Her label draws admiration from around the world. Meet contemporary jewellery designer Eina Ahluwalia.
Story by Preeti Barot
Here at Jugni Style we are strong believers in the words ‘Do what you love.’ And just like us, Kolkata-based jewellery designer Eina Ahluwalia believes in it too. After four years of working in the corporate world she quit her job to pursue and study her passion: designing jewellery. And what do you get when you combine love and dedication with the finest design talent and ethically handmade pieces? The answer is intricate, interesting, amazing and meaningful designs.
Read our interview with the designer to find out more about her craft and why her pieces are favoured by India’s leading editorial stylists and actresses like Vidya Balan, Sonam Kapoor and Chitrangada Singh.
How do you define your design aesthetic?
I believe that understated is more powerful than loud, and fine craftsmanship is more special. Meaning has a deeper emotional connect than fashion. So in each of my pieces I work to keep a strong message rooted in intricate craftsmanship, and this to me, makes the pieces precious.
The fact that each of my pieces is handcrafted is also really important to me. As an ideology, each piece is handcrafted by master craftsmen in Kolkata to keep alive skills that have been passed down generations, but are being lost to mass production. The craftsmen have the opportunity to earn their livelihood with dignity and passionately make one exquisite piece after another.
We are in love with your Love Respect Protect earrings. How did you get the idea to incorporate these words in your jewellery?
These earrings are a part of the collection Wedding Vows, which is a stand against domestic violence. I wanted to remind women that when they get married they need to make a vow to themselves as well. To love, respect and protect themselves even if the other person doesn’t.
How did this incredible talent manifest itself and when?
I completed my MBA and joined the corporate world thinking that’s where I belonged. Until one day four years down the line I realized that I didn’t relate to my life at all. I did not want to wake up a few years later and be 65, super successful, but having lived a meaningless life. I decided I wanted to do something I loved, and to live the quality of life I wanted – to have time to travel, trek, read, write, spend time with family and friends, do something meaningful, and wake up late every morning! So I quit and decided to make jewellery with the world famous master craftsmen in Bengal.
Is that how you started your own label?
I always loved silver jewellery, even though in those days in India it only meant traditional and tribal designs. If I wanted to wear something edgier and more contemporary the search was futile. So in January 2003 I set up my label, and decided to make contemporary silver jewellery. I knew nothing about making jewellery, all I knew was that I had a passion for silver and jewellery, and thinking about the new designs I wanted to work on would not let me sleep at night!
The first few years I learnt a lot from the craftsmen I worked with. From 2006 for about two and a half years, I worked as a consultant for a jewellery export company, looking after their design and international marketing. At their factory I learned the production process and traveled to jewellery fairs across the world (New York, Basel, Istanbul) to represent them.
What inspires you when beginning the design process for a new collection? Do you have a specific method of research or does the theme just come to you?
The creative process begins with a lot of coffee and angst. I have to reach within myself and sift through a lot of thoughts and ideas to find the one strong story that needs to be shared. This concept has to pass a lot of ‘meaning tests’- does it hold true for a lot of people, will a lot of people identify with it, will it add value to people’s lives, is the concept timeless, do we need to be reminded of it often through life? If the answers are yes then the concept is ready to be physicalized.
Where does your inspiration come from for each new collection?
My inspiration is most often life and my interaction with it. Travel inspires me too and I truly believe that the more you travel the more you meet yourself.
Books, music, art and architecture inspire me. It is magical how looking at a sculpture can make you feel things without it saying a word. Ordinary people who show extraordinary empathy, kindness, strength and courage inspire me. The concept comes from a place deep within, sometimes as a sharing of realisations, or a strong conviction, and at other times as a cathartic experience for myself.
What do you love the most about your job?
I realize that working on each piece with my own hands is a painstakingly long process; it requires patience, precision, a calm spirit and a quiet soul. It provides the stillness I always search for, it’s like Zen meditation, just sitting on the bench, shutting down your mind, and creating from the soul.
What do you like to do when you are not designing jewellery?
Travel, read, watch movies and sleep.
Most memorable person you’ve worked with?
Ruudt Peters, a pioneer in the conceptual jewellery movement. I was a part of a workshop with him in Holland and have met him and been in touch with him often since then. I have never met someone so humble and so wonderful in spite of being one of the biggest jewellery artists of his time.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Food: A good cup of dark coffee, an orange flavoured dark chocolate, Old Dutch cheese, cookie & fragola gelato.
Books: All non-fiction on spirituality, philosophy, psychology, creativity, art and artists, jewellery, women’s studies, Sikh art, etc.
Jewellery: Besides my own designs I collect pieces from artists and little antique stores across the world, pieces that have a story, that draw me in, inspire me, move me and puzzle me.
What were your dreams before any of this came into play?
I wanted to be veterinarian and then a psychoanalyst.
What can you not travel without?
If you weren’t designing jewellery, what would you be doing?
I’d be a travel journalist.
Which are your favourite travel destinations and what do you love them for?
I love Amsterdam for its brave quirky designers and artists, Florence for its art, food and people. Also Istanbul for the contemporary with a backdrop of history and New York for its energy, sense of freedom and space for everyone and everything to coexist.
Who is your favourite designer?
Kallol Datta for his emotionally loaded garments that are defiantly comfortable in their bling-lessness and reticent about their absolutely genius construction.
Aside from your own designs, what are some of your favourite pieces of jewellery, either ones that you own yourself or ones that you’ve seen?
I love the work of conceptual jewellery artists like, Ruudt Peters, Ted Noten, Gijs Baker, Iris Eichenberg, Christoph Zellweger, who redefined the meaning and raison d’etre of jewellery.
Do you have any tips on how to wear jewellery? Is there ever too much?
Jewellery should be worn as an amulet, as a reminder, as a personal secret. I like a few pieces of jewellery worn interestingly. But as far as it makes you happy, no, there is never too much.
Story By: Preeti Barot | Photography Provided By: Eina Ahluwalia