Rare and risque: Lara Morakhia’s vintage silver jewellery is an exercise in seeking Zen
Lara Morakhia is first and foremost a spirited art collector. Her designs may have been worn by Oprah Winfrey and Kim Kardashian West, but Morakhia wants to steadfastly commit to her identity as a connoisseur because that’s key to decoding her discerning and rather encyclopedic design language.
“That’s how it all started, because I had collected so much incredible art in the first place! Most of my designs aren’t even on paper, they are in my head. When I see something that moves me, I know what I want to do with it. I love observing cultures and indigenious design legacies and that seeps into my pieces,” she shares.
Earlier this year, for instance, Morakhia (a doctor who never pursued design academically) debuted a line of exquisite hand-carved wrist cuffs that showcased the design ethos of the Namibian Himba tribe; made with PVC bangles the pieces were fused together with antique silver, and set with green jade, polki, pearls, and featured a gold centerpiece. Interpreting aboriginal and ethnic nuances in an urbane aesthetic is a big part of her creative process. Her newest line-up, for instance, translates erstwhile Indian architectural detailing into vintage silver pieces. In an exclusive interview the designer helps us explore the need for a meditative and individualised creative process in a world consumed by relentless output and marketability.
Your designs are really experience-led and personal…
Yes, they are an amalgamation of my travels and my experiences. I often use Buddhist terms for naming my pieces, which I think are relevant right now. We went through a lot of silence in the last few months amid a shutdown that allowed us to look within us. I usually work with vintage silver and antique real gold and every single number stems from a zen experience. For my newest line, I wanted every piece of jewellery to reflect this moment and this experience. In that sense, it is intensely personal.
You never went the brick-and-mortar way…
No, it was quite conscious. I started out in 2018 and everyone told me that ‘you cannot work without having a brick-and-mortar presence’. I was adamant that I can. I understand everyone wants to touch and feel anything they buy, but I know so many people who have had phenomenal losses and steered away from a flagship and gone back to a solely online presence. And I feel I haven’t lost out on anything.
Tell us how the pandemic affected your production
I would say I have been very lucky, since I had finished creating my new collection, though I did want to add some more pieces (the line currently has 42 pieces). And I work with some niche karigars in a small set-up. They had to go back to their villages in Bengal or the South, but they were on the payroll, of course. But things have been at a standstill and we’ve had to manage with whatever resources we had, but the appreciation we’ve received has been incredible. I think when people find something they really connect to, they’re ready to spend.
You have a steadfast clientele in Bollywood
Haha, yes, I think the fact that you can wear my jewellery with practically everything appeals to them. For instance, Vidya Balan recently wore a wrist-cuff by me along with a JJ Valaya sari; the cuff was made by me with pieces I had picked up from a Namibian tribe in Africa, which were then set in silver. That’s not something that’s ever going to be recreated.
I have no PR machinery in place, I don’t cater to a wholesale format where someone can order 10 pieces of the same design. I don’t recreate my pieces as they’re really individualistic, I think that appeals to many.
Travel is a big part of your creativity. How are you coping with not being able to travel amid a pandemic?
The thing is, I am a collector, I usually pick up art for myself and that plays a big role. Everything I’ve with me, inspires me in some way or other, so I don’t really need to travel. I always have inspiration to fall back on.
You have bridal buyers as well
Yes, interestingly, the bridal mind is often anxious about how to utilise silver jewellery for their entire look. But a truly artistic mind wants to wear everything, and not just real diamonds or old school gold as per the traditionalist memo. I say this because I realise how you can team up my jewellery with anything, I’ve worn them with kaftans, patolas, an antique sari
You’ve stuck with vintage silver and antique gold
Yes, when I started out there was nobody who was melding silver with gold, I had to devise the ways to use them. My karigars work so hard on these techniques and I had to myself get involved to check the heat during the making of a piece. It’s funny because some people tend to compare my jewellery with rather unfair parallels but people who buy my designs are the one who have some real perspective on what I make.