In Conversation with Nonita Kalra

For the fashion veteran, natural diamonds are always an act of love – whether it’s the earrings she inherited from her grandmother, the pieces she set aside for her niece, or the solitaire engagement ring she chose when she married her partner of 20 years.

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A member of the Natural Diamond Council Style Collective and editor-in-chief of our Trend Report for 2022, Nonita Kalra’s creative vision, professional expertise, and relationship with jewellery, natural diamonds in particular, has shaped our trends selection.

A member of the Natural Diamond Council Style Collective, Nonita Kalra’s creative vision and relationship with jewellery, natural diamonds in particular, shaped our Trend Report for 2022.

As a new aunt, how has your understanding of heirlooms changed?
In our family, from the time you’re born, pieces are set aside for you with a lot of love. When my grandmother would wear her diamond earrings, she would always say they were going to be mine someday. As somebody who decided never to have children, I was unsure of what that relationship was going to be next. My youngest sister had a baby three years ago and she is absolutely the love of my life. I know very clearly that I want to pass pieces to her that she can make her own. Now I buy pieces that are more fluid, so she can adapt them to her personality. The pieces I got from my mother and grandmother I don’t touch – I like them exactly as they are. But I hope Noor has enough memories of me that she may be more irreverent with the ones I give her.

In which instances have you witnessed jewellery to be an act of love?
Jewellery is always an act of love. For a woman, it’s when she chooses the ring she wants to wear from the person she loves. When I finally got married to my partner of 20 years, it was a diamond solitaire I chose, a setting I chose, and it was made by someone I love. The earrings I value the most are star-shaped diamond studs that my grandmother would wear with great confidence and comportment. My mother was more feminine, so on her they were more sensuous. I wear them as my invincible, everyday natural diamonds; they make me feel most like myself. Jewellery is also an act of self love – a pair of diamond earrings I recently bought remind me of pieces my mother and grandmother would wear, but they have mismatched pearls that are very much me.

What do you consistently look for when evaluating new trends or designers?
I have been in the fashion business since 2000. What I always wanted to convey with fashion is to look for what works for you. Personal style comes from what you think of yourself. What I love is quality, things that are going to last forever. While we all love to use the word sustainable, I prefer the term responsible — choose what matters, take the time to select, think about how a particular piece has a place in your life. If we carefully consider these aspects — call it slow fashion or thoughtful consumption – we buy more mindfully. That’s what I love about natural diamonds — they’re never in fashion and they are never out of fashion. And because they are colourless, they allow you to tell your own story, explore your many facets and be more than one person.

What is your earliest memory of seeing and acknowledging true style?
My mother had an old-fashioned dressing table with mirrors on three sides and many drawers. She had pieces of jewellery, glass bangles, magical hairnets — true style for me was sitting there and watching my mother get dressed. She was an impeccably stylish woman, whether it was wearing beautiful silk saris to a chainmail halter suit for New Year’s in freezing cold delhi. As a child I also learned that style needs to be practical, and that memory comes from my grandmother. A general’s wife, she’d tell me she would be ready in seven minutes — she would put a few drops of khus in a beautiful brass urli, bathe, drape her sari, draw a bindi, wear her diamond earrings and be out the door before my grandfather was ready. My idea of style comes from my mother’s glamour and love for getting ready slowly, sensuously, coupled with my grandmother’s efficiency.

Having moved continents during a pandemic, what does home mean to you?
The notion of home is something a writer will keep chasing. I’m obsessed with longing and grief and belonging – and at this point I’m not sure what home is. I think home is family. Home is my little dog. Home is being with people I love. But home in my heart, the place I dream about, is always Bombay. It’s the city that gave me my first taste of freedom, it’s where I hear the sound of the sea, it feels in sync with my heartbeat.

Photographer – Nathan Singh
Videographer/ CAM A – Annie Kruntcheva
Videographer/ CAM B – Ritvik Tyagi
Jewellery and outfit – Nonita’s own
HMUA – Larisa
On ground Producer – Daniel and Varda
Production – By The Gram