Megan Kothari was the kind of kid who never slowed down. But rather than running to sports or after-school clubs, Kothari was learning business, personal finance, and branding.
Don’t worry—she also had fun and friends along the way. But as a first-generation American with devoted Indian parents, Kothari (pictured at top) was working from the time she was in high school and into college, getting real-life experience that led her to creating her own jewelry brand, Aaryah, as a young entrepreneur.
Kothari comes from a family of diamond wholesalers, so she has been surrounded by jewelry for most of her life. But those early high school jobs in retail and fashion took her into beauty and branding, working as an intern for Juicy Couture and Christie’s as well as in sales and marketing for Karen Kane, L’Oréal, and Estée Lauder.
Her story starts in New Jersey, where Kothari lived when her family wasn’t traveling back to India. Those visits grounded Kothari in her heritage and culture, she says.
“Growing up, my grandfather would tell me stories of our ancestors, lineage, and family upbringing. Even though I was born in the U.S., the connection I feel to India is strong,” Kothari says. “Growing up in such a diverse society has expanded my horizons, and I also feel so fortunate to have been exposed to so many cultures early on that allowed me to express myself freely and gave me opportunities that I might not have had if I grew up somewhere else.”
During high school, Kothari had her first retail experience working at Abercrombie & Fitch and for a fashion PR agency at 16. Following her family’s advice to study business, Kothari went to Boston University and then transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) to honor her penchant for fashion.
“I was introduced to brand marketing during my time at FIT. I took a global marketing course and competed in a retail competition in London in 2012 called the World Retail Case Competition, which led me to doing brand marketing professionally,” Kothari says. “I would say that the most invaluable lesson I learned from my time working in brand marketing is to have a strong voice.
“You need to stand out, take risks, do things that may seem out of the ordinary—these are things that make your brand your brand and ultimately resonate with people on a deeper level,” Kothari says. “Paving your own path is scary, but it is so worth it in the end. There is so much importance in individuality and showing people, especially young women, that they have something to offer just by being themselves.”
During her junior year in college, Kothari got an internship at L’Oréal USA, and the company offered her a full-time job upon graduation. That quick leap into the beauty world was extraordinary, Kothari says, keeping her working long hours but learning to think globally and broadly about brand development.
“The beauty industry and the jewelry industry are similar. In beauty, you are selling a feeling. It’s about giving people confidence, shining a light on the beautiful parts of them and bringing them in touch with themselves in a positive way,” Kothari says.
“Jewelry has a similar connection. Jewelry, especially for us at Aaryah, is all about making people feel good, allowing people to reflect who they are to the world without saying any words and giving them the confidence to stand strong in this,” Kothari says. “There is also a sentimental connection with jewelry, it can serve as a reminder of a moment or an emotion that uplifts the wearer.”
This blend of family, fashion, and brand expertise got Kothari to a place where she saw jewelry as the next logical step.
“I was inspired by the traditional craftsmanship of Gujarati tribal jewelry when I would visit India with my family. I realized that I had a real penchant and love for designing jewelry,” Kothari says. “In India, jewelry lives many lives and embodies the energy of the wearer and the earthly and cosmic vibrations of the earth’s natural beauties. Aaryah pieces are modern heirlooms that are built to last and harness this energy.
“As time has progressed and the brand has evolved, we have stayed true to this. I really want our brand identity to reflect the life inherent in each piece, to be a celebration of the earth and the wearer and to tell the story of both.”
Top: Jewelry designer Megan Kothari created her own brand, Aaryah, by blending her Indian heritage, her family’s jewelry expertise, and her own expertise in branding and marketing (photos courtesy of Aaryah).@jckmagazine
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