Retrofuturism and maximalism collide in Boomranng Studio’s Mumbai-inspired campaign for Nike
The campaign portrays an alternate, parallel future for Mumbai – one that “runs on technology but still retains all its cultural quirks and extravagance”.
- Olivia Hingley
- 22 November 2022
Boomranng Studio’s recent collaboration with Nike is something of a “dream project” for its two co-founders, Sonal Vasave and Makarand Narkar. Working off the brief of creating 20 illustrations inspired by their home-city of Mumbai for Nike’s new personalisation service, the duo had no problem conjuring up ideas from the get-go. “We have lived the sounds, the feel, the visuals and peculiarities of Mumbai,” Sonal shares. Coming from such an urban area in India, Sonal continues to explain how this has exposed them to “a melting pot of cultures, tastes and aesthetics – a sweet spot between the tradition of our roots and the cosmopolitanism of the city".
Throughout the series, the duo wanted to “marry” the personal geography of Mumbai with their personal philosophical and aesthetic outlook into a melting pot of retrofuturism. “To us, retrofuturism is a way of escape; it is a way of juxtaposing our traditions and values and hopes from the past with the aspirational nature of the future,” Makarand says. To achieve this combination, Sonal and Makarand depicted Mumbai not as it currently exists, and instead as an alternate, parallel future – one that “runs on technology but still retains all its cultural quirks and extravagance”. This vision for the future is also one that Sonal says is rooted in an “optimistic worldview”. She continues: “Our patterns come from the rich textile history of Mumbai, our characters are personifications of the undefeatable and unputdownable spirit of Mumbai, and our colours are loud and vibrant.”
Stories and the process of storytelling have been of central importance to Boomranng Studio since its earliest days. It was through a combined love of Indian mythology, comics and world-wide cultures that Sonal and Makarand found an insatiable “curiosity”, plus and an adoration of the visuals that often accompany such tales. These specific interests later pushed them to attend J.J Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai, where they met, discovered their “shared love of the unexplored and storytelling”, and then combined their talents into the visually descriptive medium of illustration.
This aspect of storytelling was one Sonal and Makarand were keen to integrate into the Nike project; each illustration has a rich tapestry of narrative behind it, a bustling train journey, a “chai-powered” automobile or an energetic dance off. This narrative element was also something Nike actively facilitated: “They were open to our pitches and ideas and gave us a lot of space to experiment,” Makarand says, “we were free to explore and that, we think, is crucial to the creative process.”
In Cirque de Mumbai, the duo visualised a circus coming to Mumbai, but instead of being your “run of the mill” circus, it's one “built on empathy, where live animals are replaced by automated ones”. Paying homage to the “iconic bright neon circus posters” that line the streets of Mumbai, the poster is doused in bright pinks, blues and greens, full of movement and the lively energy associated with the circus. Interestingly, while Sonal and Makarand see the piece as perhaps the most distinctive and “them”, it’s also the one they see as being the most archetypal of the “Nike” series, with the recognisable Just Do It slogan, and numerous items of Nike apparel on display. “We believe we really got the vibe down to a t,” Sonal adds.
A Day in Mumbai, on the other hand, represents how the small personal moments can often represent a much larger picture. For example, in an energetic comic strip that shows the “hurried preparations” of someone getting ready for the day – a morning coffee, putting on their trainers – it shows the period of calm before “getting ready to face challenges that the city has kept in store for everyone”. With daring colours, a unique composition and a sleek style, the piece summarises the whole project – an irresistible, lively foray into the world of maximalist retrofuturism.
Boomranng Studio: Life is a Race (Copyright © Boomrangg Studio, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.