"Wear Jewels For Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner!"-Raj Mahtani

Jan 8, 2011

Fashion and jewelry are two worlds that will always interconnect. Jewelry will always be a complement to fashion, a complement to art. Perhaps it can even be viewed as art, as jewelry designer, Raj Mahtani believes.
Raj Mahtani's works of art are labelled as "exceptional jewelry" by Vogue India. Two years ago, Mr. Mahtani was the only jewelry to be show at Paris Fashion Week. His family has been in jewelry for five generations, and is continuing to thrive in the industry. I had the immense honor to be able to interview Mr. Mahtani about the world of jewelry, art, and fashion.
Mr. Raj Mahtani
Meera: You took over your family's legacy-did the company change its' style to suit yours, or did you change your style to suit the company?
Raj Mahtani: No, I think ours was a very traditional business, it was a very father-to-son, sort-of handed down, generational, extremely traditional business. When I moved in, I said I had to professionalize it, so that was the first thing. The second thing that I did was to change from a very traditional manufacturing base into a very design-based oriented company, where doing design using a Mughal sensibility but trying to make it very modern, very avantgarde was also part of the whole process. So it was a very conscious effort at making design the most important aspect of the business and trying to take it to a level where each piece was being created, we were doing one piece of a kind-very bespoke jewelry-and and also, in a sense, extremely avantgarde, but also very traditional.


M: Your theme for Couture Week 2010 was "Retro-New York Mughal Chic". Where did you find inspiration for this show?
RM: Well, the thing is, I am known for sort-of twisting things a little bit, and changing things around. Actually, when I did the show in Paris, I was the only jewelry to be invited to Paris Fashion Week, two years ago, and when I showed in Paris, of course, the  styles that I took there, were essentially very Indian in the style of manufacturing, but the end result, was pure modern drama. So, as a result, I took the thought, the idea forward, and said for the West, if I needed to do something, which is sort of new, something they hadn't seen, which is new to their eyes and their culture, I'd have to work, coming from here, because this is where I belong [India], so I didn't want to take that away from me, because otherwise what would be the difference between me and them? So, I had to have that basic, underlying Mughal sensibility, the technique of production was the same, the traditional one, But we made it into a very, very modern, sort-of Retro kind-of line, and I thought it would be fun because women in New York would really enjoy wearing my pieces, and that's how I came up with that line.
M: How does your jewelry affect the clothes that go along with it? Do you visualize clothes to go along with your jewelry, or is it just jewelry first, then the clothes?
RM: I think that it works both ways. I think they both need to complement each other; you have to have a sense of style. It must never be overdone, but you can be over-the-top. Those are two different things. Being overdone is not the same as being over-the-top. I love being over-the-top, because I think its' almost like wearing a lot more than one can handle, but that's not the case. Actually, it should sit very comfortably on your neck, if it is a big piece. So I actually like the jewels to play peek-a-boo with the skin and the clothes, because I think it should be that very casual, care-free, as if it sort of belongs there. As opposed to plonking it on your neck, and pretending you spent all your money on that one piece. I like the very casual, "Hey-I'm wearing a million-dollar piece!", but it is just there. It's not so in-your-face because of the way I carry it. So I think the clothes and the jewels have to sort of complement each other. I have no problem with the clothes cover a little bit of the jewels, aesthetically. I think that's the way it should be. Like the way you are wearing your pendent, (referring to the necklace I am wearing), on your polo neck, I prefer it like that, than on skin, because I think its casual, and you complement it and wear it in a certain manner which is not so obvious, but at the same time it complements the whole look. I think you have to be more  careful of the whole look, not looking at individually. 

M: What is your mantra for wearing jewelry? Do you have any "Do's" or "Don'ts"?
RM: Oh, wear jewels for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Be a diva always! My point is, if you are wearing tiny little things, it doesn't work for me. So either you wear nothing, or you wear something eye-catching or important in terms of a certain style. I am not only talking about cost-wise, even talking from a sense of style, a sense of design. So either you wear something, that, in a way, shocks, or in a way, is so much there, that you can't miss it, and it actually makes a style statement, or wear nothing. I don't like these little things that are in-between. When you wear these cute little tops or wear tiny little things that are just there because you have to wear something on your ears and go out. Then I think it doesn't do justice. It really depends on the person's personality, of course, but I generally don't like small, not meaningful  pieces of jewelry that are just there and don't make any impact. Then I'd rather that one didn't wear jewelry.

M: So is your jewelry bigger than usual? Do you like making it larger?
RM: Not always. Yes, I do, because I am known to be over-the-top, so I like large, baroque flavour of uncut, large emeralds and rubies, and over sized diamonds. I am known for that, and my style is really representative of that, but having said that, I like the thought that you can wear even one chunky stone, a large piece, as opposed to a little, dingily-dangly thing,  that is insipid.

M: Vogue.in stated, " ...a Raj Mahtani piece can be spotted from miles away." What do you believe, about your jewelry, stands out this way?
RM: Well, I think two things, Number one, its large, so you can't miss my signature pieces. And the second thing is that, there is a very definitive style which is Euro-Medieval-Mughal in essence, in the sense that it looks like it came out of your Grandmother's closet. It's got this very large, baroque flavor to it, but there is always an underlying Mughal sensibility, which sort of gives away the fact that its' a Raj Mahtani piece. And I think, that entire style, this mixing-I don't like to use the word fusion, I think its a word that has been misrepresented, and used very badly, but I like to think of it as a very modern piece with a very strong Mughal sentiment, or a very strong Indian line. 


M: You have collaborated with designers Ritu Kumar, Anamika Khanna, and Tarun Tahiliani. How did your jewelry suit their clothes?
RM: I don't just put anything on any clothes, I actually make a collection, just like a designer would make clothes. I actually produce a collection after looking at the clothes. So I worked very closely with Anamika Khanna, and when I saw what she was doing for Couture Week in Delhi, her lines were extremely modern, but her technique was very Indian-the embroidery, and the detailing was very Indian. So I created this line that was very sculptural in form, very avantgarde, but, at the same time, the detail was fantastic. We had beautiful stones, beautifully set. And, the intricacy, you could feel the intricacy! You could play with the piece, it was very soft, but at the same time they were huge pieces. And I did single pieces, like I don't do earrings and bracelets that are matching, no, I would do one big piece, like one big necklace, and I would do very small earrings or no earrings at all. I think you also need to see one stunning piece at a time, and I think that's what its' all about.

M: You told Hi-Blitz magazine, that jewelry will soon be viewed as art. What about jewelry makes it art and how will you contribute to the process of the world changing its view on jewelry?
RM: Well, I think it is already a work of art. I think we have been very harsh in our judgement not to assess it as a work of it, because at the end of the day the workers who make it are gold artisans. And the second most important thing about it, is that, of course there is generic machine-made jewelry, but for centuries before that, we have always made hand-made jewelry, all across the world. I think each piece of jewelry, by virtue of the fact that the stones are so mutually exclusive, and special to that piece, that they cannot be replicated. The stones themselves are so unique, in their characteristics of color and clarity and proportions, that that very stone will never be found in nature again, we are using natural stones. So by virtue of using natural material, I think already it qualifies as a work of art. Of course, if the workmanship is exquisite, and if you are able to take the design to the next level, because I think most of us are so complacent, we are so happy doing what has already been done in the past, that we want to copy. But the minute you start a thought process in design, and you are able to actually sit down and look of the various possibilities-today's woman, today's contemporary, how a woman dresses today as opposed to 25 years ago-then, you can conjure up a whole lot of designs that will actually make sense for the modern woman. And I think that, sculpture-we make it in brass, steal, zinc, whatever metal. The point is, you can do sculpture with gold and diamonds on the neck. And that's why I view it as art, because the painstaking time and effort that we put into every design is like creating a work of art, or painting. So, for me, they are the same thing and that's why I think in the future, people are going to be a little more fussy, people are going to want bespoke designs, bespoke styles, one piece of a kind, and that's why each piece becomes a work of art. Many of them will not be able to be replicated, by virtue of the work, or by virtue of the stones being used in them. 

M: Finally, what is the future of jewelry world? How will it alter or evolve? 
RM: I think jewelry is here to stay, and it is only going to grow, as people's dispensable incomes begins to grow, as people's lives improve and the economy begins to grow. Accumulation of wealth-jewelry is an important part of that entire setup-and as we go on, stones are becoming more and more rare. We are having to dig deeper and deeper into the earth's crust to get more precious gems and jewels and diamonds, because we have done open-pit mining, and used up most of the stones on the earth's surface. Now we are using sophisticated machines to go deeper and deeper into the earth. So the stones are going to be more rare, as times go by-Burmese rubies are already difficult to find, Zambian and Colombian emeralds of certain sizes are hard to find. I mean, for a certain kind of person who is very passionate for collecting and putting these types of thing together, just like the art world, the jewelry world is going to explode. I think it's going to be a terrific future. People will be more demanding, in terms of quality, in terms of style, and that will be the new challenge t be faced, but I think it's going to grow and grow into huge proportions. A woman is a woman, she loves her jewelry, there will always be weddings, the population is not slowing down-in that sense, jewelry is going to explode. I think people's tastes are definitely going be more refined, so you will see better quality jewelry, far more innovation in design. So that will the two things you will see in the future of jewelry.

Jewelry, like fashion, like art, is going to grow, as I learned from this interview. Thank you, Mr. Raj Mahtani, for the opportunity to look into the design world, and the future of the jewelry world. 

-M

36 comments

  1. Awesome interview and even more incredible jewellery!

    xx

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  2. Thank you! And these jewels look great!

    xx Marije

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  3. Thank you so much for visiting my blog, leaving a comment and for following it. I am so glad you like it and it really means a lot to me!!
    This is such an interesting article with such an inspiring man! I had never heard of him before but thanks to your interview I really love his work.
    I really love your writing, it is really interesting to read and your writing style is so entertaining-Keep up the good work, you have gained yourself one more follower!!

    www.modadelamode.blogspot.com

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  4. Great interview! The jewellery looks beautiful!
    http://haveyoueverfalleninlove.blogspot.com/

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  5. Great interview- he seems like a very interesting man devoted to his art, and his jewelry is gorgeous!

    Great blog :) I'm your newest follower
    stop by sometime, I'd love to have you
    http://www.materialtherapy.blogspot.com/

    x.S

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  6. nice interview and those pictures are really pretty

    http://berealbehappy.blogspot.com

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  7. WOW what BEAUTIFUL jewelry!

    thanks for stopping by B&R! love your blog! I'm Following!!!!

    xx.M

    www.bellesandrebelles.blogspot.com

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  8. There was so much I learned reading this article.

    I love the idea of wearing an elaborate one of kind jewelry casually and naturally.

    To adorn ourselves with beautiful works of art is the most natural way to show our unique selves. Woman have known this for centuries!

    Diamonds are a girls best friend:)



    ♥♥

    Ciao Ciao Bella Donna

    Check out my Give Away @
    http://hotfreezingfashion.blogspot.com/
    Sharing Lots of Love n Fun!
    ♥♥

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  9. Great post! Love the jewelry!!

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  10. Very Interesting post. Thanks for sharing the interview, and drop by me too when you have time.

    Cheers.

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  11. What a great interview. His work is amazing. Like, AMAZING. I need some of it in my life! J'adore! This was a really great post!


    Quench Fab

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  12. Really good interview, very interesting.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog, I hope you liked it and follow. I am now follwoing you and look forward to more posts. x

    The doll on fashion

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  13. amazing jewelry!xx

    http://www.theprovocativecouture.com/

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  14. that is such innovative jewelry! I love it

    xx

    sftrend

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  15. This is a great interview. You should be really proud! I love the title of this post- I want to make it my mantra!

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  16. Meera you are fabulous !

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  17. Hi Dear,
    How are you?

    I just came up your blog &. It's really amazing!

    Maybe we can follow eachother?

    + There will soon be another GIVEAWAY on my blog!

    Hugs &. Kisses, Valerie
    screamyourfeelingsout.blogspot.com

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  18. Good job for the interview. These jewels are precious! :D

    ellenreviews.blogspot.com

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  19. Hey Meera, thanks so much for nominating me for a stylish blogger award!!!

    http://www.chicsensibility.com/2011/01/ive-been-nominated.html

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  20. He is definitely talented. His pieces are really pretty. It must have been such an honor for you to interview a man of hia caliber. You got skills dear! Thanks for sharing.http://mypretaporterblog.blogspot.com/

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  21. You have a beautiful blog...and I melt for over-the-top jewelry.
    xx,
    http://fashionablepalette.blogspot.com

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  22. I loove the last two pieces!


    http://voguishblog.blogspot.com/
    x

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  23. Hey, I like your blog and your insight, you are very smart and you have great taste! You should try blogging about your own style! It's really fun. :-)
    <3, Kaila

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  24. In this period I'm totally in love with this type of neckalce... in fact I've just bought 2 pairs of them!!
    xx

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  25. Hi there,
    What a lovely header you have- I adore the gold bow.
    Keep up the gorgeous finds and inspiration!
    Meri
    merigoesround.blogspot.com

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  26. lovely post! thank you so much for stopping by, we follow you via Bloglovin'
    kisses!
    Sara and Emma

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  27. Wow those necklaces are something else! He certainly knows how to accessorize :)
    xoxo
    Olivia

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  28. I like this dresses:) Very original and glamour!

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  29. brilliant interview. you asked really great questions and his answers were so insightful!

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  30. wow the jewelry is amazing! thanks for sharing this post! Xx

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  31. Amazing interview Meera! You are such a talentend girl :) I luv jewellery and i found the best and most incredable pieces and designs in India and Dubai! The craft is amazing and a lot of the inspiration they take from the very old designs adding a modern hint! Great post girl! xxx

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  32. Hey meera, havent spoken to you in ages. I cant believe you interviewed Rag Mahtani. I'll talk to him about you next time i see him on Cal. Missing you xx

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