‘Design Inspiration’ Inspires the Jewellery Industry

Mumbai: “Design Inspirations”, a two-day seminar focused on design organized by The Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) on 8th & 9th Feb ended yesterday successfully.

Mr. Praveenshankar Pandya, Chairman of the GJEPC, inaugurating the event said, “If the design is right, if it captures the imagination of the consumer then the jewellery sells and sells in multiples.” Explaining that different countries had different jewellery preferences the Chairman added, “You must have a passion for design, but it is also important to understand the needs of the market.”

Mr. Pandya said that though the country  has greatly talented designers who  are able to create excellent designs for the domestic market, India still needs to further develop its skills to emerge as a design hub for the export market.  Design Inspirations is a move towards this, to give designers a larger global picture and a methodology for trend analysis on which to base their designs.

Ms. Shimul Mehta Vyas, Faculty member of the National Institute of Design (NID)   presented the Keynote Address titled “Mapping Macro Trends”. Shimul defined trends as changes and shifts in society which become a pattern; find an acceptance by the people and which impact different aspects of people as consumers.  She added that trends are not short-lived, but have a lifecycle; they are not simply a creative expression; and they are not associated only to the world of fashion, but relate to every aspect of life. It was important to know and understand consumer trends, Shimul opined, to be able to make projections about the future, and to enable companies to cater to changing tastes, preferences and consumption patterns.

“Knowing trends is going to keep you prepared to meet the needs of the consumers,” she said. Shimul defined three trend types: 1) Macro and Micro Trends – e.g. wellness as a new macro trend; time for oneself, going to the gym etc. would be the micro trends from that 2) Counter Trends – e.g. too much technology, too much fast food giving rise to slow food and 3) Global and Regional Trends -the former being those that transcend boundaries and the latter being those that are more region specific.   Shimul went on to outline 12 Global Trends that the analysis of her and her team had thrown up, all of which found a ready resonance with one’s experience.  Her presentation threw up several interesting ideas and contained the routes for further exploration by designers.

Leading designer Pallavi Dudeja Foley’s presentation “Story of a Nugget” made a case for “Timeless Trendy” jewellery which is the kind she makes. “As a designer I want to make a piece that is the best, that is never melted,” Pallavi said. Citing the example of the Little Black Dress (LBD) introduced by Coco Chanel way back then, she said that similarly timeless directions could be translated into trendy jewellery. She went on   give several examples of her own work detailing out the concepts and highlighting the design features. “The best way to forecast a fashion trend is to create it,” Pallavi concluded.

Mr. Mithun Sancheti, Co-Founder and CEO of Caratlane.com spoke on “Disruption”, espousing the need to innovate and use new technologies in the jewellery business. “You can have a good design,” said Mithun, “but what good is it if it remains in your home or shop? There is a need for “discovery” and an effective eco-system for discovery.” He went on to share his experience in brick and mortar retailing and how the frustration of the slow growth made him look for new options and how he came to launch Caratlane.com. “We need to disrupt ourselves, otherwise everyone else will rip into us,” he said alluding to the threat from other products and industries.

Well known designer Gautam Banerjee took the participants through a breezy walk through his designs and design inspirations.  “One can get inspired by anything and inspiration can come from anywhere,” pronounced Gautam.  “The challenge is how to translate it into jewellery; and commercially viable jewellery at that. For, ultimately, you need to make it for someone who will buy it.” Students were treated to jewellery designs adapted from everyday objects like a glass, a bowl, the pattern of a leather chair with buttons, light bulbs and so on.

Ms. Revathi Kant, Associate Vice President Design, Innovation & Development at Titan Industries Ltd, enumerated 12 broad trends thrown up by her department’s analysis and going into each in some detail. She   outlined a case study of how she and her team, given the brief to create a jewellery collection for the new woman developed the consumer profile based on consumer insights, a storyboard for design, a colour palette and finally came up with the jewellery. This finally became the IVA collection.

Renowned jewellery designer Farah Khan Ali presented a detailed insight into what constitutes a designer jewellery brand, and the entire gamut of aspects related to it –  rom the creation of its identity, to its characteristics, its language, how to build it, brand loyalty and so on.    “To have an identity you need to know what your niche is, which economic strata of society you want to design for,” Farah said, following by explaining   the characteristics of various brands.  She illustrated her words with visuals of jewellery of brands like Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Viren Bhagat and her own. “A designer brand will always have its own unique language,” Farah stressed.

Ms. Valishali Banerjee, Country Manager, India of Platinum Guild International (PGI) spoke on “Insight Driven Marketing”. She defined an “Insight” as “A fundamental truth about human behaviour”.   Giving the example of PGI’s build-up to introducing Evara wedding jewellery, she said that their research had thrown up some key observations. Foremost amongst them was that the parenting discourse had changed; and the wedding landscape had undergone a transformation too. Through a scientific methodology and developing a collection based on consumer insights, Platinum was  able to enter the bridal market in India she said.

Rudrajit Bose, Managing Partner of Atelier Anonyme put forth a researched presentation dense with data titled Evolving Trend Ecosystem – A Bird’s Eye View of the Curve”. Essentially Rudrajit made a case for the diamond and jewellery industry to sit up and take notice of the changes taking place all around them.  He said that the gems and jewellery industry faced the threat of “value migration” away from it to other industries like electronics, travel etc.  He urged the industry to expend larger budgets on research and product development. He concluded by quoting Mahatma Gandhi to say: “The Future does depend on what we do right now.”

Ms. Paola De Luca, founder of The Futurist Ltd, is both a pioneer and veteran of trend forecasting in the jewellery industry.  She said that Trend forecasting was a tool, a methodology which enabled companies to devise strategies. “You need to collect the visual data and then analyze this data,” said Paola. “This needs expertise and experience.” She outlined the various trend directions specifically for North America and Europe, going into details for each region and showing how they could be translated into jewellery collections.

Day 2: Mr. Laksh Pahuja, who has made waves with his stunning creations, discussed about “Building Iconic Pieces”. Taking the audience through some of the classics that he has created over the years including the World’s Most Expensive Armband, Tributes to RK Laxman and MF Hussain etc., Laksh stressed that it was critical to have a story to tell, do thorough research on the concept and ensure that there is accuracy in the detailing during execution. The piece should be a true reflection of the individual, place or event that inspired it.

Mr. Kapil Hetamsaria, Velvetcase.com spoke on “Marketing Online Effectively”. He contended that it was essential for every designer and every brand to have a clear cut profile of their consumer, and said technology could help in achieving this. He added that the profile should be in terms of a “Buyer Persona”, not abstract categories, and that data analytics and metrics are useful tools that help an online store create it.

Ms. Reena Ahluwalia, well known designer from Canada who elaborated on “Inspiration” said it is a state of mind. “It is everywhere around us, we have to learn to see it,” she said. Some of the key aspects of the process were Openness, Curiousity, Collaboration, Outside-In thinking and Movement. Reena visually demonstrated the importance of these approaches through some of her own projects, notably those done with the Asscher group and Diamonds Unleashed, a jewellery line that stands for women’s empowerment.

The next presentation was by Manreet Deol of Manifest Design, a Pondicherry based start-up that has specialized in jewellery collections that seek to bridge the gap between traditional precious metal and regular fashion jewellery. Manreet outlined the process by which her pieces of “everyday wearable art” are conceptualized and crafted. Designers should “tap into ideas” by looking around and draw inspirations at the macro and well as micro levels, she said. While Manreet creates basic designs in clay and uses textures and finishes to give a unique look to the pieces, recently the company has also tied up with a Harvard based manufacturer of wearable technology to create a line of wearable tech jewellery.

Mr. Shivaram of Retail Gurukul, an organization specializing in retail training, created a stir with his assertion that designers cannot be aloof from the needs of a business; they must understand concepts like ROI and also create collections that sell. “You must know what consumer expectations are and develop lines that will be accepted by the market,” he said, adding that signature pieces or iconic collections could be a marketing tool to draw traffic to your store, but they are usually more difficult to sell.

Fashion Director of Vogue Ms. Anaita Shroff Adajania, who is also a celebrity stylist working with a number of well-known Bollywood stars, said that styling was not only about making a celeb look good, but also ensuring she feels good. Explaining the role of a stylist, she said it is not about clothes, or make up, or jewellery in isolation, but like putting together the various pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to create a look. Stylists are always on the look-out for striking and unique jewellery pieces that can be used for photo shoots or events.

Mr. Anil Bharwani, a popular jewellery desiger traced his journey in the industry and how he has grown over the last two decades. He said that he works directly with the karigars to give shape to a piece and often has multilple meetings with them to ensure that it is perfect. Bharwani has been unveiling new collections each year at IIJS and said that each of them requires many months of work – from concept to research and creation.

Mr. Sachin Jain of Forevermark held the audience spellbound with his presentation that was an ideal blend of attractive graphics, slick videos and a compelling narrative. He said that Building a Global Diamond Brand was not easy and there were no quick fixes or shortcuts. The ability to have a universal experience and emotional connect with your consumer was one of the hallmarks of a successful global brand, while the ability to customize and fine tune this to each specific market and cultural category was crucial to sustained growth and a lasting impact. Forevermark gives great importance to understanding the consumer, he said, adding that the brand had recently carried out one of the largest ever consumer surveys in the country.

Sachin added that this not only gave them new insights, but helped change perceptions and create new product lines. “Our survey indicated that diamond nose rings are the 2nd most important category of diamond jewellery in India,” said Sachin, pointing out that this finding led Forevermark to create its latest Capricci collection.

The last session of the day was devoted to a workshop conducted by Paola De Luca of The Futurist Ltd. It was a fascinating narration of the road from Design Strategy to Product Development, embellished with numerous real life examples from Paula’s own journey.

The session covered multiple aspects of the process by which good jewellery is created such as designing, strategizing, developing collections, merchandising and trend forecasting. During her presentation, Paula talked about the role of the designer in grasping what the market and the consumer wanted, searching for inspirations across a wide canvas and freezing the stories and concepts for new collections. She stressed that designing is not about “developing products” but about “creating collections”, and added that every collection must have its own visual language.

This could be used to bring consistency in design elements across product categories, she explained. A good collection must have a mix of product categories, and the same iconic design and visual elements can be used to create large and small pieces, high end and more affordable pieces and could even be translated using different metals and gemstones. She concluded with a glimpse about the possible trends that are shaping up for next year.