One of the latest marketing trends is to use terms like ‘bespoke’, ‘fine’, ‘luxury’ to define your product, regardless if it fits the product or not… all in hopes to uplift the brand image. The word ‘bespoke’ literally means ‘made to order’ and that is what my this post is all about. My latest story ‘Bespoke Baubles‘, written for the April 2019 issue of Rapaport magazine, takes you across India for a conversation with jewelers and designers who genuinely offer this service to their clients, sharing the challenges that they face every day. Enjoy!
Four Indian jewelers discuss how they tailor one-of-a-kind designs to customer requests.
Extravagant kings and queens fill Indian history books, and stories of their luxurious lifestyles continue to inspire today’s discerning clients. Prét, or ready-to-wear, is a relatively new concept: For centuries, Indian fashion has been all about bespoke, and clothing and jewelry were mostly made to order. With a boost in off-the-shelf jewelry retail, however, personalized services have become a luxury that only a handful of jewelers can now provide, catering mostly to the elite.
Jewelry customization involves much more than changing the color of the center stone or making size adjustments. It is creating clients’ dream jewelry in the form of a beautifully crafted piece. Four Indian jewelry houses provide a sneak peek into how they realize these visions.
KISHANDAS & CO.
Kishandas & Co., in the heritage city of Hyderabad, is known for its heirloom collections. At Pratiksha Kishandas’s new bridal boutique, she works with brides-to-be to recreate their heirloom jewelry in more contemporary styles. “We work with many brides for whom we either make new pieces to complete their heirloom sets or sometimes design modern pieces with elements from the old pieces,” she says.
Due to their fragile nature, heritage pieces require the utmost care. “Depending on the type of piece, we decide whether it needs to be used intact or dismantled and its raw material used, or if new components need to be added. Keeping some elements intact helps clients associate with the new piece,” Kishandas explains.
Working with vintage pieces has also helped inspire new collections, such as the jeweler’s recent range of necklaces. “A client brought us an old rakhdi [hair ornament], a gift from her grandmother that she wanted the bride to wear for the wedding,” says Kishandas. “Normally, just adding some pearls or beads works, but for a bride, we wanted to make the piece elaborate. So we created a haaram [long necklace] that became so famous that now we make fresh ones also.”
Ganjam has been a go-to jeweler for many high-profile families in southern India since it opened in 1889. “We get young consumers looking for specific engagement and wedding rings, along with middle-aged to elderly customers who have specific requirements for solitaires or larger pieces like necklaces,” says Shreedevi Deshpande Puri, Ganjam’s creative consultant. “For bridal jewelry, clients come at least six to eight months in advance.”
For aficionados of exceptional gems, “the starting point could be a special gemstone or an old product of ours that the customer wants redesigned using the [existing] materials,” she says. Carat weight or price range could also be starting points for a bespoke order.
While the jeweler often receives requests to copy designs by popular jewelers, Puri says Ganjam politely turns down such offers, “as we cannot infringe on another brand’s intellectual property. [Instead,] we use it as an inspiration, along with a comprehensive brief that incorporates material, color, style and occasion preferences to create a new design.”
JAIPUR WATCH COMPANY
Bespoke watches are a new phenomenon in the Indian market. Gaurav Mehta, the founder of Jaipur Watch Company, makes one-of-a-kind timepieces for celebrities, athletes, business people and others who appreciate custom-made luxury. “We offer clients an open space to share designs or ideas that we bring to reality for them,” he relates.
Connoisseurs approach him with monograms, coins or motifs to incorporate into a watch. “The starting point could be anything — a design, vague sketches, their name, a religious symbol, or even an item of memorabilia that’s close to their heart,” says Mehta. “Personal interaction with the client is a must at every stage of design and manufacturing. The process is time-consuming but truly satisfying.”
His watchmaking approach challenges traditional methods. From creating distinctive watch hands to changing the placement of crucial elements, he has employed novel solutions to satisfy his customers’ requests. Handcrafted in gold or silver, each watch takes between two weeks and six months to make, depending on the complexity and innovation required.
SUNITA SHEKHAWAT JEWELLERY
A master of enamel and uncut-diamond jewelry, Sunita Shekhawat serves mainly brides-to-be, who often have special requests. “Mostly, the younger brides who aim for perfection and want to balance the color palettes come to us to match the meenakari [enamel] work of their jewelry to their couture and their wedding attire,” explains Shekhawat, whose company has branched in Jaipur and New Delhi.
Even the wedding venue and time of day play an important role in the outfit’s color scheme, including jewelry. “We follow the client’s vision and try our best to match their dream-wedding trousseau,” she says. “Once the exact color palette of the meenakari work and the jewel setting is decided, we immediately start the process with our artisans and meenakars [artists] at the ateliers of Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur. In most cases, a complete trousseau takes up to three months of skilled labor by our in-house artisans.”