Defining market scope for Costume Jewellery

Christophe contacted Sarika, an Indian designer, after years of acquaintance, this march. He was very excited. He had just been back from a spring summer 2011 forecast show and one of the themes this year had been India. He took India as an inspiration and now was looking for a partner for potential collaboration. “Will it be sourcing again like last time?” asked Sarika. “Non, It will be much more. We can design here. And if Yvonne (design head) likes, we can market your collection under our brand as well, like you wanted.” “And we sell in Europe?” she asked. “Yes, we source all over the world, manufacture here to cut costs, distribute over e-mall as well as our store in France”. Great!  The emails were exchanged. Sarika waited for his visit. And waited. Christophe never got back. His Chinese supplier had provided him a better deal for setting the business along with components, and better terms for facilities location. And you know what? He was not even interested in the design rights.

The sea had been rather rough today. Instead of the beach, Anita choose to browse through the many shops dotting Calangute Beach in Goa. Lonely planet had mentioned a Friday market in Mapusa, but she had not found anything interesting to carry back, apart from the cashew and feni. Here by the beach side, the seashell display caught her eyes. Soon she was taking her pick from the wide variety which she saw. “Can you attach another shell at the bottom of this earring please? And I want ten pieces.” she told the shopkeeper. “Madam, we only sell in this shop. Manufacturing is far away, please choose another thing that you like…” he held up another earring to interest her “ See….this is better, lot of demand”. “No. I want this one with another hanging.” “Ma’am, you can choose from the others…”. He took a box out from the display. But no, Anita was stubborn about what she wanted and how it should be altered. The shopkeeper kept offering her alternatives from the merchandise.Yes, the minor change could be done. Not here, but in Calcutta, from where he had sourced the piece. You see, there is hardly any industry for seashell craft in Goa. Lesser for costume jewellery. Lack of demand is said to be the factor.

Radhika went to her family Jeweller. “Uncle, I want this piece done in silver”. She held towards him a beaded bracelet that she had picked from a craft bazaar. Satish bhai, was the most prominent Jeweller in the city and family jeweller to Radhika’s family since generations. Radhika was the daughter of his biggest customer and there were rumors about her marriage soon. Satish Bhai smiled. “But this is costume jewellery! Why don’t you let me make this for you in Gold…ah!…. And instead of the turquiose beads you can have tiny diamonds. Let me talk to your father…..” he began dialing a number.. “No uncle!” she interrupted. “Those beads go with my dress …” Satish Bhai sighed and kept the phone down. He smiled. He then motioned to his secretary,“Call the designer.” He said.

We learnt in design school that there are few categories of jewellery like precious, non precious (costume) and imitation.Costume jewellery is regarded as jewellery worn to complement the “costume” or garment of the wearer. It is generally made of non precious base metals and is a fashionable product i.e. it needs to change fast with the fashion trends. It now encompasses many other styles of jewellery which may be regarded as fashionable in a trend cycle, like ethnic/tribal jewellery, antique jewellery, jewellery out of new  (polymerclay)or recyclable materials (paper mache) etc.

From the above examples, we see that the international market for costume jewellery is huge. Sarika, like many talented designers in India, seeks to explore her own creativity, but she however is victim to the image of India as a sourcing store. While India has been long regarded as a sourcing destination, the transition to a jewellery manufacturing and now, designer costume jewellery destination is desirable. In the next example, of a fashion forward tourist location, we see how costume jewellery could metamorphosise from a personal adornment object to a souvenir/ personalized gift, ultimately increasing its market potential. However, there is a gap between the local resources, supply and the market presence.

Finally, customers like Radhika, seem to drive the point of the growing fashion conscious youth population. Bombarded with new age influences, they are ready to experiment and move on when selecting pieces they really wish to wear. And they seem to be growing sharper, smarter and more fashionable than the traditional jewellery megaliths. Need to watch out for this segment.

In a continuum, let us suppose (based on value) one end is precious jewellery and on the other end, is non precious materials/costume jewellery. In between is the semi precious and imitation. Fashion stretches this band from the “fashion based” non precious costume jewellery to the precious “investment” based precious jewellery (gold, Pt, diamonds ). Precious jewellery, which has been imitating “costume” styling to appear more fashion forward; could, in the times of price rise, silver based jewellery, which was once regarded as costume jewellery, be now regarded as investment? While, we have enormous options on one end of the continuum, the weight is much less on the costume jewellery end,  and thus a great imbalance for jewellery seekers.

Fashion, however, is quickly blurring the boundaries between the precious and the costume elements and bringing the two closer together in a fusion.


The above is an unpublished article done for a Jewellery Journal

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Rediscovering a chapel in Goa

I never met Zico after that day during the monsoons. Yesterday, my morning stroll took me to the same place where I had met Zico, a young boy, who plays the drums. Probably his window overlooks the Mandovi river and the Aguada bay. Probably he can see the water turn golden as he sees the sunset from his window. But yesterday, I didn’t meet Zico. Instead I saw this shrine, which perhaps had always been there. Fresh paint and festive hangings of white and blue seemed to have added life to this chapel, which had been lost in the moss and covered with overgrowing branches. The branches now being cut, I admired it in its pristine beauty… overlooking the bay, from the edge on the hill.

A Bird's nest !

Last few days had been spent generally away from home, so when I got back, there was this surprise guest who seems to have made a rather well knit home on my clothesline. At the first glance this does appear to be done by a Weaver bird. A quick google reveals that these birds are adept at creating complex patterns out of twigs and grass. There is a canopy of trees covering my terrace, so maybe my clothesline is an extension of it for the birds. But I wonder, why here? Had it been abandoned mid attempt and should it now be destroyed. Or should I let it stay?

Correction: This nest appears to be done by a Sun bird, equally adept at weaving.

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A monkey, a vendor and a plate of vadapav.

Amboli Ghat is a waterfall in a valley that you reach when you drive north crossing Goa into Maharashtra. It takes almost a few hours from Panjim and it is really hyped up, considering what you see at the end of the journey is a trickle of water. However, on a Sunday morning specially during monsoons, it transforms into a picnic spot, with visitors from both states. Strategically placed are the various Corn and Vada Pav vendors lined along the roadside and a large family of monkeys which inhabit the beautiful surroundings.

The vada pav is perhaps the best thing.

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A weekend that was…

View from a Goan house. And a fractal tree.

It was a Sussegado Sunday afternoon friends and family event that I probably gatecrashed. The venue was a farmhouse of Rene and Maria in the quiet and charming village of velsao next to a quiet beach in south Goa. I heard that the beach was just a furlon off from the house, but afternoon sun kept us from exploring it. Instead we took refuge from the sun in the patio of the cool house. Amongst refreshing drinks, amazing fish rolls brought by one of the guests and warm Goan hospitability by this lovely goan couple made me feel quite at home. This was meant to be a potluck and I hadn’t carried anything with me, so I chipped in the kitchen helping Mrs Baretto with the Salad. Here we were. Ten people with two pots of food with us and no electricity to heat it.

Survival skill : how to create a wood fire. Three laterite stones were in place on the mud ground and became the cooking stove. Dry twigs were gathered as green stems would not catch fire. A beautiful fire was lit and soon the first pot of chicken was cooking. The next pot of rice required slow and steady fire. So burning wood coals were placed on the top. The results you can guess were delicious.

Enter Olavo Rodriguez. He is a musician. He carried his voice with him. For  the instruments, an empty pan magically transformed into a drum. With each genre he sang , the beat changed. He exhibited his versatility from Konkani songs composed by him to English numbers such as “Speedy Gonsalves” to Portuguese songs. It was difficult to resist dancing to this music.

But how did I manage to reach this lovely gathering itself is interesting.

Not much far away, was being held the annual fest at the lovely campus of BITS Pilani Goa , where today was held an event- TEDx.

Jonathan Wolfe “The FractalMan”surprised me with the transformation of mathematics into art through fractals. Mathematics and art has always been interesting. I feel Art begins where the mathematical expression finds difficulty or gets tedious . Fibonnaci sequence and the golden proportions we already apply in many design concepts. Here was another interesting tool-fractals. We explored the mathematics method of trying to solve the puzzle called “art’ and getting closer to creation.

Jhelum Paranjpayee, a dancer, took a further “step” by literally depicting the mathematical signs and symbols through dance steps. Did you know that one can even depict the Squareroot through dance? Well, she even managed to present an entire equation with Pythagoras theorem.

The next speaker was inspirational Kalyan Varma, who magically transformed and used the medium of photography as a conservation tool. Silence fell in the hall as he spoke about the power of visuals to create a change in the world.  The awestruck audience ultimately declared him the Star of the Show.

An early lunch break announcement prompted me to drive down to the nearby beachside village and that is how I managed to be part of the Sunday afternoon party which has been described above. Once I was there, BITS, Tedx and the larger gathering felt quite distant to get back to. And that I guess is the essence of a true Goan Sunday afternoon.

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