In Conversation with Shruti Thacker

Fashion journalist, digital strategist, and co-founder of online publication, The Established, Shruti Thacker speaks about the evolution of her fashion choices into a love for lasting, meaningful style.

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The thing about fashion journalists is that we’re hardwired on chasing the thrill of the new, the now. Early on, almost intuitively, in that unimaginable age before Instagram and Twitter, Shruti Thacker somehow sussed out digital publishing as that frontier of nowness. After a slew of internships and freelance gigs as a student in London, Shruti moved back to Bombay, where a chance meeting led her to the rest of her career in digital journalism including notably Vogue India, Elle India, Vogue Arabia and Time Out.

Just about a year ago, Shruti launched her very own publication, The Established, which, intentionally, started out as a newsletter, and then launched into a larger website that talks to its reader about quite possibly everything – art, beauty, gender, politics, tech, finance and culture. More admirably, in an increasingly dumbed-down age era, it speaks to its reader with intelligence and openness, with a desire to both question and to understand. You have to admire not just the product Shruti puts out, but the conviction with which she’s steered her career thus far, which reveals itself in the little promises she makes to herself, like buying a natural diamond at 50 – provided she’s achieved her personal work goals. And somewhere in there is the feeling that this isn’t an open-ended deal, but one that Shruti intends to seal. “We launched with the idea that there’s no looking back”, she asserts.

You brought this dream to life! What was the framework you set for yourselves at The Established?
We didn’t just want to be just a fashion or beauty site. We wanted to look at fashion from a cultural point of view. It comes from a place of mixing two worlds, for a better understanding. I always ask our writers to look at a story from both points of view. I don’t want to tell the reader what to think, I want to present them with the ideas, and let them decide.

You know better than anybody that fashion says something about our time and place in this world. When you’re getting dressed what is it that you want to say to the world?
I think it changes as you grow and evolve and become the person you hope to become. When I woke up and went to an office in Bombay or Dubai is very different from when I wake up and work from my home in Goa. It’s very different not to have to prove myself to anyone. Right now, I’m wearing a T-shirt that says The Established, it’s one of my favorites, a reminder especially on days you’re not sure of yourself that yeah, I did this, and it’s pretty cool. The more I’ve become comfortable in my skin, the more I’m willing to dress for myself.

So, what would you say are some of the pieces that stand this test of time and your style evolution?
I’m at a stage where all my old clothes are important to me. I rewear them over and over. I have a beaded handbag my mother’s sister made her when she got married almost 40 years ago. I basically stole it from my mum when I was a teenager. But I’ve only gotten comfortable with it recently, wearing it to every dressy occasion. I thought: It’s not a designer bag but it’s a bag that matters to me.

Jewellery, I don’t wear a lot of every day, but I’ll always wear three things. I feel like I can’t step out without them. These are my natural diamond earrings and a diamond tennis bracelet my parents bought me, as well as my engagement ring, a pear-shaped natural diamond. Honestly, if I just wear these three things, I feel dressed up.

Tell me about the times in your life you were given these diamond pieces?
I categorically did not want an engagement ring, but my parents really wanted for me to have a ring ceremony, which also I wasn’t into. My boyfriend went and got it made – designed it himself, had it engraved. Ultimately the thought that went into it won.

My natural diamond earrings were at a time when I was beginning to find my feet in my career. I’d just been given the Digital Editor position at Vogue India. My parents wanted to celebrate the hard work I’d put in. Each time they’ve given me something significant, it’s become a token of celebration for me because I remember that moment of. So, I associate those diamonds with this time where I was happy in my career and where it was heading.

You mentioned you’ve found yourself making this shift towards fine jewellery rather than costume, what led you here?
I am a child of the Nineties and I’ve worn a lot of costume jewellery! I always thought that fine jewellery wasn’t for me, that it didn’t express what I wanted to say. My mum tried for years to find me pieces. Even until 2020 I was wearing my wedding ring with say a clay ring, to mix up real diamonds with costume. Somewhere I started to change, to feel the need to not be so maximalist, to not be so loud. And fine jewellery allowed me to have this simpler way of saying who I am.

So, have you ever bought yourself any natural diamond pieces?
I haven’t, but I decided a long time ago, that when I turn 50, I will buy myself a diamond ring. I said to myself that when I’m happy with what I have achieved – and I always think in terms of my career rather than my personal life – I will buy myself a real diamond ring. That’s why I never wanted a diamond ring from my boyfriend!

I remember seeing Tiffany’s Celebration Ring by Tiffany, so beautiful, and I loved that it was called ‘celebration’. I thought 50 is a decent enough time to have made something of myself. I’m still holding myself to that.

And your wedding diamonds – did you choose these yourself?
All my natural diamonds and jewellery, I chose on my own. I’m lucky to have a sister with the same taste and she helped me choose. I got a set of pear-shaped natural diamonds as a necklace, bracelet, and long earrings. The necklace is two strands that can be made into one, the bracelet can be made into a smaller bracelet, and parts of the bracelet can also go onto the necklace. I wear the diamond earrings all the time with dresses. Even my polki diamonds, I got as detachable pieces. The whole idea was to buy diamonds that I could wear in different ways. I made sure I wasn’t stuck with a massive diamond piece with nowhere to wear it to.

What is it that draws you to a piece of natural diamond jewellery – is it workmanship, value, or a certain feeling?
I look at jewellery like a piece of art. Whatever it is you’re attracted to about art, it’s because of the work someone has put into it. So, for me feeling and the workmanship go hand in hand.

I prefer to see value in terms of emotions.  The idea of where I was in my life and where my parents were in their life, when they gave me my diamond tennis bracelet; or that my husband went out of his way, did all the research to buy me my diamond ring – that for me is the best feeling. And more valuable than anything else.

Do you have a jewellery icon you think of when you imagine yourself dressing up in diamond jewellery?
Growing up, my only relationship with jewellery was when my mother wore it. My first induction into buying natural diamonds was my sister’s wedding jewellery. Together they formed my relationship with jewellery and natural diamonds. So, I always look at them and how they carry their pieces. At the end of the day the first time you saw real diamonds would’ve been on your mother, right?

All photographs by Nishi Jaiswal.