STORYTELLING THROUGH JEWELRY
There’s an intimacy involved with each piece of jewelry we adorn ourselves with that goes beyond the visual appeal. Our stories, values, and sentiments reflect in what we choose to wear, be it in our everyday pieces or heirlooms. For Roma Narsinghani, a renowned conceptual jewelry designer, the jewelry carries a deep connection for the maker and the wearer alike. It evolves from a concept to art by the hands of the local artisans, an intricate process that gives life to something truly beautiful for us to keep. At IKKIVI Zine, we had the pleasure of speaking to her about her journey of building her exceptional brand and the story behind its unique aesthetic, her latest collection Sundays Are For Love, the brand’s stunning use of visual storytelling, and more.
We are keen to learn about your exciting journey from being a fashion intern to a conceptual jewelry designer. What inspired you to pursue this particular role in the fashion industry?
I did not plan to be a jewelry designer initially. I have an art and design background and did my BA in London from Saint Martins College of Art & Design and pursued a Master’s degree in Fashion & Luxury from Instituto Marangoni. Once I moved back to Mumbai, I was trying to figure out my next move. Meanwhile, I was designing jewelry pieces just for myself. As I was about to get married at that time, I used to look into my mother’s old pieces for what I wanted to wear, and it all started from that point. Eventually, I met a jeweler and started making the pieces.
Once I was in Delhi for work and during Fashion Week, I happened to be there for the fittings where I was wearing a few of my pieces, such as my hair bun, a necklace, and a ring. That’s when I met the designer Anju Modi, and she asked me if I would like to give her the pieces for her show and if I have more of the jewelry. I lied and readily agreed, as I wanted to make this work, and excitedly went back to Mumbai on the same day. I sat with my jeweler day and night and worked on having the pieces ready for the show within a week, and came back to Delhi. I literally made my brand logo from scratch by writing just my name because they needed it for a press kit. Once the show happened, Ogaan saw it and picked it up, and another store in Delhi picked it up as well. And just like that, it all came together, and it turned into a brand. We never got a chance to reflect and understand as everything happened so fast. Since it started, it has been unstoppable. In the first week of our new journey, we did four collaborations, and we were truly lucky when the customers and the fashion industry responded well to our products. It was all by chance, and let’s say it was the right place and right time. Then onwards, I chased this direction for my career.
The brand has a beautiful aesthetic that stands out in the crowd. It’s more than just creating elegant jewelry for the wearer but also creating stories for each individual’s style. How did you decide to build a label keeping this aesthetic and idea in mind?
Masculine and feminine—Lord Shiva (Tryambaka Deva— literally meaning ‘three-eyed lord’) and Goddess Parvati (Haimavathi—daughter of the Himavan) play huge parts in the brand aesthetic. They are provocative and evocative together.
Be it the larger-than-life reality of the all-pervading Tandava of Shiva (dance of the God) or the all-consuming Lasya of Parvati (dance of the Goddess), both have always awed me. It shows up in my creative processes.
Geometric shapes drawn from the Universe, like lines, squares, rectangles, circles, triangles, and others, collate and collaborate to tell a story.
Eventually, like pieces of a puzzle, they fit in perfectly-imperfectly. No shape overpowers or suppresses the other.
Each is individualistic with its own alignment, sacredness, solidity, and illuminance. It is creative slowness in its absolute form.
Most of your jewelry comes in an elegant gold finish. We would love to know the reason behind this preference over other materials like silver that you would like to share with us?
I’ve always preferred gold as a finish, I guess it could be because I’ve always seen my mom wear gold growing up or because of my Sindhi roots, but we have started experimenting with silver recently and hope to create more pieces in silver in the future.
We would love to know more about your latest collections and the story behind each one. And is there a collection that is intimately closer to you to date?
I think we evolve with each collection - and the most recent evolution post-pandemic is reflected in our newest collection – Sundays Are for Love. As a collection, this one is based on a deep introspection of unconditional love among humans, relationships, and unapologetic and accepting intimacy. Making a shift to smaller, lighter, and more wearable pieces of jewelry while still connecting deeply with the wearer.
Lasya was a very special collection for us as well. It was a depiction of lord Shiva's relationship with Parvati. It’s the first time we used color in our pieces. It is also the collection that proved extremely successful for the brand.
It got us the sustainable design award at Helsinki Fashion Week, and we got selected as one of the super talents at Super Pitti by Vogue Italia.
We also create a lot of collaboration collections as well which are always learning experiences and help us push our boundaries.
A super special collab collection was created for Rahul Mishra for his show at Paris Fashion Week. It was a dream come true to watch our pieces strut down that runway. Definitely an emotional moment for us.
There is a stunning use of imagery for each of the brand’s campaigns. How do you think it helps express yourself and your work?
Storytelling is such an important aspect of putting a product out there. Every collection has a different approach and requires its own unique treatment.
I have to admit I don’t stick to any rules but go with my instinct when deciding the concepts for our campaigns, but there will always be one or two elements that one will see in all of our campaigns.
I am a shy person in real life, so the campaigns also become a way of expressing myself in a different light.
For example - we chose to depict intimacy for Sundays Are For Love because it was something I was always uncomfortable with for certain reasons, and I wanted to challenge that hoping I’ll learn something about myself in the process and get out of a block I created for myself. I have to admit, it helped.
How does the label encourage sustainability in its process, from sourcing raw materials to working with artisans? From your experience, what would you like to share with other brands about creating conscious jewelry?
Each Roma Narsinghani piece is handcrafted by a local artisan on order. His or her hands and fingers metamorphose the material into art—conceptual yet solid, complex yet simple, bold yet subtle, wearable and keepsake.
The processes used in crafting the designs are drawn from ancestral, eco-conscious, and old-world techniques such as Bidri, Repoussé, and chasing. The base material for all pieces is brass and reclaimed brass. The waste is reclaimed with care and absorbed into other designs.
Our policy is not to pay the lowest price from the biggest players in the market, but rather, we support smaller, local individuals; the price is higher, but the practice is fairer and more sustainable for the community as a whole.
We take pride in our happy employees and take their well-being seriously by providing them with a safe working environment and long-term job security. We believe in empowering them with new training, skills, and responsibility that take them to even greater heights.
We opt for finding innovative ways of using and recycling all our scrap materials, choosing digital formats over printed, choosing recycled paper when necessary, and using eco-friendly packaging for our pieces. Our pouches are 100% hemp, and tags are made with plantable seeds, and we use plant fiber compostable mailers for couriers.
We look forward to more artistic ventures of Roma Narsinghani in the future. Can you share with us any projects which you are most excited about?
There is a lot in the pipeline that I can’t disclose entirely. But think bio-materials, think metal craft communities.
It would be wonderful if you could share any advice for the jewelry designers passionate about entering this space?
Just be yourself, and don’t get caught up in the rat race. I read something that really resonated with me.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. - Viktor E Frankl
I’ve set this quote as a reminder on my phone that pops up every morning.
Interviewer and Writer PRERNA MALHOTRA
Layout and Graphic Design VEDHIKA HV
IKKIVI Zine is a property of IKKIVI by Founder NIVI MURTHY