Leaders of The New School: Anishka Clarke

One of my favorite things about the African American Top 20 is its ability to introduce you to designers that you might not otherwise be aware of.  I have been following Anishka Clarke of Ishka Designs for several years. It has been fun and exciting to see her style evolve and company grow.  We added Aniska to the Top 20 list in 2012, understanding we were a little late to the party.  Her company was already making a splash in New York area.  This week Lonny Magazine highlighted the Brooklyn-based company adding them to their  "10 Designers to Watch" list.

I wanted to get to know a little more about Anishka so I asked Anishka a few questions about her career, finding inspiration and her plans for the future.

Image Ishka Designs via Lonny.com
PE:  What does a successful design career look like to you?
AC: Years from now, when I look back at Ishka Designs' trajectory, I would like to say that we developed a leading international interior design firm supported by a globally diverse, multi-cultural design team.  Our success would be measured by profitability of course but also quality of life (see answers to question 6, 7 and 8 below).  Our primary focus would be the hospitality and residential design markets.   

PE:  You were one of the favorites from the New York event. I got a lot of positive feedback about your space.  The pattern on the chairs were a knock out, where do you normally start a design project?
AC: Thanks!  Every project starts with the client.  Our in-depth interview process, which is a major part of our research phase, allows us to really dig deep into our clients' personalities, desires and needs.  Once we feel we understand them well, we dig our heels into a concept and apply it to all our decisions, whether space planning or material selection.  Ultimately, we always strive to elevate our clients' taste as well as encourage them to take a lot of risks.

PE: Have you ever done a project where you were surprised at how god it turned out? What made it special?
AC: For most of our projects there is always that moment of "wow, that really came out great didn't it?".  But I would say whenever we get a chance to create a piece of furniture, there is always a significant feeling of accomplishment.  For instance, we designed and built a bar cabinet for one of our projects recently. I spent the day with the fabricator piecing together scrap wood and exotic woods to create the main design element.  May not sound glamorous but I was in my element.  It was like building my own puzzle (I love puzzles) or creating some kind of sculpture. I think what made it special was how organic the experience became and how hands-on I had to be in the fabrication of the piece.  I want to do a ton more furniture pieces that require components of organic design and puzzle-making. 

PE: What role does the press play in establishing yourself as a designer?
AC: For Ishka Designs, press is primarily about building brand awareness for longer-term objectives, as opposed to client conversion today.  Very few publications result in actual client prospects.  I have discussed this with other published interior designers, and they agree on this whole heartily.  Press coverage definitely lends further credibility to a designer but only if that is important to their target market.  It is time consuming if you don't have a PR team promoting your work, or it can be costly if you do.  One has to weigh the benefits of pursuing press opportunities by looking at the cost and time dedicated to doing so.  Interestingly, many designers are successful without ever having been published, typically because it is not important to their clientele.  The lack of press in no way diminishes their talent and success.  

PE:  I understand that there was a recent dinner in NYC where black women designers got together.  How important is that type of networking to your success? 
AC: What I have found as an entrepreneur is that you cannot operate in a vacuum.  Being able to share struggles whether personal or professional definitely helps to alleviate the stress of running a business.  So yes, being in an intimate environment with designers who share similar struggles is hugely important and definitely aids in both our personal and professional successes.  

PE:  Finish this sentence.  I could spend all day....
Daydreaming on the beach.

PE:  How important is downtime between your projects?
Very important.

PE:  What do you like to do during your down time?
AC: My what??? Kidding. There really is no one thing.  When I do have downtime, I like to catch up with the real world...family, friends, new restaurants, travel, beach, shopping. 

PE: Do you have a signature style when it comes to design?
AC: We continue to hone that signature style daily.  Our tendency is for our designs to be modern, eclectic and deceptively simplistic. 

PE: Complete this sentence please.  I make sure ever home I decorate...
is a true reflection of the owner.