One of a Kind- Valliyan by Nitya Arora
One of the firsts to realize the potential for luxury, luxury-fashion-jewellery, Nitya Arora created Valliyan ten years ago. Now, the brand has become a household name when it comes to highend
fashion jewellery. Spirited, funky and some even psychedelic, Nitya’s creations are truly unique with a quintessential Indian touch. In a conversation with Vijetha Rangabashyam, she talks about the birth of her brand, her love for Art Deco, her future plans and more.
When you walk into Colaba Cartel, where Nitya Arora retails her jewellery brand ‘Valliyan’, you are reminded of a bygone era. First, the address speaks for itself – a narrow lane, off Kala Ghoda dotted with quaint little cafés,art galleries and boutiques and thenher store; the pastel walls reek of old world charm and every corner has somuch character. But as I climb up the rickety, little wooden staircase to meet Nitya, I see a young, warm person welcoming me, and when she waxes eloquent about her love for everything Art Deco, things fall into place in my mind. ‘My jewellery is just like me, very modern with an old soul,’ she says. And I couldn’t have worded it better myself; her jewellery exudes the charm of antiquity with hints of playfulness and quirk, which are all faculties of her own persona of course. “Art Deco is one of the biggest inspirations for my collections. I grew up on Marine Drive and around all these beautiful Art Deco buildings, so I am extremely inspired by them.’
Jewellery design is just an offshoot of Nitya’s general penchant for design. ‘In general, I am obsessed with the design of everything from my cutlery, bed linen to my home and wardrobe. I am very observant even about thing like the ceiling or a window – so I think my love for jewellery comes from my love for design. I always wanted to be an architect or a artist and I think being a jewellery designer gives me the best of both worlds. Jewellery is basically many pieces of sculpture and designing jewellery gives me a lot of freedom to play with materials, colours and textures and that’s very exciting.’ The entrepreneurial bug bit her at a rather young age. She finished her graduation in Mass Media and applied to Parsons School of Design in New York to study fashion. ‘I was bored in between, so I decided to create my own jewellery line and I took it to Bombay Electric as it was the most fashion forward concept store of that time.
They loved my jewellery and started retailing it the next day. In two weeks, they were all sold out.’ Today, ten years later, Valliyan has become a brand that resonates with everybody when it comes to luxury, fashion jewellery.
Nitya doesn’t have a huge set of designers who are working for her. Every piece is designed by her from scratch and they are constantly churning out many pieces that are all one of a kind. ‘A lot of them are handmade and this kind of cultural fusion is rarely seen. Valliyan has a deep-rooted Indian aesthetic but a very global appeal. One of my biggest signature collections is temple jewellery meets Rococo architecture where I’ve used temple jewellery aesthetic with a little bit of Rococo touch.’ My favourite from the Rococo collection is a pair of ‘Shell curve drop earrings’ which has so much going for it, from the detailing on the sea shells to the alluring baroque-ish curves and the bold display of colours. ‘This collection has done so well world-over because it is cross-cultural. I don’t like to see the same thing again and again. So, we take the same design, but we push the envelope a little bit every time. We keep creating new designs that are extensions of existing collections.’
Nitya believes that there should be meaningfulness in everything she creates. She has employed Bengali craftsmen who work on real gold jewellery, ‘they are really humble and skillful,’ she says. In addition, Valliyan has collaborated with really big factory that employs 500 women. Soon, Nitya will also act as the creative director of Estelle, a well-known fashion jewellery brand. ‘We are going to launch next month – this is a very interesting part of my career because I have bought Estelle when I was a kid and so has my mom. I didn’t imagine I would design for them some day. I am doing a modern line for people in their teens to those in their 40’s. – it is called ‘Nitya for Estelle’. It is going to be retailed in all malls and the jewellery is going to be very pocket friendly.’ And what is Nitya’s most prized possession when it comes to jewellery? Her grandmother’s antique emerald studded, diamond watch from Europe. She also happens to be Nitya’s fashion and design idol. ‘Valliyan’ the name also echoes a beautiful emotion, ‘My first association with jewellery is a pair of hoops that my grandmother gave me. Valliyan has a great ring to it and is very relevant to me.’ For those of you who can’t make the connect (like me), Valliyan means Baliyan (hoops) in Punjabi.
In the first fifteen minutes of speaking with Nitya, you realize she’s extremely confident and opinionated and her jewellery is evocative of those traits. ‘I think all jewellery pieces from Valliyan have a lot of soul. It is a very sincere and an honest label and very cross-cultural. It is for a woman who really knows who she is and what she wants. I would say a woman with a personality and well-travelled, well read and a woman who is sure about what she likes and what she doesn’t. It is not for those headless chickens but for someone who understands the worth of it. It is a very retro-futuristic brand – something we created 10 years ago is still relevant and I think it would be relevant for many years.’
No two jewellery pieces look the same here. In her ‘Iridescent Space’ collection there’s a pair of crescent earrings that are so sleek and minimalistic but also an overthe- top pair of star-spray earrings for someone who likes to wear big, bold jewellery. And then the ‘Hot Tropics’ is a riot of colours where her love for the Tropics comes through, ‘I am obsessed with palm trees and nature in general. And I am from the Tropics you know,’ she cheerfully says. Her team is also constantly doing a lot of research to see where they can improvise.
‘The thing about Valliyan is, we are not just a good looking design we are also an intelligent design. Though the pieces are big, they are extremely light.’ I couldn’t help but notice the evil-eye necklace she was wearing, which is a raving hit, as are her orchid earrings.
Like with most artists, inspiration comes from many quarters for Nitya, from a painting to a rug with ‘insane’ colours. ‘I get a spark sometimes when I am travelling or just as I am falling asleep. It is very hard to stay inspired when you are constantly in the pressure to manage a business. They were days when I was able to churn out 50-100 designs every day, now those moments come and go.’ A lot of her jewellery is crafted in copper and brass and her unequivocal love for Swarovski is very obvious.
‘Swarovski shines like a dream, makes you believe in fantasy and I love that. I love working with copper, it is very soft and malleable and it is the oldest known metal to mankind. Brass is also lovely. It is harder and if used well the luster and shine brass has is wonderful.’ Valliyan is not a one dimensional brand; they wholesale, retail and even custom-make jewellery. The idea of a bespoke precious jewellery line is also in the pipeline. Before bidding goodbye, I ask her if she travels a lot and after a long pause, she says, ‘a little too much’. And of all her escapades, Japan has had a lasting impression on her. ‘It was a very important trip for me in many ways and was definitely life changing. It is a full spectrum, from clean simple minimalist designs to completely over the top, kinky, weird stuff and everything is thought about. Nothing in that country is designed without thought. So, Japan really encouraged me to think deeper about the tonality of my designs.’