Ever since she can remember, Deepa Gurnani always admired beautiful pieces of jewellery at every wedding she attended. “After returning home, I would try to sew pieces together that I thought were remarkable from the event. I still have many of those pieces in my archives and these make me smile each time I look at them,” narrates the 40-year-old New York based accessories designer.
Today, along with her husband Jay Lakhani, Deepa has realised her childhood dream. She retails her eponymous label from over 1,000 stores worldwide, including several multi-brand designer stores in India. Her pieces have been worn by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, the Kardashians, Nicole Scherzinger, Paris Hilton, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Deepika Padukone to name a few.
Born and raised in Mumbai as the middle child of three daughters, Deepa’s father encouraged her to pursue fashion. “My parents were supportive of my choices and proud of all I achieved,” she says. After studying design, Deepa married Jay when she was 27 and moved to the US with him.
Sharing a common passion to create a label born of Indian aesthetics, they came up with a bohemian luxury label 12 years ago called Deepa Gurnani, featuring handmade bejewelled creations such as fashion jewellery, hair accessories and belts, amongst other products.
Each piece is created by hand in workshops in Sion, Mumbai, by highly trained artisans using embroidery techniques passed down from generation to generation. “The aim is to keep the exquisite art of traditional hand embroidery alive,” says Deepa, explaining why it’s important to educate their artisans in new techniques and innovations.
Every piece they produce undergoes three rounds of intense quality control before leaving the factory. “Everyday objects inspire me,” says Deepa, who travels to India every six weeks. “I look at things with a different eye and try to convert everything I see into a hand-embroidered work of art.”
Working with her spouse has been a ‘fantastic’ experience for her. “Both of us share the same vision for the company and handle two separate areas in the company to make that vision come to life. The only area we overlap in is design and that is the best part of the business for me!” she laughs.
The duo handle two brands: the Pret brand ‘Deepa by Deepa Gurnani’ has items retailing under Rs 10,000 and the luxury brand ‘Deepa Gurnani’ starts from Rs 10,000 per piece and works its way up depending on the embroidery techniques used as well as the quality of materials used.
“The fashion jewellery industry is growing each day in India,” opines Deepa optimistically. “India is a strong force today. People understand fashion, style and trends that are popular worldwide. The growth opportunity is tremendous in India at the moment.”
Jay constantly inspires her with his hard work and his belief that there is room for everyone at the top. Deepa, who admits she is spiritual by nature, has developed equal respect for everyone and understands that life is short. “So live each day to the fullest potential!” she signs off.
First published in eShe’s September 2018 issue
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