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‘The Middle East will evolve into more than a trading centre and become a strong product creation zone’

A staunch love for designing that erupted from an Indian classical dance, took Vinita Michael’s brand to the pinnacle where it stands today. She speaks to The Retail Jeweller World about the coming era and her expectations from it

When did you discover your love for jewellery?

As far as memory takes me back, I was always creatively inclined. My fascination with jewellery began at a very young age, since I started training in Bharatnatyam, a classical dance form in India. A Bharatnatyam dancer wears nine pieces of jewellery during her act, and each contributes to a vital element in her costume. 

However, it was much later that I started considering a career in designing and applied for a Bachelors’ degree in Design (B. Des) in 2004 at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in India. I had a specialization in jewellery and precious products. I later pursued gemmology from GIA in USA. 

What kind of designs do you think do well? What inspires yours?

The market today is ripe for all kinds of designs and techniques. However, in the last year, I have seen a stronger inclination towards personalized and multi-wear pieces. Overall, I feel that jewellery or brands that can establish a connection with their consumers do well — be it in terms of the product inspiration or brand story.  I am a very visual person and most of my work is inspired by my travels and artwork that I have been fortunate to see.  

How would you describe your style?  What is your design language?

If I had to describe my style in one phrase, it would be “elegant-chic”. I aim to create pieces that are unique and celebrate the wearer. These are not shy or minimal, and at the same time, I try to ensure that they are not overpowering either. 

Do you have any favourite metal or gemstone you like experimenting with?

At the risk of sounding cliched, diamonds can truly be a girl’s best friend. I love their sparkle and elegant brilliance. My appreciation for diamonds grew tenfold once I took up gemmology for higher studies. It is interesting how each diamond is unique in its colour, clarity, cut and carat weight. Not to forget the extreme physical conditions a piece of charcoal goes through to turn into a diamond — it is truly a marvel of nature. 

On the other end of the spectrum, I have a deep-rooted respect for Swarovski. The crystals are my choice of stones for my sterling silver line. I like how the crystal facets interact with light. They have a very refined bling. The brand’s innovative approach in cuts and shapes is very inspiring from a creative and technical perspective. 

Talk to us about some of your most memorable collections.  What is your personal favourite till date? 

 There are so many. “Impressions of a Geisha” is where we visualized crystal skulls as Geisha faces, “Flora Fantastica” was inspired by classic floral forms but was innovative in its mechanisms and wearability, where we introduced multi- finger rings and detachable ear-cuffs that were elegant and modern. And how can I forget the “Flights of Fantasy” falcon clutch! It inspired me to challenge myself in terms of the mechanisms and design ideation. I’m so pleased with the result and so thankful to everyone who supported me during the conceptualization and execution of the piece. 

What are your feelings about sustainable jewellery designing? How do you incorporate that in your work?

Sustainable jewellery is produced in a way that contributes to achieving the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of the localities where the product’s materials were sourced, mined and processed from. Its where the product itself was manufactured in. We aim to work only with responsibly sourced materials and have fair and sustainable operation practices. A few examples would be ethical and conscious design development.  Our sterling silver line is set with Swarovski crystals, which are produced using advanced crystal lead-free formula. We use upcycled metals and stones for sample developments. About 70% of our bulk production is made on order, which further ensures resources are allocated optimally. 

Where do you think retailers and manufacturers need to improve when it comes to the jewellery industry in the UAE?

I do see a major growth opportunity in design and product development. We have such a strong jewellery consumer market in the Middle East, which is very open and eager to see new, original and innovative pieces. But in contrast to that, there is not a lot of variety in designs or a manufacturing support available locally. 

2021 is the beginning of a new decade, what is your vision for your organization and the overall jewellery industry of the region?  

The next decade will focus on internationalization of the brand. We will look at strengthening our retail presence in the Middle East and try to enter the US markets. 

As for the Middle East jewellery Industry, I think we will evolve into more than a trading centre and become a strong product creation zone. With efforts already underway focusing on design and manufacturing, I see exciting times ahead for aspiring designers. 

What have been the learnings from the pandemic for our industry?

The pandemic offered a great opportunity for reflecting, learning and restructuring where needed — both for personal and professional skills, as well as applied business practices. 

As a creative community, many designers got together to work and I’m expecting amazing collaborations to reveal themselves in the coming months. 

What products, according to you, have done well in the UAE this year in terms of gold, diamonds, coloured gemstones, platinum or anything else. Are there any specific trends? 

From what I have experienced, jewellery for gifting was still very popular in 2020, especially personalized pieces with charms, engravings, etc.  The price range of AED 500 to AED 2000 is doing well in silver and gold. Besides, the bespoke hi-end luxury fine jewellery also did well. Mid-range jewellery did not see much momentum. 

How do you see the post-pandemic and current scenario in retail?

People are more conscious about how and what they shop for. E-commerce in jewellery has picked up greatly last year and will continue to be one of the preferred ways to shop. Also, consumers today want to invest in pieces that matter, pieces that are unique and can be worn and enjoyed time and time again. Multi-wear and kinetic jewellery will be popular. 

How has digital media and technology helped in the jewellery business and what would you like to see more?

Social media has played a pivotal role in helping renowned brands establish a personal connection with their client base, as well as emerging brands to create a unique identity when they have utilized these digital channels efficiently. Consumers today don’t just invest in the product. They invest in the story, the vision, the makers. They want to know why you are doing what you do, and an effective digital strategy can help you communicate these to your client base in a creative and cohesive manner.  Additionally, having an e-commerce retail channel has now become a necessity for all retailers. 

What is your advice for budding designers?

Do not underestimate the importance of quality design education and work experience. Discipline, originality, patience and perseverance are the building blocks of any successful creative venture.  

Courtesy: Retail Jeweller World News Service

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