Following his three decades in the fashion industry, leading designer and couturier Manish Malhotra has come to be associated with an aesthetic that’s all his own — high-powered, unapologetic, glamourous and maximal in impact. From costume designing for iconic films (he has over 1,000 movies to his credit) like Rangeela, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Jab We Met to launching his eponymous label in 2005, Malhotra is instantly synonymous with big-screen bravado. Leading ladies — think everyone from Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Kajol to Kareena Kapoor Khan and Janhvi Kapoor — are all his long-time patrons. But it’s not just the stars who are drawn to his sensibility, it is brides across the country too.
Malhotra wasn’t content with just designing contemporary bridal wear for his coterie of loyalists. His vision has always been a more all-encompassing one, one that pays attention to the repertoire from head to toe. “Jewellery really takes centre stage at Indian weddings, especially for brides and their inner circle. They aren’t just pieces of adornment, but a reflection of their individuality, as well as an ode to their tradition and heritage. When I envision a look, I like to think of every element. A bridal trousseau is simply incomplete with the jewels, so it was a natural extension for us,” he explains. Enter his own line of jewellery in collaboration with Jaipur-based heritage jewellery house Raniwala 1881. Manish Malhotra Jewellery by Raniwala 1881 is a line curated by Malhotra himself to mirror the very modern maximalist flair his couture is best-known for.
While natural uncut diamonds are the focus of the line, the label’s treatment is an unconventional one – Malhotra liberally mixes polkis with cut natural diamonds to create a medley of designs that are rooted in craftsmanship but thoroughly contemporary in appeal. “We work with a lot of uncut stones but these are always mixed with natural diamonds. You’ll find new interpretations of heirloom diamonds with contemporary cuts, making them versatile and timeless,” he explains. So, while polki is most often the base, it is clustered with natural diamonds in varied cuts and gemstones for an elevated impact. The suit worn by Kriti Sanon in the designer’s latest bridal campaign — an amalgamation of full-cut diamonds, Russian emeralds and coloured stones — is one his favourites. There are many other standout designs dressed in this past-meets-present vibe too — Victorian chokers laced with polkis, hand-carved emeralds, pearls and diamonds; delicate multi-line necklaces accented with both uncut and cut diamonds, cocktail earrings balanced with coloured stones and diamonds. The repertoire is truly endless, but the vision is consistent – “You should be able to pass your pieces down,” Malhotra says of his raison d’etre.
Diamond and fine jewellery have become more functional now with the evolution of the consumer. Buyers want to maximise and repeat their purchases.
Herein lies the designer’s take on conscious luxury and slow fashion. Ask him if his jewellery is sustainable, he says his designs are “forever”, as are natural diamonds. “Natural diamonds are synonymous with everlasting elegance. They are apt for women across age groups, not just with her festive wear but for other occasions too. “That, according to me, is sustainability — the ability to wear and re-wear for generations,” he says. He also points towards the sustenance of age-old Indian craft through these collections. “The art of polki jewellery is a 2,500-year-old. The artisans at Raniwala 1881 that we work with are master craftsmen who have successfully kept this tradition alive for generations. It is very important for us to ensure the traditional craftsmanship isn’t compromised when we adapt it to new design sensibilities.”
So, it follows that for Malhotra, jewellery and craft that can stand the test of time is an heirloom. This very POV is his uniqueness and trump card. He isn’t here to just repackage tradition with a modern rose-tinted glass. The nuance of his approach is to preserve both craft, creation and cut diamonds for posterity —
Something old and something new isn’t enough. It needs to be something timeless too.
Malhotra’s jewellery and craft is one that can beautifully stand the test of time to emerge as an heirloom for future generations. This perspective and futuristic insight are what set him apart from his contemporaries – he isn’t here to just repackage tradition with a rose-tinted glass but to turn these heirlooms into motifs of love and legacy. His desire to preserve both the craft and creation of cut diamonds culminates in his brand’s ethos: “something old and something new”, and a little something timeless too.