Crisp winter mornings are what I live for. While everyone despairs about the bitter cold, I can’t help but admire the splash of colour stained across the sky first thing in the morning. It was the perfect way to start my Saturday ahead of the Bejewelled Treasures exhibition in South Kensington.
Over the weekend, The Hoxton was host to the Shoreditch Fashion Weekender, which featured a stylish collaboration between Indian couture label, Soltee by Sulakshana Monga, and premium jewellery brand, Red Dot Jewels. Partnering with Asian Circle, 10% of sales was pledged to help marginalised women in remote parts of Asia.
Fashion and charities are not two industries you would naturally place together but it seems that they are finding creative ways to work together for mutual benefits. Featuring items from the Intrinsic Beauty collection, Monga’s rich collection transcend the boundaries of seasonal trends in favour of an experimentation with aesthetics, which worked hand in hand with Red Dot Jewels’ colourful and traditionally styled accessories from their Pink City collection.
From earrings, to elaborate necklaces and even a very bold earcuff, visitors were spoiled with choices.
What also made this weekend event one of a kind is the underlying purpose that sales generated would have a positive effect. This wasn’t forced in the slightest, which made the entire experience a very natural and relaxing one. Representatives from both Red Dot Jewels and Soltee were on hand to talk more about their respective items for sale and made a warm effort to engage with visitors.
Speaking with Santosh, from the partnering charity Asian Circle said: “Asian Circle is part of a bigger organisation called The Circle, which is working with marginalised women around the world. Asian Circle itself is focusing on South Asia. We’re quite new into this area so we’ve set a programme up in India working on prevention of violence and we’ve chosen a small group of people out there called the Adivasi aborigines of India and they are the marginalised of the marginalised. What we hope to do is work with these women and help improve their lives through education on the violence they’re experiencing.
“We’re putting shelters in place in police stations for these women so they can actually go in and get some help, counselling and medical help. Another big aspect of this programme is to educate the men. These are patriarchal societies and we want to work with the men there who have seen how women have been treated and believe it’s part and parcel of the culture. We want them to understand that women are not there to be beaten nor be the doormat of the family. So for that we’re working with the local tribal lawmakers and we’re also working with small schools in these areas. We’re talking to the girls and boys about what they’re seeing in their homes not being right either.”
A complete world away from London, being able to provide education to remote areas where mainstream media never focuses on is enough reason to have more collaborations like the Shoreditch Fashion Weekender.
It’s not everyday you get invited behind the scenes at a lookbook shoot for an established Asian fashion designer. Shalini Gupta Patel of Red Dot Jewels extended a kind invite to a sneak peak at her upcoming collection called White Mughals.
“This came about from a book by William Dalrymple where a British dignitary falls in love with a Hyderabadi princess so it’s all about that fusion between Western and Asian culture, which is very relevant for British Asians”, Shalini explained.
It isn’t uncommon to see a fusion of west and east when it comes to Asian fashion particularly for a western market. However basing a collection around a particular piece of literature hones in on a specific time in history where South Asian fashion trends were unlike the kind we see in the current marketplace.
By reinventing fashion during this era and completing a look with colourful jewellery – and hair and make up by Bashy – Red Dot Jewels achieved glamour with an air of regality.
The company was started three years ago after Shalini’s nine year career in IT.
“Like most young Asian girls growing up, I loved Asian fashion. I try and travel to India every year and buy clothes and jewellery there,” Shalini explained. The current jewellery market consists of two extremes; real gold, authentic stones that are at the highest end of the price scale and everyday imitation jewellery that can be found on the high street.
In order to compliment luxury designers like Tarun Tahiliani, there needed to be a meeting point where jewellery still reflected exquisite design and detail, but for a fraction of the price. This is where Red Dot Jewels provided a solution.
“I’ve always loved gemstones and diamonds and wanted to take that a bit further. We did a few trial exhibits for people we knew in the industry and got some incredible feedback. After that, I quit my job, travelled to India and spent some time finding the ideal workshops that would produce the work I wanted done. I often go out there and whilst I do design the collection, I have a team out there that I work with to develop concepts.”
Being inspired by literature makes for a beautiful collection, but what about other pockets of inspiration?
“I think anyone in the creative industry is inspired by several aspects of day to day life whether it’s buildings, something you eat or an outfit you see. I recently went to the V&A and came away buzzing with ideas. There are so many design elements within the V&A such as showing the first telephone to exploring what luxury means. You get get inspiration from anywhere.”
Their extensive range currently available on their online store may still be quite a stretch for some, but it is definitely far more affordable and accessible than top tier jewellers. Designed strategically, several items can be worn with both traditional Asian and western clothing. Versatility is an important factor when investing in jewellery and Red Dot Jewel’s behind the scenes shoot of their White Mughals collection exhibits this perfectly.
Unapologetically, jewellery is one of my weaknesses – and it’s not just all about diamonds. Items with meaning and sentiment behind them is far more beautiful and holds that bit more substance. Always on the look out for jewellers that can offer exactly this, I came across mimi g at the recent Kaftan Festival at Westfield London.
Owned my Mariam Mahir, mimi g combines contemporary designs with an Eastern allure. Consisting of full sets, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings and charms, each piece is either sterling silver-plated or gold–plated, and uses the finest cultured pearl, semi-precious stones, crystals and beading.
I too made a purchase and absolutely adore my bracelet. There’s something very warm and appealing about Mariam’s use of Arabic calligraphy within her designs. Maybe it’s the elegance in which it is presented or perhaps when translated, it’s the message you’re left with. Either way, I’m besotted with my multi-coloured gold plated chained bracelet. It is so feminine yet boasts colours that make it an item that you easily include in countless outfits.
The selling point for me is the way Mariam has included poetry. In addition to the variety she offers, there is also the option for bespoke pieces, which I adore. It means you can truly have a one of a kind item, packed with sentiment and designed as you see fit.
I caught up with Mariam to find out more about the lady behind mimi g and what the future holds for this exciting and fresh jewellery brand.
S: I love that you include verses/phrases from poems. What prompted you to include this within your work?
M: I have always loved all aspects of language (my background is linguistics), especially literature, be it prose or verse. Coming from a family of poets, artists, critics and historians, poetry has played an influential role in my life since early childhood.
From an aesthetic aspect, Arabic calligraphy is beautiful; it can be romantic and ethereal, as well as bold, geometric and minimal. So, by playing around with the meaning, form, texture and colour, each mimi g adornment comes to life.
S: Do you have a favourite poem or verse and if so, what is it and why is it your favourite?
M: It is difficult to choose only 1 verse, as each one used in my pieces holds a nostalgic memory. I use mostly Arabic verses, but translate some Khalil Gibran, Rumi and Hafez quotes as they are so spiritual, romantic and motivational. Many verses resonate on many levels; some can capture romance, divine love as well as inspiration. So, each piece can bring out various emotions and memories in different individuals.
My favourite quotes that I’ve used are:
- ‘Let the winds of heaven dance between you’ – Khalil Gibran Early 20th century American Lebanese poet)
- ‘Love led me and I submitted willingly, when I have never allowed anyone else to control me.’ – Ibn Zaydun (11th century Arab Andalucian poet)
- ‘Whatever you order, the heart will obey’ – Imru’ Al Qais (6th century Arab poet)
S: Muslims will resonate a lot with your work, but what has the feedback been from others who may not be that familiar with Islam or the poets you draw inspiration from?
M: mimi g pieces are not Islamic–inspired per say; they are pieces with Arabic poetry, so it caters for everyone, especially those with a love for Arabic calligraphy, Islamic art, and contemporary Arab art.
The spiritual verses used resonate across all religions and ideologies. That is what makes mimi g unique, everyone can identify with the concept: the universal search for inner peace, love, inspiration and the aesthetic.
Each mimi g piece is a mix of East meets West, so our clientele are from all over the world. We cater for all tastes, ages, ethnicities. We have delivered to countries such as the USA, Canada, Brazil, the Middle East and the Netherlands.
S: What has been the most challenging item you’ve had to make?
M: I would say creating the ‘Homage to Baghdad’ collection a few years ago. I had just started and was commissioned to create a number of regal and opulent necklace sets for an exhibition. It is always fun and interesting to research the poetry and ensure it is suitable with various designs, but the experimental process can take time to ensure each piece is perfect. Creating individually handmade trinkets is a labour of love, but as an artist, I adore the process from start to finish, and the complete product is very rewarding, especially when it is a bespoke personalised piece. My clients are always exciting when they engage in the design process and participate in the various stages, until they collect the final piece, which is unique to their taste, and it usually holds a significance, be it in the verse or names they pick or the colour or gemstones.
S: Can you tell us about any future projects or collections coming up?
M: Actually, it’s mimi g’s third year anniversary this month, so I have re-designed a bracelet with poetry motif from our first collection. It will be unique, exclusive piece with different finishing and semi precious stones. We will be carrying out a competition on our Instagram page for a chance to win it, so keep an eye out for that!
I also have a couple of collaborations with calligraphers and fashion designers that I am working on. I am also in the process of designing the high season SS 2015 collection.
In the future, I would like to work on a collection inspired by Iraqi art and heritage, as well as experimenting with new textures, forms and gemstones.
A last minute decision to spice up my Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago took me to the glittering streets of Knightsbridge where the ornately lit roads were still alive even after the sun had set.
Tucked away from crowds snapping pictures at the window display at Harrods, was a more hidden and exclusive gathering of people at Amrapali, located on Beauchamp Place. A very rich red carpet led us into the Knightsbridge branch where the most colourful and exquisite indian inspired jewellery were on display.
Sounds of the sitar and tabla set the scene as we made our way in to another land where creativity met rich tradition. Regal pearls, moonstone and diamonds amongst others came together perfectly in a fusion of colours and designs which all tell a different story.
Amrapali also teamed up with clothing brand Aashni & Co who stock some equally stunning clothing from some of the most well known Asian designers within the industry. Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Malhotra and Sabyasachi all adorn the racks at Aashni & Co and served as the perfect counterpart to the elaborate and elegance Amrapali jewellery holds.
Canapé’s and mocktails aside, it’s always a pleasure discovering Asian inspired boutiques who maintain a strong link to their heritage. The big question now is which showstopper necklace do I add to my Christmas list?
With an unmistakable excitement in the air, the inaugural Halal Food Festival opened its doors to the public on Friday 27 September. The opening ceremony, which included a ribbon cutting and prayers led by Ajmal Masroor, allowed both the event’s founder Imran Kausar and events director Noman Khawaja to reflect on what has been an unforgettable journey.
From the early thought process of introducing such a festival to coining the term “haloodie” (a halal foodie), Kausar and Khawaja, surrounded by their family and friends, were undeniably proud of where their vision had brought them.
Speaking at the press preview, Imran Kausar said: “The objective of the Halal Food Festival is to bring together businesses, consumers, restaurants, producers and retailers together in a fun festival atmosphere so that we can all learn from each other and help understand and appreciate the size of the market, but also what businesses can deliver and for consumers to have a say as to why halal is important to them.”
The array of exhibitors truly embraced the notion of what it means to be halal, which extended beyond food and drink. Skincare, clothing, jewellery and art exhibitors all featured in the three day festival, which concluded on Sunday.
Alongside my weakness for sweets, my purchases also included a beautiful rose gold Hand Daisy from the buzzing Pearl Daisy. Meeting Amena was one of my definite highlights of the day. After her delicious Chicken and Mushroom pie video on YouTube, who wouldn’t want to meet her?! She is just as warm and friendly in person and I have to say, I am in love with my first (but definitely not my last) purchase from Pearl Daisy!
Live cooking demos by Cyrus Todiwala, Chef Abdul Yaseen from Cinnamon Kitchen and Masterchef’s Shelina Permalloo gave audiences the chance to see quick, easy to cook recipes, ask questions and even meet the chefs themselves.
Ali Imdad, from the Great British Bake Off also featured in the live cooking demos and the Cooking School where visitors could demonstrate their culinary flair and cook along with guest chefs.
I loved that the festival was very much a fun-filled, family event that included a little haloodies station for children. Mocktails by Anise were absolutely fantastic, mixing unique ingredients to produce mouthwateringly refreshing drinks. My review for Anise will be coming very soon.
For lunch, burgers by Meat and Shake which included deliciously caramelised onions and melted cheese hit the spot and for a sweet treat… well… take your pick! Aneesh the Chocolatier, The Apple Blue Patisserie and The Baking Tray all provided delicious desserts, just what I needed after a juicy burger.
The overall day was one that was worth waking up early for. Whilst this has been a dream come true for both Imran and Noman, the Halal Food Festival has been a long overdue event for the vast Muslim population. With such a variety of exhibitors and the strong support from the public and the Mayor of London, this very unique and fulfilling event is sure to attract even more visitors, businesses and retailers in years to come.
For someone who decides to embrace a trend when it’s nearly over, it’s been quite overwhelming staying up to date with current and future fashion trends for Habibi Lifestyle.
I tend to fleet in and out of love with Asian-wear and right now I’m seriously enamoured with the whole extravagance and richness you can only get from a kameez and a sari. The bold mix of colours, exquisite embroidery and overall attention to detail never ceases to amaze me. Likewise can be said for the abundance of jewellery that adds that all important finishing touch.
While some girls have a weakness for shoes, mine is definitely jewellery. Whether it’s authentic Indian or elaborate costume, I always find myself indecisive given the choice.
One trend that I’ve noticed amongst Asian and Middle Eastern girls lately draws its inspiration from traditional Shingar Patti’s and bridal Tikka’s.
For some, this won’t be a new phenomenon. In fact it could just be that I need to be more at one with my fellow Asians and Arabs!
Back to the trend. Jewelled headbands have added a glamourous touch to Eid outfits this year, but rather than splurging on a 24 carat gold shingar patti, high street stores are offering an alternative that can be utilised for the same effect.
Choker and collar necklaces have been gracing accessory shelves for a while and it seems girls are becoming savvier in making their purchases go much further beyond its intended use.
If you’ve yet to succumb to this alternative, here are a few necklaces that can be used as glamourous headbands.