Bhavya Ramesh Jewelry. Think: Indian-esque, edgy, risque, and conscious.
For eons, jewelry has been more than just concoctions of stones and metals beaded together to sit daintily on the body as mere decorations and adornments. If we moonwalk back into history, functionality in jewelry was the thumb rule. The 15th-18th centuries saw multi-purposed pendants overflowing with aromatic liquids along with the advent of pins, and brooches clasping clothing together, other than just blinging. Harboring cultural connotations was the tribal jewelry of Africa in which ran fables of decades past. Anklets that drape around the feet were used for ritual dances and teeth, horns, claws, etc from hunts were equal parts adornments and good-luck trophies for future conquests.
Cut to the 21st century, jewelry are accessories you play matchy-matchy with or use to color block your fits. The power they used to hold is now diluted with diamonds, rubies, and in-vogue silhouettes that dance on bodies or play arm candies being only as good as showpieces. Enter: Bhavya Ramesh, an engineer-turned-concept jeweler who breathes stories into her handcrafted pieces, while advocating for issues close to her heart.
Art imitates life
Being a self-taught designer, Bhavya's biggest challenge was “having to create my own design language that not only communicates with the artisan, who is bringing about the design to life, but also communicates through to the customer.” Moreover, her design inspiration is rooted in quotidian life, “Before I design a collection, I always click pictures of everything around that I could encapsulate while I'm making a piece of jewelry so, I form my own mood board that way. But also, the source of inspiration is always what I'm going through, or it could be what a person is going through that I want to express through my work.”
Bhavya approaches her hauntingly beautiful jewelry in a very contemporary way, consciously giving it meaning with causes that she sees enveloping her. A collaboration with her friend, activist/photographer, Roshni Kumar saw the birth of the collection of nail rings, engineered to celebrate the LGBTQI+ community. Reflecting on the tokenism in the industry when it comes to genuinely celebrating diversity, she said, "I feel like this has much to do with the way that media has been consumed these days. It's so fast that brands are always pushed to that place where they want to keep up with what is trending at the moment. That is when they give in to tokenism where they want to be a part of everything that is forming a headline.”
Modern-day jewelry has been largely gendered, bifurcating into only males and females which effectively excludes the LGBTQI+ community. When asked about whether or not the brand incorporates gender into her jewelry, Bhavya said, “I subconsciously do assign gender to jewelry.”
She further added, “Sometimes my pieces are fiercely feminine and/or bold and masculine while other times it’s a good mix of both or even neither. And then this layer of gender comes into play when I see them for what they want to be represented as.”
The carousel of inspiration and credit
The inception of the brand occurred in the village Hampi where Bhavya’s perception of jewelry took a 360 degree turn when she came in contact with the Lambadi and Banjara tribes. “I saw them wear jewelry like pendants that have ear cleaning sticks in them. So, it was more like a way of life, it was there to make their life easy.” And she has not been scant with giving them the due recognition. When the topic of cultural appropriation came in, she candidly said, “I wouldn't say it was a very significant way to give back. But then I feel, in my small ways, I've always spoken about them. And I've exposed what they have to offer to the world in terms of culture and celebrate their culture throughout.”
But, introspecting about how much she has given back to their community, she exclaimed that she has not, “It was a very reflective moment for me. This is something that I really want to inculcate by honestly wanting to give back to the community.” If only we had more brands valuing cultures this way and ruminating about how they could do better, the fashion industry would move away from cultural appropriation with the speed of the DC Universe-favourite, Flash.
Into the jewelry community
Diving into the blingy jewelry community of India, Bhavya feels, “Jewelry in India has always been perceived in the sense of amassing wealth. I feel like Indian brands should set a better example to young designers in terms of design and creativity. There should be more jewelry brands that can expose Indian jewelry-making techniques to the world and show how much culturally rich we are and how much we can offer to the world.”
Talking about brand philosophies and how often the personal is not political when it comes to brands, Bhavya says, “When it comes to activism, I really feel like the brands should support activism that they believe in, the thought that they support and the cause that they believe in.” She further added, “I feel like a lot of brands do surface activism superficially, because, so that they are there, and they are contributing to the topic of discussion at that moment. But then I feel like it should just become a little more genuine and more personal. Because behind the brand identity that you have created, there's always a person and there's a heart and there's a head that goes into it so, that has to come through and shine through it."
Amongst the tsunami of Pinterest-worthy jewelry brands that are churning up, Bhavya Ramesh Jewelry sticks out like an ace, courtesy of its innate Indianness enmeshed with edgy sensibilities. Apart from upping your sartorial game, the jewelry brand engages in storytelling including discourses relevant to different subcultures, swimming around in our landscape.