, which involves inlaying delicate silver strands into oxidized metal, and wood-fired enameling that fuses colored glass and copper.

Æquō has since worked with designers including Sudheer Rajbhar, Cédric Courtin, and Valériane Lazard; in a full-circle moment for Louisy, the gallery recently invited Estúdio Campana to create the Atuxuá cabinet in collaboration with artisans in Jaipur, which combines raw sabai grass and brass wires into a woven lattice that takes a dome-shaped form. “For 40 years in Brazil, the Campanas have integrated Brazilian identity, craftsmanship, life scenes, anything they see into their design, and therefore have created incredible pieces of design that are truly telling a story about a culture, about people, about everything related to Brazil,” Louisy says. “And somehow that’s what we do in India.”

Destroyers/Builders for Aequo

Estudio Campana for Aequo