Tuesday, 25 February 2014

ALIGHIERI - The Interview


If you haven't come across the delectable, jaw-dropping-ly BEAUTIFUL jewellery pieces from ALIGHIERI JEWELLERY you're missing out. These are the pieces you'll want to wear all summer - pairing them with luxe white trouser suits, the season's glorious ice cream pastels and everything and anything in-between. I, very luckily, managed to catch up for a quick Q&A with the designer behind the brand, Rosh Mahtani...

Q1.Has jewellery design always been your forte? Was it always about designing jewellery or did you branch out from another area?

‘Jewellery design sort of found me. I always enjoyed making things, but I never studied design, per se. My degree was in languages and literature at university – after graduating, during sleepless nights, I worried about how I would stumble across the ‘perfect’ career. I started to design and mould jewellery, out of wax. Somehow, it all came together; I became obsessed with designing, and watching my ideas come to life – that’s how it turned into a business venture for me. It was quite an organic process.

But no, it was never all about jewellery. It was always about art in a broader sense – I was particularly interested in the way in which writing and designing could come together.’

Q2.Tell us a little more about your design background...where did you start off? Did you intern or work for other designers before branching out on your own?

‘I am entirely self-taught; I did a one day course on wax carving, and then just made up my own rules! I think that’s why I enjoy it so much, I’ve never been great at following specific guidelines. I always think, why, why can’t you just take the wax to the flame and see what happens! This mentality is not very commonplace in the jewellery industry where precision and perfection are so paramount.

I did intern for other designers, namely Estelle Dévé. It was with her that I learnt so much about the industry as a whole - the process of pitching a collection to Buyers and Press. I also interned for various fashion magazines, where I saw the other side of it – how editors go about organizing shoots, finding designers and the like. So I had a year of exploring the industry from many different angels.’

Q3. Why the name 'Alighieri'? How did you come across this name?
‘I studied Dante Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy’ in my 4th year at Oxford University, and I was lucky enough to be taught by some incredible professors, who were so passionate about the text. This passion was contagious, and I started imagining the characters from the Dante’s poems, in three dimensions. Serpents wrapped around my wrist, foxes heads hanging on chains, and bark-like rings, weaving themselves across my fingers. Dante wrote in Florence, in the 14th century, at the same time that Michelangelo painted frescos, and carved the David, at the same time that artisans built gilded doors, and bronzes galore. So making jewellery, inspired by the creatures of Divine Comedy, and the canon of art it embodies, seemed like a very natural fit. ‘Alighieri’, also represents for me, the idea of travel and learning, of making terrible mistakes and telling stories. I started my collection with the aim of making one piece of jewellery to portray each of the cantos in Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy ‘– there are 101 canti, so it’s a continuous work in progress!’

4. Who were the designers you were inspired by when you were growing up?
‘Growing up, I looked at Stella McCartney’s work in awe – I dreamed of wearing a crisp white shirt with a beautiful suit. I have always been inspired by simple things; as a young child I was obsessed with Prada- my aunt had a black Prada backpack that I thought was the coolest thing in the world.’

5. Who inspires you now?
So many people! In terms of designers, I love Simone Rocha – the mixture of masculine and feminine. I’m coveting 3.1 Phillip Lim’s SS/14’s white structures worn with tonnes of gold jewellery, and J.J. S Lee actually makes me want pink in my wardrobe! I only every really wear neutral coloured clothes – my friends joke that I’m afraid of colour. I like to be monochrome, with lots of stacked gold jewellery. On a personal level, I am totally inspired by my father, as he has the most amazing tenacity and sense of humour.’

6. Your latest collection of creations are truly beautiful - what is the inspiration behind this collection?
‘Thank you! As I mentioned, I designed each piece from a story in Dante’s Commedia; however, emotionally, I would say that this collection was very much born out of feeling a little bit lost and battered from my travels! I spent some time in Australia after graduating, and travelling around Europe. Hence the way in which all the pieces are a little bit scraggy, and imperfect. I personally think that the storms they have weathered make them all the more beautiful. Each piece tells a story, and will have more stories to tell as it travels with its new owner.’

7. Do you have a favourite piece?
‘I think the Claw Ring is my favourite piece so far; maybe because it was one of the first pieces I sold. It also has a lot of sentimental value – you can wear it as a solitary gold claw, or in a pair, one stacked on top of the other.’

8. If you could choose any celebrity or a famous face to wear your designs who would it be and where would they be?
‘Am I allowed to choose a fictional character? It’s a bit of a cliché movie to quote, but in a dream world, I imagine Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly wearing Alighieri jewellery as she frolics around Manhattan, being the silliest, most beautiful girl – stealing animal masks from newsagents, and scrambling in her bag for the last cigarette. She epitomises that ‘hot mess’ that is a little bit all over the place! That’s sort of what Alighieri embodies. In a contemporary context, I would love to see Alexa Chung in my designs.’

9. If you could collaborate with a high street store who would it be?
‘Cos. The majority of my wardrobe is from Cos! I would love to see my jewellery in that minimalist context.’

10. Where do you see the brand in 5 years time?
‘I would love to see Alighieri as an established name in the jewellery industry in five years’ time, but also in the context of the art world. I see the brand collaborating with writers, other artists and photographers, in the design process. I want to create a story that would be at home in galleries such as the V&A, and the Design Museum, as well as boutiques. I also see Alighieri having roots in Florence – the collection is so entrenched in Florentine history, as well as personal memories of the city. I hope to have a complete 101 pieces in five years’ time!’ 

Rosh - thank you once again for your time!

All images are sourced from White Smoke Communications/Alighieri Jewellery


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