Jewellery brand Aaraa by Pune-based artist Avantika Kumar Agrawal, is a contemporary silver jewellery label with a traditional undertone. The designer transforms complex narratives into simple new-age designs. An engineer by profession, Avantika found her calling in jewellery designing after a lot of introspection and listening to her inner voice proved to be a game-changer for her. Today, Aaraa, is a decade-old brand and sold through online channels not just in India, but to a large consumer base in the US, UK, and Dubai.
Tell us about your brand and when was it launched?
Aaraa is an Arabic word that means ornamentation. My brand aims to cater to the jewellery needs of the well-read urban woman, who has a distinctive persona and a rooted soul.
I launched Aaraa online on social media in August 2012. It was a humble beginning, but I opted to be an entrepreneur rather than take up a job as a designer.
Silver metalsmithy, nine years back in Pune was extremely primitive unlike Jaipur where I learnt the nuances of jewellery making. The local karigars needed a lot of persuasion to try something unconventional and think out of the box. It was all new and challenging for me but my unique sense of design, experimentation with silver clicked with the audiences.
Aaraa had organically reached a few hundred thousand followers in no time. The flow of orders, recognition at national level, celebrity endorsements, all convinced the local craftsmen, and we were able to start in-house operations locally a few years back rather than outsource work from Jaipur.
What drew you to the world of jewellery design?
Back in 2008, when I joined the National Institute of Design (NID) for my postgraduate design programme, I never thought I would pursue jewellery design as my core area of expertise until 2010 when I was chosen to participate at the prestigious India International Jewellery Week (IIJW) to highlight my collection of unconventional jewellery that was hand crocheted using zardozi. The collection was well received, and I got rave reviews. That was the turning point when I realised that jewellery designing was my calling and passion.
What inspires your collections?
I have always been a history buff; ancient history has always galvanised me. Recently, I also started reading up more on the different civilisations and empires to understand their distinct customs, language, architecture, religion, and the symbolism associated with it. This gave me deep insights about cultures and history of clothing and adornment. For me, it’s like opening a treasure chest, unravelling the layers of these unique cultures. Developing patterns influenced by ancient Indian and Islamic art happens to be my favourite.
Tell us about your latest collection and the inspiration behind it.
Our newest launch, Sacred Geometry, is a contemporary jewellery collection handcrafted in 92.5 sterling silver with modern aesthetic where fashion meets form. The collection consists of dynamic pieces that are feather light, detachable and turn from party wear to work wear in minutes; it’s basically for the multitasking woman on the go.
Sacred Geometry is the philosophy or study that attributes sacred and symbolic meaning to various geometric shapes and proportions. The construction of most of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic religious structures is based on the concept of Sacred Geometry.
It is symbolic of our own inner realm and is significant to higher consciousness and self-awareness. It can be observed on a macro and micro level, from our cells to the stars, in everything from nature to music and when we understand how it works, we can use it to our benefit to create a state of abundance and receptivity.
This philosophy inspirited me to create forms inspired from its symbology. After a lot of thought and research, I developed a jewellery assemblage based on the concept that goes beyond trends and talks about the future, faith, and energies.
We would like to know about your design philosophy.
My design philosophy has always been contemporary and relevant to my roots; my design language is modern with a traditional touch. I do not adhere to trends and instead believe in pursuing my own research to produce designs that are beyond time and give the wearer a sense of uniqueness.
All your jewellery is crafted with silver? Tell us about your affinity to the metal.
All the jewellery at Aaraa by Avantika is handcrafted in 92.5 sterling silver. The colour gold is still quite prevalent when it comes to certain formal events like weddings, parties, festivals, etc. We make sure our clients are given enough options to pick their favourite designs in the preferred finish.
Silver has been my favourite medium to work with – it has always been the mainstay. In many of my previous collections I have created fusion adornments with silver and wood, glass beads, fabric, silk cords, etc.
Despite being an expensive and semi-precious commodity, it is still economical and more affordable than gold. That provides a lot of freedom to experiment with several textures and forms. Working with silver also gives me the flexibility to maintain bigger inventory (unlike gold) and present collections with varied surface finishes from oxidisation to plating it in gold — it is like working on a blank canvas.
Which gemstones do you like to work with?
Well, colours are my vibe, and they get me going! I express my love for colours by using a lot of gemstones, and primarily work a lot with rubies, pearls, lapis lazuli, turquoise, green onyx, chalcedony, amethyst, and cubic zirconia. These happen to be my most used gemstones. I believe that the gemstones give a lot of character to the design. Recently, we have incorporated a lot of carved gemstones as well to create some exquisite heirloom pieces. Every gemstone comes with its own unique attributes and it is a great learning curve to witness how each one of them behaves distinctly under different processes.
What is your best-selling product? What is your brand’s USP?
Our Evil Eye pearl drop studs and Arabesque earrings are the Aaraa hot sellers. Ours was a unique take on the generic symbol of evil eye; we created the eye in layers using lapis lazuli and turquoise. The Arabesque earrings are a bold, eye-catching pair inspired from the Islamic trellis motifs with a curvaceous silhouette.
Ornaments with a strong unique individuality is what the brand Aaraa by Avantika stands for. Wearable jewellery created with well-researched concepts is something that is synonymous with our label. Employing traditional metalsmithing and jewellery-making techniques unconventionally to produce modern jewellery is one of our biggest strengths.
What are your plans for the brand? Where does one buy your jewellery? Do you even sell abroad?
At Aaraa, I aim to build the brand carefully and strongly to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace. This will require us to revisit the drawing board now and then, examine the customer preferences, whether they have changed over time and what are their expectations from Aaraa as a brand. This will help create a sustainable edge for the brand especially in times that we live in where technology keeps changing with the speed of light.
Our jewellery can be bought through our social media handles, @aaraabyavantikajewellery for Instagram and Aaraa by Avantika for Facebook. More than 60% of our clientele are NRIs from across the globe. We have a huge consumer base in the USA, UK, and Dubai.