Ever since the ‘Virushka’ wedding went viral, Devika Narain and Company has etched itself on the wish lists of many betrothed couples. Its founder, Devika Narain, speaks with Travel + Leisure India & South Asia about the humble beginnings of her dream, the challenges of designing destination weddings, and her grand plans for the future. By Rashima Nagpal
T+L India: As a young girl, did you have an idea about the kind of woman you’d like to become?
Devika Narain: I was brought up in a community of strong women—my aunts, mother, and grandmothers. They encouraged me to be my own person. From a young age, my mother made sure I learned that women need to make their own money. I was encouraged to make my own decisions. I don’t have a typical career, and I think I owe it to the people who raised me. The 13-year-old me would be proud of where I am today, even though the 30-year-old me feels that I have miles to go. When you’re young, you have a vision for your life, and I was very clear that I wanted a creative life. I knew I wasn’t going to do a nine-to-five job. I can’t wear a suit to work; I wanted to wear my saris, big bindis, and work in the arts. I managed to find a field where all of that overlaps beautifully.
T+L India: When did the idea of Devika Narain and Company first come to mind?
Devika Narain: I’d been working in the wedding space for four and a half years. I remember being at a wedding where I didn’t even know the names of the bride and groom. Something clicked there. I wanted to create weddings that were more personal, fun, and Indian. In 2014, when I had just quit my job, it was just three to four of us girls. I had four chairs around my dining table and didn’t have money for a fifth one. In 2015, we made things official and became Devika Narain and Company.
T+L India: Why did you choose to be in the business of weddings?
Devika Narain: I wanted to study interior [design] and architecture, and I thought that if I can draw a straight line, then I’d put myself in a design school. But that clearly never happened (laughs). On the other hand, I absolutely love weddings; I’m that aunty who, if you tell me you’re getting married, sits next to you to talk about what we can do. So, weddings became a Venn-diagram space where I could do spatial design. Today, we design installations, stores, and hopefully one day, I can do a film set or homes. And I can hire architects who can draw straight lines (laughs).
T+L India: What is a day at work like?
Devika Narain: No two days of my life are ever the same. The office days are where I wake up early, eat breakfast, take my dog for a walk, and head to work. Through the day, we throw ideas at each other, brainstorm, plan for upcoming weddings, and design them. Our non-office days involve going on recces and meeting people. We work a lot with artists and craftsmen, sitting in their studios and figuring out how to make certain things. For example, once we were in Kashmir and I wanted to use local flowers. We spent the day looking for cherry blossoms and tulips. We went from house to house, asking for a couple of stems [each] to create a full space. There are days that are slightly boring, when we’re just standing and watching a structure go up.
T+L India: When you face challenges who do you turn to for advice?
Devika Narain: My friends, parents, and husband (Joseph Radhik, the celebrity wedding photographer). One of my biggest achievements is that I’ve managed to build a strong support system. I have always had people rooting for me—who, when required, also say, “You messed this up, go fix it.” I gain perspective from each one of them, and I value that.
T+L India: When you started your business seven years ago, did you imagine that you would become the sought-after designer you are today?
Devika Narain: I hoped I would. If you ask me [today] what I will be doing in 30 years, I will tell you some weird, grand ideas, and I hope I can get to those places. There were no plans of having a grand business [when I began]. I just put my head into it and worked. That’s what I believe in doing even today. Everything else was a by-product and continues to be so.
T+L India: What are your plans for the next 30 years then?
Devika Narain: I want to design cities! I have absolutely no skill to do that at the moment. I have a simple belief that the world we live in should be beautiful. I want to dedicate my life to doing that. Beauty should not come with a price tag. I hope that some day I can make products, design cities, homes, and, who knows, maybe tech too!
T+L India: Destinations on your bucket list?
Devika Narain: The next thing I want to do is go on a road trip across India. I want to visit tiny villages and meet local craftsmen because there’s so much that we have within our own country.
I am currently obsessed with Rebecca Solnit. I’m reading Men Explain Things to Me.
DREAM WEDDING DESTINATIONS
I hope to design weddings in Mexico, Morocco, and Cuba.