Who could have imagined that an hour of sauntering in Bergdorf Goodman, New York’s famous luxury department store based on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, would turn out to be the most decisive factor in couture jewellery designer Pavan Anand’s life? It was as if the universe had directed him to his calling.
A qualified architect, Pavan had always been fascinated by jewellery and its intricate templates gleaming with rare gemstones. So while at Bergdorf, he headed straight to the jewellery section and was transfixed by the plethora of bejewelled pieces with a high design quotient.
As he stepped out of the store, he vowed to himself: ‘One day my jewellery creations will be displayed and sold here.’ The self-prophesising declaration proved to be true when some years later, Bergdorf showcased Pavan Anand’s limited edition of jewels.
Pavan Anand is a haute couture jewellery designer with a presence in 25 cities globally; he undertakes commissions for royal families, and has a large following of Hollywood A-listers like Goldie Hawn, Nicole Kidman, Megan Fox, and Kate Hudson among others. CEO and a lead designer of his jewellery brand Dagmar (meaning ‘glorious day’ in German), he also started another brand, Pavan Anand Fine Jewels, 16 years ago.
A self-taught and fearless artist, Pavan loves to break boundaries. Being simple is not his forte. His avant-garde designs are three-dimensional, bold, complex and challenging yet capable of stimulating your senses.
He sees jewellery through the prism of architecture, and works on shapes that amalgamate solids and voids, which instantly transform a piece of jewellery into covetable art.
By Shanoo Bijlani
You were a trained architect. How did the transition to jewellery designing happen? What were the trigger points?
I recollect being a keen observer of diamonds and jewels everywhere … I saw them right from the age of 7 or 8. While most other youngsters were focused on cricket and video games, I instinctively found myself picking up books on diamonds, gemstones and collector jewels. It was really uncanny and quite surprising to most people around me.
My mother fortunately inherited a plethora of beautiful jewels as her parents were avid collectors. I would stare at her pieces for hours noticing the nuances, design and more importantly, I was equipped by age 8 or 9 to assess the value fairly accurately.
My second love growing up was architecture and real estate, and I decided to pursue it as my career. I was a fairly brilliant and successful student. After graduating in Architecture in Mumbai, I decided to go spend a month in my favourite part of the world – New York.
This must have been July 2004. I was walking around the Fashion Avenue and the rest of Manhattan, and entered Bergdorf Goodman and found myself heading straight to the jewellery section. Whatever was meant to happen to motivate me for life, happened in that one hour as I walked around just soaking in the exquisite international work on display there — a congregation of the most fabulous, globally-renowned jewellery artists and brands. Each piece had a story to tell.
It was then that I suddenly became confident and intuitively knew that someday I would own a jewellery label that would retail in this very showroom. (Incidentally, I did get to showcase a capsule collection years later with both Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth).
In the month that followed, I went to almost every high-end jewellery or fashion store in Manhattan … curious to get an international perspective, aesthetic, and vision of what was selling, what was popular. My mind was made up – I was going to design jewellery, which would be a game changer.
Your jewellery is suffused with diamonds and semi-precious gemstones, and has a very contemporary, structural feel. Does the influence of architecture rub off on your precious creations?
I have always liked drama in design. Simplicity isn’t for me. Refinement and elegance, yes, but I enjoy provocative, controversial and bold designs.
Having studied to be an architect, one sees form and structure very differently. One gets trained to visualise design in three-dimensional form, taking volume, spaces, texture into consideration. Today, when I design a piece, I literally address it as a live entity with its own personality and form. So yes, architectural tonality and form are imperative to my designs.
My pieces are voluminous in nature. That lends itself to a very specific aesthetic of statement pieces. Exactly what we are known for!
How many brands do you own?
I own two brands. Dagmar Jewellery is predominantly focused on high-end modern pieces in silver, gold and platinum coupled with an endless ensemble of semi-precious gems. Our second label Pavan Anand Fine Jewels (PAFJ) is my flagship label that involves the design and creation of limited edition, artful, extravagant jewellery crafted in gold or platinum along with the finest Belgium-cut diamonds alongside rare and exotic precious gemstones.
You were one of the first few to make affordable but couture jewellery way back in 2004. Your comments.
So around the year 2004, jewellery and luxury were polarised markets. There were only two product lines in the Indian market – there was always the very expensive jewels inaccessible to younger people and nor were the designs in keeping with modern sensibilities. Then there was the plain “old, run-of-the-mill” stuff, which no one I know would touch.
That’s when I decided I would launch a brand that bridged this gap. The idea was to create luxurious, modern jewels with an array of materials complemented with rarely used new gemstones; a collection that did not compromise on high aesthetic quotient yet accessible to younger people all over the world. The idea was an instant success. We found patrons in the most glamorous and fashionable cities within weeks, and gradually we were selling with stores all across the country.
Tell us more about your brand’s journey. Where was your first boutique established, and today, how far has the brand’s footprint spread? How do you manage such a widespread operation?
Since the initial collections were so well received, the market penetration was fairly easy. It’s almost like the store owners, stylists and merchandisers had been waiting for a collection like ours to surface!
I decided I had to also market and position this product more uniquely. So rather than approaching jewellery stores, I reached out to the countries with the most aspirational and high-end couture stores. In our country, Ensemble being the first, then Ogaan, Samsaara, Ffolio among others. Sales were consistently tremendous. We were soon selling in 15 cities in India.
Simultaneously, I was travelling all over the United States, Middle East, Africa and the Far East. In the years that followed, we decided on getting brand representatives globally. The kind of representatives we appointed were super fashionable, socially influential and wealthy women. The product now was reaching its target audience not just in India but across continents.
To answer your question, we would also refuse a lot of people that showed interest in representing us… simply because a huge part of our success lay in our associations and partners. We also chose a “by appointment only” model for our sales. Eventually we got Sushma Kilachand (from the illustrious Kilachand family) as a partner. In hindsight, this helped us focus better to get the results we have managed. She predominantly handled our US and Canada operations, while I focused on Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
From Nicole Kidman to Deepika Padukone, your jewellery is cherished by a long list of celebs. How did you get the breakthrough?
Yes, we are indeed quite fortunate. A lot of global celebrities spanning various professions have been patrons of my work. Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson, Kim K, Edward Norton, Nicole K, Megan Fox, Donatella Versace, Megan Fox, The Royal Family of Morocco and also the daughter and granddaughter of the Maharaja of Patiala. A few Indian Bollywood stars have also been spotted wearing our pieces.
I have participated in several Fashion Weeks, including NY, The Toronto Film Festivals, and a number of prestigious global fundraisers over the years. This coupled with my own personal global social network built over years has enabled me with most of these opportunities and affiliations.
What inspires you the most when designing a piece of jewellery?
At different times different ideas create the seed of thought for design. It could be anything really … nature, history, royalty, architecture, sex, a range of human emotions. In general, I am drawn to sharp, edgy and provocative concepts. Very often people inspire me, especially since we do a lot of custom work under the PAFJ brand. I visualise my client in her most glamorous possible avatar and it often begins from there.
Which was the first ever collection that you designed?
My first collection is the one that I am most emotionally moved by because the line set the brand tonality and aesthetic for us in the years to come.
As a creative person I really enjoy the fabulous result you get when you juxtapose contradictory elements. I decided to bring together diamonds and semi-precious stones and set them into a story with exotic leathers, suede and faux furs. We juxtaposed rose-cut diamonds against furs and embossed Italian leathers. The collection was a rage. No one had ever seen something like this before. Conceptually, we wanted the grunge and Gothic look, but the end result was delicate, beautiful and extremely elegant. The collection was selling in luxury branded stores all over the country within months, and sales were phenomenal.
We did several brand- and collection-oriented soirees each month in India and internationally. Pretty quickly we found brand representatives in Spain, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Africa, Kuwait, London, Singapore and Jakarta. The collection evolved over the years and continued to find patrons globally.
In 2008, I collaborated with Jyotsna Singh, the granddaughter of the Maharaja of Patiala, to create contemporary jewels inspired especially by the vintage jewels of her family. Shortly after that Sushma Kilachand came on as business partner. In 2012, we showcased in association with Versace in Jakarta, which was a very prestigious association for us. A year later, my collection
was one of the first Indian brands to ever have its own show and isolated air time on an international Shopping Channel (TSC). Shortly thereafter, Oprah magazine featured us. Both Dagmar Jewellery and PAFJ continue to attract celebrity clients and jewellery lovers. Our collections change drastically year on year. I really enjoy giving our patrons a fresh experience.
How much time does it take to make a collection? And what kind of efforts go into the process of creation? Do you believe in storytelling?
We typically launch two or three collections a year. The design process takes about a month and the production approximately two months. Each collection is generally wound around a specific idea and theme to differentiate it and to be able to offer clients a fresh perspective. Each limited edition piece of a PAFJ often takes a month to ideate, conceptualise and design to its final best form prior to production.
What is your design philosophy?
Design should have life; it should give life and it should be empowering. Design must have dimension, emotion and should speak to you about a journey. I am not your quintessential Indian merchant-type jeweller and nor is my work. The patrons of my work are jet-setters, fashionable and flamboyant.
Design must show and it should distinguish itself from other things. I love taking design up to the hilt but just stopping short of it looking crazy; it’s at that point that it looks its best, most proportioned self. I design pieces that exude power, unapologetic confidence, and sensuality. I really enjoy working with large stones – be it diamonds, emeralds, coloured diamonds, Paraiba tourmalines, morganite and tanzanite. Pink diamonds from Argyle Australia are my favourite gemstones.
Who is the woman you design for? Do you also do bespoke?
We design for the fashionable social woman, a traveller with a great penchant for beautiful things. She is not afraid of her sensuality and isn’t afraid of attention, and who is looking for something exclusive. I design for the woman who is confident and stylish enough to wear a large (faux) fur cuff set with a 32-carat Ceylon sapphire flanked with diamonds or a 9-carat diamond solitaire perched on yellow diamond studded wings.
We do a fair amount of bespoke and limited edition pieces. We’ve done such pieces for artists like Goldie Hawn, Edward Norton, the Royal family in Morocco, several other people in Hollywood and the music entertainment business. Two of my favourite custom-created pieces that I recently designed were a diamond and rare pink tanzanite cocktail necklace, and a diamond ring with an extremely rare 9-carat Padparadscha sapphire. These are often collector’s item stones. It can take months to just source such rare gems, and then the design process begins. But I do enjoy the process very much.
If you weren’t a jewellery designer, what would you be?
If it wasn’t for my world of baubles — I would be a luxury real estate developer that probably owned a very uppity hotel chain.
What is currently trending in the global jewellery market in terms of design motifs, gemstones, and diamonds in terms of cuts, colour, etc.?
Less is more today! The truly elite no more strut around with big fat flat necklaces. If you can afford it, a string of solitaires maybe in different shapes is ideal. Coloured diamonds like blue and pink are becoming extremely popular and sought-after, albeit extremely rare. For smaller diamonds — Italian micro pave setting on rose gold is a huge trend now. For the collectors — Colombian emeralds, Ceylon and Padparadscha sapphires, Paraiba tourmaline, jadeite and Ethiopian opal have been and should remain of great interest. Asscher and emerald cuts are getting extremely popular. Blue and green gold is showing up, too, in some very high-end pieces. Delicate Gothic should be very popular.
Is an Indian millennial interested in buying jewellery? What does she seek – more prêt or high-end?
She mostly prefers borrowing her mother’s diamonds and giving it back post occasion to avoid the responsibility (laughs)! On a serious note, yes the current and newer generations alike are looking to buy standout, statement pieces or then simply seek big diamonds. Everyday wear diamond jewellery has got extremely popular. Little pieces they can wear and use is what they want to invest in. The culture of stocking your jewels for decades is not popular anymore.
Tell us about your other hobbies.
Gaining knowledge on cars and real-estate is a huge interest. I am an addict of physical exercise, twice on most days; short trips by the ocean to exotic places around Asia and Europe; and reading up on human psyche and psychology.
What about future plans?
The world of design and branding is a very interesting space to be a part of. Once your design language and offering has been validated globally there is a world open to create for. I will be launching a very interesting label this year; something that combines my jewellery design repertoire and my education as an architect.
Cognac Floral Cocktail Ring
The Cognac Floral cocktail ring focuses on a 1.5-carat flawless diamond solitaire with a surround of petals in grading hues of white to yellow to cognac diamonds in Italian pave.
The Black Panther Cocktail Ring
The Black Panther cocktail ring features two panthers looking into each other’s eyes, which represent the duality of man – his split personality and conscience. The panthers are articulated in pave-set black diamonds. In the centre is a 6.5-carat princess-cut diamond held by robust prongs that show off the full profile of the solitaire.
Phantom Chic Ear Clips
The Phantom Chic ear clips are manifested with the dark grey gold with brown diamonds and outsized Morganite emitting a burst of brownish pink hues.
Sapphire and Fox Fur Brunch Cuff
The sapphire and fox fur brunch cuff is a standout statement, and it isn’t a piece for the faint-hearted. Created in a thick band of Faux Fox fur and leather, the cuff features a central motif inspired by the stepped Pyramid of Zoser. The pyramid culminates in a 32-carat blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by architecturally structured square diamond spokes.