Designs with an Indian soul and a global spirit

After graduating in accessory design from NIFT, Delhi, Puja Bhargava Kamath decided to explore various sectors that interested her rather than confining herself to just one. So she took the freelance route and took up projects across sectors like jewellery, crafts, interiors and leather goods.

However, after some years of providing design services to leading national and international jewellery houses and working with craft clusters across India, she decided to venture into producing her own designs. And it was silver jewellery where her passions converged: working with crafts and traditional skills, jewellery, and history. So, taking her love for the metal further, she launched ‘Lai’, an indie jewellery label in 2011.

“I felt unexcited by the same-old designs that were in the market at that time and wanted to create jewellery that was contemporary — not in a stark, clinical way, but one that celebrated Indian minimalism, was wearable, relatable and most importantly, affordable. Our designs continue to be very personal and come from a place of my preferences and influences at any given point,” says Kamath, who has also taken courses in gemology and art appreciation.

Lai, a Sanskrit word that means ‘the beloved one’ and also a word in old French for a ‘lyrical, narrative poem written in octosyllabic couplets that often deals with tales of adventure and romance’, is a California and India-based label that designs and manufactures culturally-inspired collections of handcrafted sterling silver jewellery, which are made in Jaipur by expert artisans using time-honoured techniques.

“At Lai, we don’t believe in putting out just pretty pieces of jewellery. Every collection starts off with a theme, an inspiration and a story which usually is a place I’m fascinated with at that point or have travelled to (such as our Samarkand, Alhambra, Kinner Kailash and Kutch collections); a culture and its aesthetics (our Greek, Nilaj(a), Kashmir and Mughal collections); iconic motifs and their history (our Paisley, Mehndi and Rangoli collections); or craft skills (Bidri and Nathdwara collections),” she tells Metrolife.

Kamath says she spends considerable time soaking in all kinds of information about the theme she is working on. Exclaiming that research, curation of ideas and sketching out the collection are her favourite part of the job, she says that at the core of their every collection are definite characteristics, forms, motifs and craftsmanship that encompass the spirit of its inspiration.

“Our product range is primarily women’s jewellery — earrings, rings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, bangles, nose pins, hair clips and other hair ornaments like bun pin. We also do cufflinks for men and do intend to widen our offerings in men’s category. Our designs are essentially made in sterling silver, though I do love to occasionally combine it with other materials like glass, antique coins and work with techniques such as enamelling, Bidri and gold plating, as per the theme, to break the monotony of an all-silver look,” she shares.

Ranging between Rs 1,000 to Rs 15,000, Lai jewellery can be purchased after writing to the brand and asking for their catalogue. Additionally, they are also represented in some stores across India.

Summing up, Kamath says that each Lai design, no matter what theme or how pared down they are, has to be infused with an essence of our heritage and tradition.

“No simple, dainty triangles and dots and dashes, (that are so popular these days), for us. We don’t want to add to the homogeneity that is all pervasive in the jewellery space currently. We want to retain, in some form, that spirit of culture and identity that adornment has always stood for. We don’t want to overreach but when we design, we do like to think of our jewellery as something a client would love to care for and then pass on to next generation,” she says.

“...We like to think of our designs as having a strong personality, an Indian soul and a global spirit. Lai is contemporary, classic and chic with a touch of fun!” she adds.

 

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