Mita Banker’s pearls on Zoom and suits

A double strand pearl necklace with rubies and emeralds   | Photo Credit: Ravindran R

Pearls are shedding their prim, old-fashioned tag and enjoying a contemporary comeback. The New York Fashion Week 2020 set the tone, with designers such as Marc Jacobs, Prabal Gurung, and Jason Wu pairing their outfits with gorgeous strands and large, asymmetrical pieces. Since then, we’ve spotted these classics on modern tastemakers, including Harry Styles and Rihanna. And don’t forget, when Kamala Harris was sworn in as America’s first female vice-president this January, she accessorised her purple Christopher John Rogers dress with a custom pearl necklace by Wilfredo Rosado (as a sign of solidarity with her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, commonly known as the ‘Twenty Pearls’).

Designer Mita Banker

Designer Mita Banker   | Photo Credit: Ravindran R

The fact that the oldest-known gems are seeing a resurgence doesn’t surprise Chennai-based entrepreneur and designer, Mita Banker. “It’s always appropriate to wear pearls; they are evergreen,” she exclaims. The force behind 32-year-old fashion jewellery brand, Estele, Banker launched her second brand, Isadore, in 2018, to create collections that draw inspiration from her travels. Like her first line, the Ottoman Empire — the pomegranate design, worn for good luck and prosperity, was a hit among Delhiites when she exhibited there. “I pull out things from my travels. Then I research the ideas and launch my designs,” she says.

Channelling royalty

Banker is full of stories about pearls. “La Peregrina is the world’s most famous [the 58½ carat pear-shaped pearl was gifted by actor Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor],” she reminds me, sharing how pearls have always been worn as a sign of wealth. “Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth favoured them; our nawabs and maharajas flaunted them. Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur was famous for her chiffons-and-pearl look.”

A twisted pearl necklace from Mita Banker

A twisted pearl necklace from Mita Banker   | Photo Credit: Ravindran R

Now, she is offering that touch of royalty with The Pearl Souk, the ongoing pop-up at Evoluzione on Khader Nawaz Khan Road. On offer: seed, round and oval pearls, along with coloured ones — in grey, champagne, peach, and pink. “You could buy them in strands or bunches, and have a unique piece designed for yourself. For a bit of bling, you can have them strung with Swarowski crystals,” she says. If coming up with your own design is tedious, pick up something from the Isadore line of bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Asymmetrical drops, a twisted multi-strand neck piece with a dramatic knot, and a seed pearl cluster studded with emeralds are eye-catchers.

Basra basics
  • Banker sources her pearls from Hyderabad. “They come from all over the world, to be sorted by size, type and lustre,” she says, adding that the pearls from Basra in Iraq, and from Japan are the best quality. A word of advice: always buy certified Basra or you “could get conned into buying the khasi pearl”, she says. Since an original Basra could cost ₹30 lakh, Banker offers the ‘Basra finish’ in her collections. “It has a rare lustre and I located it in Hyderabad with great difficulty. I then get them dyed golden in Hong Kong because the best dyes are done there.”

“For the souk, I’ve created a half-black-half-white neck piece with onyx and pearls. There is also a jali bracelet,” she says, adding that customers must check out the seven-row necklace and the double-row pearl neck piece studded with rubies and emeralds. “These gems fit well with the corporate environment — team it with a suit or wear a royal saath lada haar with a sari.” So, when Zoom calls demand you look sharp at 9 am, don some pearls for instant glam.

Banker adds that you can also bring your heirloom pearls to the souk, where she will help you create new pieces. Or get them re-strung for free by expert patwas (artisans) from Hyderabad. “In Chennai, it’s difficult to have your pearls re-strung because none of the big stores will do it,” she concludes.

The Pearl Souk at Evoluzione is open from 11 am to 7 pm, July 28-29. Prices from ₹10,000 to ₹40,000. Details: 9840752100

Layers never go out of fashion

Layers never go out of fashion  

Tips for pearl care

— Do not spray perfume directly on your pearls, or they will yellow.

— Do not store them in velvet boxes (they will yellow). Instead, wrap them in cotton and store them in plastic cases.

— Pearls have to be professionally cleaned every five to six years. If not, wash them in mild liquid soap and put them out on a towel to dry.

— Pearls are usually strung on pure silk thread, which eventually gives way. So it’s important to get them re-strung every few years.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 9:08:42 PM |

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