India’s celebrity jewellery designer, FARAH KHAN, is a star in her own right. Success did not come overnight to this free-spirited artist as she was always under the radar because of her celebrity parentage. People expected a lot from her, and so, Farah had to work extra hard to earn her stripes. Today, after two decades of experience, Farah admits that hard work and focused discipline has given her brand an identity of its own. A compulsive perfectionist by her own admission, Farah’s seductively curvaceous jewels mirror her devotion to the craft. The jewellery, with a luxurious scale, has a squeeze of magic in it. Her jewellery has movement; it is transcendent; it pulsates with life, and it leads you gently into a wonderland.
By SHANOO BIJLANI
Farah Khan lives to design jewellery for this is the only pursuit that gives purpose and meaning to her existence. Farah relishes challenges and takes on designs that are difficult to execute. “Challenging myself creatively is a way of entertaining myself, and the sole motivating factor for me to go on. If I don’t have a challenge then there will be no purpose of living. The day I discover who I am and feel that my pot of creativity is empty, that will be the day I will cease to exist,” she says emphatically.
Certainly, this is not a sweeping statement or a play on words. Farah has lived her life with an inborn sense of discipline that helps her balance out the unrestrained expression of creativity. “Any artistic field requires self-control and it is ironical that in order to create one has to be unconventional and let go of oneself. The two worlds are dichotomous but each element plays an important role to balance out the other,” she articulates.
Farah admits that a great part of her learning curve came from the jazz ballet classes she took for four years with ace choreographer Shiamak Davar. Dancing taught her to put her mind and body through the rigours of discipline. It also influenced her design process. Just as dance highlights sway and spin, motion and grace, steps and rhythm, Farah’s jewels possess buoyancy and fluidity, feminine poise, delicate twirls and movement. The jewels are executed with a natural and effortless style. But what looks easy is not simple. Behind the spontaneous, seductive and fluid lines, there is a lot of back-breaking labour and thought that goes into it.
The Dream Factory
Farah’s extraordinary visualisation capabilities help her to create patterns in three dimensions. “I view the world in a different manner,” she reveals, “and find inspiration in odd shapes. Form and colour are very important for me.”
Nature, the fount of inspiration for most artists, draws in Farah, too. “What I love about nature is that even though there is overall symmetry in all its creations, each aspect is distinctly different. For instance, a tree as a whole looks composite and proportionate, yet each leaf is unlike the other. Similarly in jewellery, if the form and proportion are not in place, it can look hideous.”
Farah’s lean and unfussy lines replicate nature – be it the animal kingdom or floral depictions – in unique ways. The shapes are voluptuous and the patterns come to life with the use of lustrous and brilliant gemstones.
The perfectionist in her speaks up, “There cannot be flaws in jewellery. Nature can be imperfect, but inanimate objects have to be perfect. And to be able to give dimensions to a piece, I have to be an architect in my head as I have to think of height, weight, structure, and wearability; or else the piece can look flat.”
She always wakes up with a wonderful idea and is geared up to implement it. Farah begins with intricate sketches of jewellery, which are then worked upon by craftsmen and sculptors who construct three-dimensional pieces. “I do not believe in creating ‘socket jewellery’ where gems are simply set into designs. The process of creativity involves many people. I learn something new every day and it is a two-way process. The more I interact with craftsmen, the more magic we can create on the workbench.”
All her pieces bear the Farah Khan logo and each design is designated a number. Some of the designs are registered too. She is very possessive about her jewels. “Since a lot of thought and memories go into making each piece, it is difficult to part with them,” she says.
For her, life is a long learning process. “I seek to know so I learn. I come from a Bollywood family and am a first-generation jeweller. I have achieved it all purely on my own merit. It took me 20 years to establish my brand and I believe in paying attention to detailing and visual communication to connect with my customers. Jewellery has to be exciting; stimulating enough to prompt and nudge the buyer to pick it up – it is about creating a desire.”
Daughter of actor and film director Sanjay Khan, and interior designer Zarine Khan, Farah says her parents taught her the right values of pursuing her dream and not fearing failure. Her father always told her that nothing is impossible, however tough the situation may be.
“I have had my fair share of struggles along the way. I franchised my designs and manufactured with various jewellers. Later, I had a manufacturer whom I trusted implicitly, but in the bargain I was financially conned. And then last year, everything disappeared. Today, I realise that I should have kept an eye on my finances. It was a great learning curve for me as I had to fight my case. After 10 months of litigation I bought him out of my company,” she says triumphantly. A couple of months ago, Farah opened a grand two-storeyed showroom in Bandra, an upscale suburb of Mumbai (she has another store in New Delhi).
It is difficult to imagine that the woman who lives and breathes design, got into this field by accident. After college graduation, Farah expressed her desire to go to the USA to study gemmology from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Santa Monica, California. The family was shocked, because they knew she was a tomboy and didn’t much care about jewellery. Her father allowed her, but advised, “Go if you must, but excel in whatever you do.”
The reason for joining the GIA was very simple. Farah wanted to be with her best friend, who had signed up there. “I got a minor attack when I realised that I had to plod through chemistry, physics, and maths,” Farah laughs. She made a commitment to herself that she would top her class, no matter what. And she did, and kept her promise to her father.
Then there was no stopping her. She also took a course in jewellery designing. And thus the fun- loving girl had finally stumbled on her vocation. Farah was trained by noted Robert Ahrens, former head designer for French jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels. “He nicknamed me ‘Tiger’ because come what may, I never gave up,” Farah reminisces.
Back in Mumbai in 1993, she trained at Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri for a year. Later, she joined a family friend’s jewellery business to gain more experience. She spent five years at Sama, a couture jewellery manufacturing house, and then went on to work for top retail houses, Anmol and Mahesh Notandass, where she sold jewellery under her brand.
“I love to push the boundaries and don’t like to play safe. I am not a client-driven designer, and prefer to sell a piece of art by telling a story. If the client wears my jewellery she should look good in it and get compliments. There are times when I dissuade my client from buying the piece even at the risk of losing a sale. A customer’s appreciation of my jewellery is more important than a sale,” she says, speaking like a true artist. “I am grateful to be in a profession where my creations will outlive their wearers and be passed down generations,” she signs off.