Sparkling on the runway

Kochi designer Hasna Sal’s glass jewellery upped Archana Kochhar’s Warli-inspired collection at the recently concluded New York Fashion Week

October 05, 2018 04:59 pm | Updated 04:59 pm IST

United States-based Hasna Sal’s oeuvre includes sculptures, jewellery, and functional/aesthetic creations—all made of glass. Although her work was part of the New York Art Expo, exhibited in Europe, at the Dubai Art Expo, in Vancouver, Miami, and Las Vegas, she holds the recently-concluded New York Fashion Week (NYFW), at the Maarkah by FTL Moda show, close to her heart. Chosen by designer Archana Kochhar to accessorise her fashion week collection, Hasna designed jewellery to go with Kochar’s Warli-inspired collection.

While she was holidaying in Mumbai earlier this year, Hasna had dropped into Kochar’s boutique and showed the designer her work. Impressed, the celebrity designer invited Hasna to design for her NYFW collection. “She said ‘I love your craftsmanship’ and took my necklaces and earrings. She also gave me incredible pointers on how they can be rearranged to make the wearer look slender,” says Hasna.

Archana sent Hasna sketches of the designs (12 gowns) and a free rein to design. “She was very particular about the palette —black, white, grey and clear—but that’s about it. She encouraged me all the way introducing me to Warli through digital images which I studied at length. To have a designer like Archana believe in your work, and make you standwith her on a global podium was my greatest inspiration.”

The how-to was the real challenge. The designerwanted ear cuffs, ear rings, arm cuffs and no necklaces, none of which she had attempted before. Hasna terms designing the ear cuffs the greatest challenge of her career. “Because glass is heavy unlike metal. She sent me some samples for inspiration but although they were beautiful and elaborate in material and big, they were all metal and therefore lightweight.” Her dilemma was if the pieces were big then they’d be heavy and if lightweight then the ear cuff would barely show. This collection comprises five elements—glass, silver, pearl, quartz and exotic seeds—symbolising love, friendship, kindness, togetherness and creation.

The Kochi native quit medical school, took a degree in journalism from the London School of Journalism, and also studied Fine Arts before relocating with her doctor husband to the United States where she studied architecture in Boston. There she discovered the joy of working with glass. When Hasna moved to Kansas, she pursued a career in architecture and also taught design at the University of Kansas to students of architectural engineering.

Excerpts from an interview

It took 16 trials before you got the first piece right. Why?

Getting the perfect balance between the structural and aesthetic components was the hardest part, one cannot overtake the other. And I was working with glass and silver, both of which have mass and weight. My jewellery is not light, nor is it heavy that one cannot wear it. The weight is essential to maintain balance on the ear.

Warli and glass—how did you get them together?

Warli is a philosophy that the aboriginal tribe is conveying through their pictographs. All the images show only women and they project themes such as connectivity, togetherness, celebration etc. I had to take their two dimensional images and convert them into three dimensional forms in glass. That was the challenge.

How did you abstract Warli motifs, which have a definite form?

I identified the ‘pure’ forms in the motifs and translated them into jewellery. The circle, triangle and octagon were very strong in the images, and I converted the circles into ‘globe’ ear rings, the triangle into ‘pyramid’ and ‘diamond’ ear rings. The octagon shape was very powerful in the Warli design and making an octagon into a 3D form was quite the challenge but it turned out to be one of my stellar pieces. This way I keep the essence of the idea without imitating or duplicating the images. The images are on Archana Kochhar’s garments anyway; so the jewellery should not compete by duplicating, but rather enhance the garment by maintaining the continuity.

How did you achieve the curvature of design...for the cuffs?

It’s a symphony of metal threads and bead work. Silver threads provide the malleability or ductility to the curvature of the ear so each piece could be moulded to the wearer’s ear.

The process of creating this collection.

I worked on each piece in multiple stages, using a variety of raw glass from New Zealand and Italy. Each piece is layered so light can pass through and do magical things. I’ve used opaque glass for the day-wear pieces and translucent glass for evening wear. Each piece was constructed, de-constructed and reconstructed multiple times before finding that perfect balance of form, function and aesthetic. Each piece has then been annealed for days to achieve structural strength. It takes days and weeks to construct each piece and I work alone. I have no helpers or partners, because no one has my experience in this field. I melt the glass at 2000 degree flame and that’s how the process begins. It takes a lot of time, abundant patience and quite a few burns to achieve each piece. For every piece, there are a few rejects. But it’s fun and challenging, and I enjoy it every single’s my oxygen!

Hasna retails at Kochi, Bengaluru and Mumbai.

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