On February 8, Sabyasachi debuted its latest High Jewelry collection in ongoing collaboration with Bergdorf Goodman, the iconic retailer at the Jewelry Show at 754 Fifth Avenue in New York City. The exclusive collection includes pieces such as The Byzantine Cravate inspired by men’s tailoring for women and Gustav Klimt. Golden Phase. The Moulin Rouge Suite brings together jewelry, craftsmanship and aesthetics from the medieval, Byzantine, Georgian, Victorian, Italian and Bengali Renaissance movements. And the Bagan necklace, made in homage to the traditional garden necklace of Bengal, celebrating the best of the region’s metalwork and craftsmanship to celebrate the plenitude of tropical flora and fauna.
In an exclusive interview, ace designer Sabyasachi talks about his love for jewelry, the effort to preserve Indian craftsmanship in jewelry, the return of gender-neutral aesthetics, and a possible pre-Oscars exposure with a prominent American retailer. Edited excerpts:
You once said, “I prefer traditional clothing through the lens of maximalism or minimalism. The middle ground leaves me cold.” Does your jewelry follow the same notion of nothing in between?
Yes absolutely. My consumers are conscious of their choices and want to invest in traditional products that are unique and portable. They’ve gone beyond the in-between and into statement jewelry or everyday pieces that can be worn easily and repeated often. My aesthetic ranges between the maximum and the minimum, since that is where I see the ideal balance between design, craftsmanship and authenticity.
Most of the sets in his workshop become heirlooms that are passed down from generation to generation. Does his jewelry also belong to the last generations?
Jewelry, even more than clothing, is made to last for generations. This is one of the only categories that not only lasts a lifetime, but its value increases even during the consumption process. Whether it is the precious nature of gemstones and gold, or the value of the finest and most exceptional craftsmanship, jewelry will always be the original heirloom.
India has been synonymous with superlative jewellery, each region with its own distinctive style. Is Sabyasachi Fine Jewelry a tribute to the master goldsmiths of Calcutta, known colloquially as the babu?
Story continues below
I remember spending hours rummaging through my grandmother’s closet as a child. She was obsessed with his sparkling Benarasi sarees and her jewelery box. Her most prized possession was an old handmade necklace from Calcutta’s most famous jeweler, Hamilton & Co, which was once considered the Tiffany of India. The sheer excitement of discovering something so special is deeply emotional. It was much later that I understood the value of that piece, which was forged by the best jewelery artisans of Bengal, with a craftsmanship that was rapidly disappearing. It was then that I realized that some of the best artisans and jewelers in India are from Bengal. With Sabyasachi Jewellery, my mission has been to reclaim this historic legacy of craftsmanship. All I create is a rebirth of the depth of craftsmanship and culture of Kolkata. I truly believe that Kolkata was the seat of luxury and luxury will return to Kolkata.
And what has been done to make this legacy thrive again?
I am very happy to say that over the last seven years of Sabyasachi Jewellery, we have seen a wave of reverse migration of master artisan jewelers from Bengal back to Kolkata. Currently, all our jewelery including the High, Fine and Heritage collections are conceptualized and made within the brand’s Jewelery Atelier. In addition to a team of highly trained gemologists and technical designers, Sabyasachi’s Jewelery Atelier employs around 50 in-house artisans and master craftsmen, including goldsmiths, setters, engravers, Meenakaars (enamelers) and Patwas (hand stringers) specializing in heritage crafts and techniques. . Most of whom had moved away from Bengal and have now returned. We also work with various artisan communities in West Bengal, Rajasthan and parts of South India as part of the brand’s commitment to revive the endangered heritage jewelery craft such as Jadai (hand setting), Partaj (engraving) , Chitai (embossed), Nakashi (embossed). ), Meenakari (glazing), Pohai (stringing) and inlay work.
He is credited with the return of facial framing nath (nose rings) and maangtikas as an essential item for every Indian bride. And the Royal Bengal Mangalsutra created quite a stir. Tell us more about the idea and the dominant motives in this segment.
For culture to be relevant it needs to be dynamic. As society evolves and changes, many symbols, motifs and designs evolve with it. The modern investment is based on portability, fine craftsmanship, a unique design proposition and frequency of use. It is luxury conscious consumerism done right. And this is beautifully embodied with jewelry. Taking the Royal Bengal Mangalsutra, for example, we wanted to create a statement piece of jewelery that is special and precious, but can be worn with both traditional and non-traditional clothing. It was crucial to give it dynamism. My motifs are hyper Bengal: the palm tree and the Bengal tiger, one symbolizing regional pride and the other symbolizing empowerment.
In ancient India, men and women were overconfident. Her jewelry even blurred the lines of gender-segregated aesthetics. Is there a resurgence in demand for jewelry from men? If so, what are your preferences?
Today’s world is gradually moving away from gender differentiations and binaries. We go back to the classic idea of jewelry where we weren’t restricted by a gender-separated aesthetic. I am creating heirlooms for today and for generations to come. I hope to create jewelry for a future society and culture that is not limited by current gender norms.
Indians have always considered gold as an investment. Do they now buy jewelry like collectors buy art?
In the coming years, as synthetic stones and lab-grown diamonds become more and more common, there will be nothing rarer than great craftsmanship. Craftsmanship is what will stand the test of time. And my mission is to preserve and rejuvenate the legacy of Indian artisanal jewelry.
I believe my clients are conscious consumers: they want to buy less, but buy better. And I want to offer you the best. Our jewelry is made with the finest traditional craftsmanship using superlative natural gemstones set in gold, each with a unique design proposition – these pieces are made to stand the test of time, but they are also made to be worn again and again and not lock itself in a vault after a single use. As beautiful and special as they are, they are also versatile and can dress up today’s wardrobes. That’s the change I want to bring with my jewelry: it’s not just a good investment, it’s a beautiful thing that you will want to wear and delight in.
In recent years, she has had several jewelry collaborations, first with the World Gold Council and Tanishq, and most recently, an exclusive line of diamond earrings, with Forevermark (a subsidiary of De Beers). Are there more collaborations in the works?
We have an exhibition at Bergdorf Goodman in New York in February, followed by a possible showing of our jewelry in Hollywood for a pre-Oscars exhibition with a prominent American retailer; That is why my mission is to showcase the best of Indian jewelry and craftsmanship around the world. , he continues.
Was there any difference between approaching and creating jewelery for a New York-based brand like Bergdorf Goodman and for Indian buyers?
Never. I create iconic products for connoisseurs of luxury and appreciators of superlative quality and craftsmanship. Be it India or USA, we do not differentiate our products.
Everyone loves a fine piece of jewelry, but not everyone can afford it. How important is an affordable price?
More than affordability, what I focus on is value. People have moved from affordable purchases to budget purchases. If you create value, there is a customer at every price level.
You say that the future of the Indian jewelery industry will depend on professionally managed companies, whose founders possess a unique design advantage. Do you think Indian jewelers adhere to this standard?
Unfortunately, in India jewelry is still sold as a commodity. And what you end up seeing are tired designs, diluted craftsmanship and an insistence on following trends. Indian jewelers must understand that if they want to survive, grow and evolve; They have to move from design-based manufacturing to design-based manufacturing.