Interview with Aaquib Wani, Creative Director at Lollapalooza India 2023

Aaquib Wani is the founder of Aaquib Wani Design, responsible for everything related to design that you will see at Lollapalooza India‘s debut edition this weekend.

Over the years, we’ve seen Aaquib reach incredible places with his approach to design – from festival stages to custom clothing. The first person from Kashmir to make the Forbes India 30 under 30 list in 2021, this self-taught designer has specialized in spatial, experiential, and graphic design, whether it’s massive installations, sets, weddings or even jackets and shoes.

Some of his most notable work recently has been with Adidas, creating the custom line of ‘End Plastic Waste’ apparel with Indian cricketer Rohit Sharma, and an Adidas Originals jacket for the famous Indian actor Ranveer Singh. Alongside his team, he has also designed the stages at Bacardi Nh7 Weekender, worked with Spotify India on the entire design for their debut edition of Rap 91 Live, and much, much more.

From knowing him as a member of a heavy metal band to watching him create kinetic installations and designing entire festivals from the ground up, we wanted to know more about his involvement with Lollapalooza. He’s currently busy on-site working on venue construction with his entire team of pros, and was kind enough to take some time out and answer a few questions!

How long has the Aaquib Wani Design (AWD) team been working on Lollapalooza, and what’s the size of the team?
Aaquib: We’ve been working on Lolla for the last 7-8 months. We started back in the first week of June, and within 2 weeks, we had to present. We had a brand guideline and went with it, almost like shooting in the dark! But to our surprise, when we met the international team, they were in awe of everything that we created for them.
Our team is eight people right now. Andrita, who is our business manager, and who pretty much runs everything! She’s the backbone. There’s Shivam, our lead architect, Chhavi, who’s our lead interior designer on this project, and Nikhil and Nandini who are both heading the graphic design department for the entire festival. 

Can you give us a brief idea of how you’ve translated the brand’s online identity to spatial on-ground design for the festival?
Aaquib: Yes! The entire brand guideline that has come to us from the international team is all colorful, and even for us when we’re designing festivals, it’s as colorful and fun as we can make it. With branding, we’ve taken all the elements and made sure we’ve created installations around them. Whatever people have been seeing on their Instagram screens over the last couple of months is something that they will also get to see on ground as well. So there’s a direct connection that way.
The Lollapalooza India 2023 Lineup announcement poster

How has AWD helped develop a unique design for Lollapalooza India, yet in line with the aesthetic they’ve been following across the world?
Aaquib: When we went in for a meeting with the international Lollapalooza team for the first time, we went in with a complete blank slate and said, let’s give it a shot creating our own set of Indian elements as well. We saw the brand guidelines they’d sent and every country had their own specific elements too. So, that’s what we did.

We had our Gateway of India, you can see cats because you’ll see cats pretty much everywhere in Bombay! There’s a B.E.S.T bus, monkeys because again monkeys in India are something that we felt we have everywhere. We also have the taxi, nimbu mirchi (lime and chili pepper on a thread), and MC Samosa. We ended up creating a lot of these characters thinking we wanted to make them India-centric. These were elements that made international festival teams like Stockholm, Brazil, and Argentina also reach out to us, saying they wanted to use these elements as well because they’re good, and it doesn’t matter because whoever designs, we end up taking different elements from places like Germany, and Chile, so it’s alright.

It’s a global festival, and we want to make sure it stays global that way, so we all take from each others’ elements. In short, it’s a big family of global elements put together, and they go across everywhere at all festivals. 

Name one thing that you’ve been specially excited about creating for the festival!
Well, honestly for me, it’s the entire experience we’re creating from the entry gates to the stages. There’s something that’s common here – color, along with all the fun elements and characters that Lollapalooza has. We also have these installations and photo ops so people can just come, have a great time, and immerse themselves in the entire experience of Lollapalooza in India. 

You can also read: Lollapalooza India Unveils Inaugural Edition Lineup

You’ve been working on some lovely customizations over the years, and that has led to the collaborative partnership with the Levi’s Tailor shop at Lollapalooza. How did you curate this list of artists for the collective, and will these designs be in their own styles, or lean towards the overall theme of the festival?
The team at Levi’s reached out to me as they’d recalled I designed a jacket at the very first edition of Levi’s 501 Day that happened at Famous Studios. I think that was in 2017, and since then, they’ve always liked my work. They’ve seen how I’ve continued to customize jackets over the years, and when they found out I was the Creative Director at Lollapalooza India, they thought – who better to reach out to to create an experience for Levi’s, and curate a tailor shop entirely for all festival goers?

My idea at Levi’s tailor shop was inspired by the four pillars of Lollapalooza. This is something I’d taken from the brand deck – the four pillars being Positive, Loud, Influential and Vibrant. Based on these four categories, I divided three artists into each of these four categories and ended up bringing 12 artists onboard. The common theme was also ‘the joyous state of mind,’ something Lollapalooza stands for. Putting all those pieces together was what made this.

I reached out to artists from across the country – not only ones who are my favorite – but people who work specifically in the music space. Since we’re working for a music festival, we wanted to curate this entire experience of having artists who have worked with music and known this space entirely. There are 36 artworks with each artist giving three artworks each. There is a heat-pressed sticker, there’s going to be a panel print, an embroidered one which is going to be special edition, and there’s also going to be screen prints.

So come to the festival, see me at the Levi’s Custom shop, and pretty much everywhere! 

We wish Aaquib and the entire team at Aaquib Wani Design the very best of luck for the upcoming edition of Lollapalooza India on January 28-29, 2023 in Mumbai. We also look forward to seeing more incredible work from him and his team. 

Find Aaquib Wani on: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

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