Xmas exclusive: Celebrated designers David Abraham and Kevin Nigli of Abraham & Thakore on 20 years of working and living together
India’s most underrated design professionals open up about their relationship for the first time ever!Updated: Dec 22, 2018 23:23 IST
The decorated dining area overlooking a courtyard centred around a huge tree sets the mood perfectly for Christmas lunch. The dining table groans beneath the weight of roast chicken, leg of ham, rack of lamb, plum pudding, mushroom quiche, bread baskets, a colourful green salad, and mulled wine, all courtesy Tarani Kapur of TLC Kitchen Catering. And the hosts, David Abraham and Kevin Nigli, two of the partners behind the fashion label Abraham & Thakore (Rakesh Thakore is the third and founding partner) who are partners in life as well, are positively resplendent in their Christmas best. They have never worn anything so bright before, they joke, as they shush their three dogs, Mocha, Satchmo and Indie.
“Creative industries like fashion are much more relaxed and sensitive of gender issues than others” –David Abraham
“You must forgive Indie for jumping around,” says Kevin, hugging the little dog on his lap. “She’s just four months old, the youngest of the three, and joined the family very recently.”
“All the dogs are harmless,” says David, giving Mocha a stern look when the dog seems too interested in the food on the table. “They are obedient and love having people around them. Kevin and I love to entertain, and often have guests staying with us.”
We are experiencing Kevin and David’s hosting prowess at this Christmas lunch a day before Burra Din itself. The couple has been together for more than 20 years, having first worked as professional partners before taking their relationship to a more personal level.
Kevin, a commerce graduate from Kolkata, was studying at NIFT, Delhi, and soon joined hands with Rakesh and the Singapore-born, Bengaluru-raised David who’d been friends since their time at NID. It was 1992 and the label Abraham & Thakore had just been incorporated. Because Kevin joined after the incorporation, he never got his name on the label, but that does not bother him. By 2000, after years of traipsing off to Europe together to persuade buyers to take on the A&T label, David and Kevin realised they were as good together personally as professionally, and decided to live together as a couple.
“I am particular about what’s cooking for dinner, whereas David is happy eating whatever is served. I micromanage, David is okay with the staff handling it all” —Kevin Nigli
“Also, it saved on conveyance bills,” quips David, before explaining, “This move from a professional relationship to a more personal one seemed like a very natural progression for us. When you are building or creating something together, or are passionate about the same things, it tends to bind you together.”
The fact that the two decided to live together at a time when the now-defunct Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was in full force shows how strongly David and Kevin feel about each other.
“We are really privileged as far as acceptance by family and friends are concerned, and also for the industry that we work in,” says David. “Creative industries like fashion are generally much more relaxed and more sensitive of gender issues than most others. The way we were educated, the kind of colleges we went to, and the industry we worked in, this kind of a philosophy was already inculcated in us. Everyone from Rakesh to all our friends in the industry was very supportive.”
They were equally lucky with their families. “Both our families were comfortable with our decision,” says David. “There was hardly any conversation about it. And soon after we moved in together, we had both sides of the family over for a holiday. Sometimes it is easy to just let things be.”
While their families accept Kevin and David’s relationship without discussion, the two partners themselves learned a long time ago that good communication is the only way to grow and sustain a relationship.
“David and I had several discussions about our lives together,” says Kevin. “It was stuff like where to keep the furniture, whether to keep proper staff to look after the house and the guests, and whether to move from Delhi to Noida, where our factory is located, to avoid long hours of commute.”
“Keep in mind that [in a relationship], having your own TV, your own set of friends and also your own bathroom can do the trick!” —David Abraham
They are also clear about their responsibilities to their household and each other. “Despite the fact that we have an 11-year age difference – and we are not telling you how old we are – we are clear that we are both in this together, so there are no expectations from each other,” says David. “We share responsibility, we have a great staff to take care of the house and guests even when we are not there, and the dogs are our equal responsibility. All relationships are a process of adjustments, arguments and discussions. You have to learn to negotiate and at the same time give the other his space. This is very important, whether it’s a joint family setup, marriage or even a work relationship.”
The couple shares several passions, but do not necessarily agree on everything. “Our love for music and cinema is equal, though Kevin is a bigger cinema buff,” says David. “He is a member of several film clubs. Both of us also enjoy travelling, both for work and pleasure. We recently went to Ajanta and Ellora, Bodh Gaya, Iran, Jodhpur and Bihar.”
“Despite having an 11-year age gap, we are in this together. All relationships are a process of adjustments, arguments and discussions!” —David Abraham
But if their areas of interest are similar, their choices can be different, says Kevin. “I love to explore newer places, but David prefers visiting places we’ve seen earlier. David loves NY, but I’m indifferent to it. Also, I am particular about things, about what’s cooking for dinner, whereas David is happy eating whatever is served. I like to micromanage things, David is okay with the staff handling all that. I love to check out new shops when we are travelling, but David hates that. He loves going to malls, I don’t. I like to collect objects, but David is now over the phase of collecting things and has threatened me with dire consequences if I bring any more things into the house!”
One unit, two styles
Even their work styles can be dissimilar. David, creative director of the A&T label, is particular about leaving the office by 6pm every day and not working on weekends. On the other hand Kevin, director sales, often works late and goes to the office on Saturdays.
But the two of them make it work. That doesn’t mean, however, that they expect the same thing for other same sex couples in India even though the Supreme Court withdrew Section 377 this year. “I really think we are very privileged as we didn’t face opposition or pressure ourselves,” says David. “But it can be different for other people depending on whether they live in a metro or a small town, their family background, their place of work, and even the kind of friends they have.”
Having said that, Kevin and David are willing to share relationship tips with those who are just beginning to realise that two people joining together to make a single unit is not as easy as it seems.
“While no two relationships are similar, certain general rules could apply to all,” says David. “Things like not having expectations, keeping everything practical, the ability to discuss matters, and also the ability to disagree, to have a proper conversation and handle things in a mature way.”
And then he grins. “Keep in mind that having your own TV, your own set of friends and also your own bathroom can do the trick!”
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From HT Brunch, December 23, 2018
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First Published: Dec 22, 2018 22:24 IST