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December 11, 2015

This Is Why Notan Villa Is A Gem Of A Home

Text by Jayashree Menon. Photographs by Tejal Pandey

Vandana Jagwani, creative head of her father’s jewellery brand, Mahesh Notandass Fine Jewellery, would rather spend time in her family bungalow than anywhere else

She’s small and sweet, her almond-coloured eyes impossibly large in a face made smaller by a severe bout of viral that she’s recovering from. She’s Vandana Jagwani, the 23-year-old creative head of Mahesh Notandass Fine Jewellery, her father’s eponymous jewellery brand.

I’m meeting her at Notan Villa, her beautiful family bungalow on Pali Hill in Mumbai, right next to Gulzar’s Boskiyana. As I enter, I’m struck by the wall of unpolished travertine stone, characterised by the pitted holes and troughs in its surface. Travertine in its polished version is much in evidence throughout the high-ceilinged, beautifully appointed living room. “But I love the unpolished wall with its ridges,” Jagwani says, running her hand over it. She also has a particular fondness for the vertical garden, seen outside the French windows that run across the length of the room.

Born and brought up in Mumbai, Jagwani studied first at the Bai Avabai Framji Petit Girls’ High School in Bandra and then did her IB from École Mondiale World School in Juhu. “After school, I decided I wanted to study marketing and went to Babson College, considered to be one of the top entrepreneurship colleges in the USA, where I did my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, specialising in economics and entrepreneurship,” she shares. Not content with that, she went on to do her master’s in marketing from Regent’s University, London.

On returning to India last year, she had a short stint as an intern with D’Decor Home Fabrics and then joined the family jewellery brand.

“Initially, I concentrated on marketing and brand architecture, because that’s what I’d studied. I brought a fresh perspective and objectivity, having been abroad for so long. I also wanted to follow a more strategic marketing plan for our brand, and since the brand has always celebrated the dauntless spirit of women, we brought in Gauri Khan as our brand ambassador.”

Previously, the brand had had a long stint with Neetu Singh and Riddhima Kapoor Sahni, who exemplify the mother-daughter bond to perfection. Jagwani explains the raison d’etre behind the change. “I see Gauri Khan as one of the most powerful women in the film industry. Plus, she has a strong fashion sense and will change the image of Mahesh Notandass Fine Jewellery to a more glamorous one.”

Although the press campaign, where Gauri will be seen donning regal heirlooms, signature diamond pieces, heritage jewellery and cocktail bijoux along with gold ornaments, has not been launched, there’s been a digital launch and it’s already created a strong buzz. “Going digital was my idea. That’s the way of the future. It gives you a global reach, whereas in conventional media, the conversion is just around five per cent,” she says with authority. “Of course, there’s a press campaign that will be launched this month and the new collection will be out in October.”

As we move around the sitting room, she points to a series of three vertical paintings hanging behind the long, comfortable, suede Baxter sofa. “I love these paintings by Seema Kohli, depicting the three elements — water, fire and earth.” Besides the brilliant colours, each boasts the mysterious gold orb, the leitmotif of Kohli’s artistic vision. The black horn tables and olive-green chairs also add a touch of colour to this formal part of the room. A tiger stone dining table has a Terzani gold mesh chandelier hanging overhead, and a large and beautiful Nataraja, flanked by greenery, looks in from the outside. She points to the Hublot clock hanging near the adjoining bar. “I love that. Maybe because I have a thing for watches and keep ‘borrowing’ from my parents’ collection, including my dad’s Rolex and mom’s Harry Winston.”

Since Jagwani has unequivocally stated that her favourite spot in the house is the terrace, we take the lift upstairs. “It’s beautiful!” I exclaim, taking in the manicured lawns lined with colourful crotons on either side of the seating area. She immediately makes her way to the huge faux leather trunk table in the centre. She opens the trunk to reveal her stash of board games within. On the opposite wall, is a full-length screen for watching films. “This is my favourite place to hang out, whether with family or friends. We watch movies…play games like Monopoly, Taboo, Pictionary….” she enthuses. “I wanted to have a library here,” she confides. “But then my parents made place for my books in my room and now I love the way the terrace has been done up. I would not have it any other way.” The tripod camera in one corner, along with the hourglass, mini telescope and a 1747 Victoria station clock, add a vintage feel to this space. But then the extremely funky black faux leather bar and the adjoining gym immediately bring you back to the present.

Although she was supposed to be concentrating on marketing, Jagwani found herself getting more and more involved with the design process. With father Mahesh Notandass being a fourth-generation jeweller, and also the first Indian to receive an award from De Beers in Paris for the best diamond jewellery piece in 1996, her foray into jewellery design may seem genetically preordained but was certainly not easy. “It was tough,” she admits.

“As there was no way my father was going to let me loose in the design studio. So I started by creating small pieces like rings and bracelets that I could wear myself. These sold and now my father has a little more confidence in me as a designer.”

Jagwani is now introducing a new affordable line. “It’s younger and has more repeat value; girls my age can easily wear it every day.” She has on one of her own designs – a lovely diamond bracelet with evil-eye charms, and as I look yearningly at it, I wish I were a few decades younger to flaunt it myself, or had a daughter to gift it to! “I made a similar bracelet but with playing card suits (hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs) as charms for Diwali,” she adds, as she shows me some more of her designs — funky-looking maang tikkas and haath phools that can be matched with Western clothes for a party and are a far cry from their traditional avatars. She’s also designed evil-eye rings and others with enamelled motifs like fish and flowers.

On my way out, as I take a last lingering look at this extremely tastefully done-up house, Jagwani says, “You know, we really love our house. And there’s nothing better that my family (mother Deepa, father Mahesh and younger brother Harsh) like doing than spending time together at home.”

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