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Verve People
October 11, 2017

These Jewellery Pieces Are Crafted Out Of Indian History, Yet Have A Modern Flavour

Text by Zaral Shah. Photographs by Nishat Fathima

Hyderabad-based Swapna Mehta, known for her eponymous label, talks to us about piecing together vintage works of art

She nurtures a great fondness for art, architecture and textiles. Taking this passion forward, 46-year-old jewellery designer Swapna Mehta’s work blends various styles seamlessly; be it tribal, art deco, Mughal, temple, nakshi or Chettinad. Creating trinkets for both men and women, she first made her mark with her line Earth Princess, which was showcased by concept store Bungalow 8 in 2016. She wanted the collection to be local, global, and extremely versatile. As someone who’s always gravitated towards vintage jewellery, and who is unable to wear off the rack, Mehta’s journey began when she started collecting bits and pieces of whatever she could find and afford in the by-lanes of Hyderabad. Sharing an anecdote, Mehta reminisces how she once bought jewellery from an old lady who wanted to melt her heirloom jewels because her children wanted something new and fashionable.

From Inception To Finish
“If I stumble upon a piece with craftsmanship of a bygone era, with old gems and pearls, then no matter what metal or how badly damaged it is, I will use it. For me, it is a piece of history, of great handmade craftsmanship which, much like an old woven textile, cannot be compared to the machine-made products of today. The process is quite simple. I stitch the pieces together with a thread, and then my karigar and goldsmith replicate the same flow with a gold wire.”

Foray into the Profession
“I put together lots of tiny exquisite and interesting pieces and some damaged ones like single earrings. These I wear to weddings or even when I just feel like it. Soon, I had people noticing. It was jewellery that I could wear to a wedding or party as an interesting modern accessory without it overpowering my look with opulence, and secondly, it did not need to be locked away only for special occasions.”

A Few of Her Favourite Things
“The Kama’s Bow is one piece that I continue to treasure. It’s a stunning necklace where features from art deco Victorian pieces, South Indian temple jewellery and other traditional styles from Kutch, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and more come together in harmony. My first collection had this exquisite South Indian jadau peacock with an art deco-style tail in stark contrast. We converted it into a brooch and called it A Twist in the Tail.”

Source of Inspiration
“It stems from diverse corners of the world. I am a big fan of Geoffrey Bawa, Le Corbusier and Zaha Hadid. I have immense respect for artists, tribal and rural weavers and artisans. I have a list of designers that I crush on from time to time. In some way or the other, all these influences have shaped my work.”

Tests and Trials
“Sourcing old and used pieces of jewellery which have great craftsmanship and lineage is always a challenge. I upcycle them with new elements to tell a story with a twist.”

Best Of Both Worlds
“The ethos of my label is to be grounded in heritage, but not stuck in it. Having a completely modern style but respecting and being influenced by the way things were done in the olden days. It is for the fearless woman of today who makes her own rules.”

Wardrobe Peek
“I have a bit of an androgynous personal style and love boho vintage clothing too. My quirky style reflects in my personal life too. I could wear my bold jewellery on dull and boring days and sometimes not wear any jewellery on special occasions. I am a huge believer of conscious fashion and do not subscribe to the It concept.”

Niche Clientele
“India is largely a traditional-jewellery-buying market which believes in the ‘bigger the diamonds, the better’ concept and also follows trends blindly. Fortunately, we also have those who understand art, textiles and the history of our craftsmanship. These are my customers.”

Unconventional and new age
“I sure see my collections being embraced for destination weddings and by brides with a minimalist approach. It has traces of our heritage and isn’t conventional. We all love what our grandmothers wore, but maybe not how they wore it. It’s definitely for the new-age bride who does her own thing.”

Into the Future
“For the new collection, scheduled to be out in October, we are creating statement pieces woven like a delicate molecular lattice with the combination of various elements.”

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