Mumbai-based jewellery designer Razia Kunj's Theyyam collection is the season's best wearable art
If you are missing Razia Kunj’s stunning artisanal pieces from your Instagram feed, you’re not keeping up with the right names. The Mumbai-based designer is creating niche wearable art influenced by some of the most nuanced cultural narratives of the country. You may have spotted Vidya Balan sporting some exquisite hand-painted earrings from the label’s Theyyam collection during the promotions of her film Shakuntala Devi; the line-up has been inspired by the ritualistic art form of North Kerala and the pieces have been put together by the traditional Patwa community.
“Art is a process of translating your ordinary experiences into extraordinary form. I believe the process of creation comes from the subconscious and through our hands we can access this source. Making by hand is the ritual with which an artist breathes life into anything that ignites their imagination. That’s why I like to call it wearable art. With my jewellery I wish to put forth the value of heritage and the history behind each piece,” Razia tells us. We caught up with the artiste to explore her label further.
Tell us how the label began
I shifted from advertising design to jewellery designing 4 years ago, I hardly see it as a shift, to me it is an extension of what I was always doing. I apply the same principles to stay inspired and relevant, every design has to be different and teach me something new. With no background in jewellery I had to go through my own learning curve. But I am pleased about getting noticed in an industry that is quite saturated by jewellery designers.
It is not easy for a woman to balance family and her career, I am blessed to have an understanding family, especially my husband, who’s both my critic and my support.
Tell us about the new Theyyam collection, what are the elements you’ve focused on?
I have introduced more metals this time and worked with contemporary designs without compromising on the essence of storytelling. This collection brings alive the traditional and ritualistic culture of north Kerala. There are almost a 100 forms of Theyyam, it’s difficult to capture an art of such magnificence in all its glory. But I’ve tried to capture the magical surrealism and do justice to the unassuming charm of Theyyam.
The masks, the body painting, the headgears… the Gods come alive in every detail. Having conversed with the members of the communities that are privileged to perform Theyyam, I wanted to evoke the sense of devotion they have for their art, through mine.
Why do you think your label has found such a strong resonance with Bollywood?
I think Bollywood has always been looking for something 'hatke' or different, a unique and contemporary interpretation of traditional art and belief in the form of jewellery.
Has the Covid crisis affected your artistic process, or your work in any way ?
Covid has accelerated the move of customers from offline to online, that we had anticipated. Retail stores and exhibitions are no longer the only options for designers, today the online medium is getting me the reach I would not have otherwise been able to achieve.
We are living through a time where a few people no longer control what the world sees, social media has democratised every industry. So there is an equal opportunity for everyone irrespective of your size. We have to create products that will be able to sustain through the changing times.
The Theyyam collection starts from Rs 1,400