A Serendipitous Label
Luxury accessories brand Deepa Gurnani is a byproduct of an artistic allegiance between two creative souls. Deepa and Jay, the husband & wife duo, espouse their love for handcrafted jewellery through this brand that embraces couture techniques. In a tête-à-tête with Jay, he tells us what makes their label unique and how their symbiotic partnership helps them churn out pieces that are sheer works of art. By Vijetha Rangabashyam
What happens when two artistic minds happen to not just meet but embark a journey of life together? We get to experience jewellery that is visually breathtaking. Every piece from the label exudes a sense of bohemian charm whilst retaining its luxury. Graduating from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, Deepa has worked with the industry’s finest like Alexander McQueen, Emanuel Ungaro, Fendi and Marjan Pejoski. From them she learnt couture standards of quality and finish. Jay Lakhani, an alumnus of Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, pursued his passion for fine jewellery by training under the head designers of Tiffany and Bvlgari. The confluence of their creativity gave birth to a brand that celebrates ‘handcraftedness’ through its creations.
Can you talk a little bit about your background, how you chanced upon jewellery designing as a realm and how you met?
It is funny that Deepa and I didn’t meet until much later in our lives even though our families have known each other for generations – we have been family friends since our great grandparents. The younger kids lost touch with each other because I was not living in India. I met Deepa in New York while her sister and I were flat-mates. We hit it off instantly because we were both in fashion school at the time – she at Central Saint Martins, London and I at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. I come from a family of Jewellers and both Deepa and I have always had a very deep interest in fashion and a strong point of view. When we fell in love and decided to get married, we also brought together our love for design and a shared vision for our company. That culminated into our accessory brand Deepa Gurnani.
How would you define your label’s spirit?
We launched our label with the idea of experimenting with designs that are new and unusual, and produce elaborately embellished accessories of unparalleled design, quality and craftsmanship. We aspire to withhold the principle of “beauty, inside and out” in all aspects of our brand: from product design and finish, to the way we conduct our business.
Can you walk us through your latest collection?
Nomadic Nights is inspired by gypsies wandering in the night. The collection is dark and mysterious, very tribal and bohemian. The Swarovski crystal elements and semi precious stones add a sparkle to the pieces as if they are reflecting the moonlight in the desert. The collection consists of about 40 pieces with a mixed assortment of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, belts and hair accessories.
Would you say both of your creative process is always in sync? Is it much easier to work as a pair than by yourself?
We are both designers by education and occupation. Deepa has studied fashion, and I studied jewellery design. From the beginning we understood that we also wanted to merge our fashion lines together. We felt that it was possible because we were in sync creatively and on the same page about our design philosophy and the way we prefer to conduct business. Each of us has our unique strengths that we bring to the company, so that definitely makes it an advantage to be working together. I handle all of sales, marketing and PR, and Deepa handles all of logistics, accounting, and production. We only meet when we design.
Where do both of you draw your inspirations from?
We believe today, handmade is the true luxury. We have always loved the beading and embroidery techniques that are part of our heritage and that is a huge inspiration for us. Deepa and I are inspired by everything around us and come up with our collections when we travel to exotic places around the world.
From a spark (idea) to how it becomes a finished piece of jewellery, can you explain your creative process as a team?
Each collection takes about 3-4 months to design and plan. Deepa and I sample and create swatches working off our mood boards. We have a team of talented in-house designers that works with the Artisans to make our vision come to life. These Artisans work with techniques that have been passed down to them over generations, and we have trained them to understand the importance of global luxury quality and design. We always try to reinvent the wheel by taking embroidery to a new modern level.
Define the style sensibility of the wearer (audience) of your jewellery.
We are both deeply spiritual and we resonate with the qualities of a woman who is free spirited, well read, thoughtful in her choices, travels the world and understands the importance of jewellery that makes a statement while also being comfortable, long lasting and lightweight.
What materials do you like working with and why?
We always look to add a new element of interest in every collection and love working with varied components. This season we are using brass and hand painting it. We are working with beads, crystals, glass and resin from Italy that has also been hand painted, along with semi precious stones such as Labradorite, Amethyst and Quartzfrom Jaipur. We work with at least 500 different elements in our collections and making sure we can reproduce the exact same item every time is a huge challenge.
Every brand has its own sense of aesthetic. And people on the other have their own preferences. Your brand doesn’t cater to massproduced jewellery, each piece is unique. How do you find the balance of satiating your own creative desire whilst giving clients what they want?
When it comes to our brand, our client knows that they are getting something special. Hand work means “one of a kind”. People know that no two pieces can ever be the same, which is what makes each piece truly special. Our clients love this aesthetic and know that our brand gives back to these Artisans in order to preserve the craft of hand embroidery for years to come. This is what makes our creative juices flow.
How important do you think it is for a jewellery designer to be abreast with trends?
Deepa and I are both lovers of fashion, so we are always abreast with the latest trends. However, we are also cognizant of the fact that people expect something very particular from the Deepa Gurnani label, so we create pieces keeping in mind what the international runway trends are, but interpret them in that unique DG way that our clients love. Of course, as jewellery designers it is just as important for us to
create new trends.
What are some of the up and coming trends in jewellery?
Our biggest trend for the past couple of seasons has been the “Statement Earring”. We just can’t get enough of this look. Our focus this season has been on oversized hoops. You will be seeing a lot of this in our collection.
What kind of jewellery is most in demand these days?
Statement Earrings and fun bracelets! Our clients love to layer our bracelets with a great pair of statement earrings. The more “bling”, the better!
What is next in line for your brand?
We are looking to launch a capsule of handbags next season. These will be embroidered mainly on leather and we are excited about the collection.
Where do you think luxury fashion jewellery stands in the market today, amidst consumers and what does the future for this market look like?
People are always looking to accessorize and that is not changing any time soon. Both Deepa and I feel accessories complete a look. People like to express themselves through their accessories. The market is always looking for innovative items that look new and fresh. The future is strong because we are at a time where people are coming out of their shells and are willing to express their individual styles.
In your experience of travelling, which country do you find most inspiring for your line of work and why?
Both of us are mainly inspired by India. We try and visit various parts of India as each state has its own identity. India has such a rich heritage. The crafts and embroidery techniques that are spread all over India are remarkable. Visiting the local markets and meeting Artisans from various parts of the Country is what truly inspires our work.
What would your 2 cents be to an aspiring designer who wants to make it in the luxury fashion jewellery space?
Never burn any bridges in fashion. Aspiring designers have to understand that this industry is small and relationships matter the most when it comes to the business of fashion.