A Passage to India

Long regarded as producers of mass-market merchandise, Indian jewelers are nurturing a new reputation for their country as a greenhouse for cutting-edge design. This message was loud and clear after the India International Jewellery Week in Mumbai Aug. 15–19. The event featured 30 Indian designers—including Amrapali and Zoya by Tanishq—participating in fashion-week-esque runway shows.

Organized in conjunction with the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council and the India International ­Jewellery Show 2010, IIJW served as the country’s first ­jewelry week—and perhaps also as a first step in chipping away at its reputation as solely a producer of mass merchandise. “The purpose behind this project is to bring Indian designers to the forefront,” said Haresh Zaveri, co-convener of IIJS and head of the IIJW organizational committee. According to the GJEPC, 32,823 visitors attended IIJW and IIJS (topping last year’s 30,000)—some 25 percent of whom were new guests.

“The perception of India for the past 15 years is that it sells only middle-market jewelry,” said Vasant Mehta, GJEPC chairman. “But India imports 700 tons of gold each year, and 11 out of 12 diamonds in the world are cut in India; India is making fashion jewelry.”

Models work the catwalk at Amrapali.

The shows took place at the Grand Hyatt, a luxury hotel fitting for the tony array of high-karat-gold, antique-Indian-style designs. Designers were specially selected for the four-day event, which was packed with seven to eight daily runway shows featuring jewels, not clothing, as the main attraction. Models glided down the runway in elegant, understated uniforms—loose-fitting black gowns, saris, and even ball gowns—chosen to serve as muted backdrops for the vibrant colored-stone and diamond-studded jewels: traditional bridal designs (like the Maang Tikka, a hair ornament worn in the center part); nose rings; arm bands; and more. Zaveri maintains that future IIJW venues will include international designers, though some—like the U.K.’s Stephen Webster—were spotted in the crowd, which also included Bollywood stars Gauhar Khan and Isha Koppikar Narang.

“The Indian government challenged us to do something out of the box,” Mehta said at a post-event press conference. “If you have enjoyed what you have seen, please go out and tell the world that India has arrived.”

For more on IIJW and IIJS, check out the Style 360 blog.

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