Two jewellery designers featured in this year’s Lakme Fashion Week (Summer-Resort) exhibited dramatically different sensibilities. In conversation with Mawi Keivom, whose collection combined a Western discipline of design with Indian colours and craftsmanship, and Mrinalini Chandra, whose creations reflected a sense of whimsicality.
To Mrinalini Chandra, quirky is cool. “Have a seat, relax and enjoy the moment.” Her collection of jewellery has the chair as its leitmotif.
This ex-NIFT-ian, who pursued fashion in Milan and interned at the Montblanc headquarters in Germany, says, “I want to show how even a mundane experience such as sitting in a chair can be cherished. When was it that we last sat and simply admired the form and beauty of a well-crafted chair or soaked in the beauty around us while seated?”
With functional rocking chairs to ornate peacock thrones adapted to interesting silhouettes, Mrinalini implies that designing haute seats are also about mechanics and movement. “It was a huge challenge. I had no reference points, so seeing the designs come alive was a big reward. I worked with veteran craftsmen who have never done something so offbeat.”
Mrinalini embraces the unfamiliar in her choice of material as well. Customised gold alloy and recycled glass stones, some semi-precious stones perk up a line of earrings, finger-rings and neckpieces.
“Quirky is a state of mind. It never goes out of style. Every woman, at some point of time, likes to break away from monotony. The first piece I designed was a tessellated neckpiece for a competition by the World Gold Council during my days at NIFT, New Delhi. My name figured on the top 20 list. It encouraged me to think differently. Now, my karigars are happy they are able to push boundaries with new designs. And I’m excited to provide an avenue for people to experiment with their jewellery.”
Talk about top Bollywood celebrities Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor wearing her creations, and she smiles, “We are a cinema-driven culture, so I’m delighted to see celebrities donning the label. But the most important thing to me is to keep this journey beautiful — with a touch of whimsicality, of course!”
Mawi’s powerful colour compositions and emphasis on craftsmanship give-away of the country of their origin. But the Manipur-born, New Zealand-educated, New York-bred and London-settled celebrity designer — who launched the luxury accessory label Mawi 12 years ago with husband Tim Awan — says that though her sensibilities reflect her Indian roots, they also come from other cultures. “It’s homegrown, no doubt, but the different countries I’ve lived in have also shaped my aesthetics and vision for the brand. India continues to inspire me. From sequined saris to kajal and jewellery, Indian women are decked up from 7.00 a.m. It’s not a culture that reserves jewellery only for special occasions. Minimalism is not part of our moorings. We love decorative elements.”
The clean lines and streamlined silhouettes in her collections come from what she absorbed from the West. “The brand is a melting pot of influences – old school and new school, ethnic and contemporary, East and West. What gives design its dynamism is the range of references.”
Mawi made headlines in the U.K. when her brand won the British Fashion Council’s New Generation Award consecutively for three seasons. Many more laurels later, the brand also featured in the Professional Jewellery Hot 100 list in 2012. “I think I was doing the right thing at the right time,” says the designer who has collaborated with iconic brands such as Swarovski, Hugo Boss and Disney Couture. “Such creative collaborations propel both brands to reach a wider audience. It’s a win-win situation, but the challenge lies in collaborating without losing your signature.”
Having spent her childhood in India, cutting up her mom’s vintage clothing and recreating them into something else more interesting for herself, Mawi knew she wanted to be a designer. “From dolls to dresses, I’ve dabbled in creativity from a very young age. It was an organic transition. I just went with the flow, and look at where I am! I want to launch my clothes label soon.”
Mawi was at Lakme Fashion Week to participate in a show with celebrated couturier Gaurav Gupta, in which she presented a retrospective of her work. “It’s the best of Mawi. It encapsulates everything we have achieved so far as a global brand.”
Mawi is not interested in discussing trends. “There’s no one overriding trend nowadays. I’d suggest we celebrate individuality and evolve our own distinctive forms of expression. That’s what style is about. Jewellery cannot be dictated by seasons. It’s something that should not get dated.”