Journey with jewels
A passion for jewellery made Poonam Soni take up designing. She is the first designer who creates exquisite pieces and is now a force to reckon with in jewellery.
DESIGNER DUO: Poonam Soni (right) with daughter Kriti
JEWELLERY IS her passion, she holds a record of being India's first exclusive jewellery designer, her signature lines are lapped up by her clientele within the country and abroad, she is perhaps one who has changed the face of Indian jewellery by introducing not just new concepts, techniques and lines but also by customising jewellery and entry to her shops (two in Mumbai - Signature line and Jewel Inn and the recently-opened one in Hyderabad) is only by appointment. Meet Poonam Soni, a woman with grit who entered the jewellery circuit about 13 years ago who has not just made her mark but has an indelible stamp of exclusivity. Poonam's jewellery is contemporary - a synthesis of the old and new with an innovative touch. Her collections stand out on account of the usage of semi-precious stones, unique textures and contemporary motifs.
Poonam opened her signature store in Hyderabad (Boutique no. 6, My Home Tycoon, - Lifestyle Building, Begumpet. Tel: 55255003, 55255004) recently. (If you want to see the store remember to take an appointment).
Poonam took up the challenge of creating a market years ago and has succeeded in creating a niche one. "The challenge was there to be taken up and although it meant hard work and learning, I did not mind going through it," says this successful business woman. "I always loved jewellery and I used to design few pieces for myself with my jeweller," she rewinds. Little did she realise that this initial foray would win her appreciation and orders from her friends and relatives. She used to sit with her jewellers to get these designs. Many a time the jeweller would find it difficult to translate her design into the metal of her choice. Later when her children grew up she had free time so decided to plunge into jewellery full time. Also the fashion-conscious buyers were looking for some freshness and good work. "Destiny," she says triggered the launch of her brand in 1989.
For Poonam, jewellery is a piece of art. "I think it is god's gift that I can visualise jewellery not just on paper but on the neck and ears as well." Designing is a challenge and she has lived up to it though it meant years of hard toil at least initially.
"It was a learning process for me along with the jeweller." For Poonam's permutation and combinations of metals and stones was unusual for crafting of jewellery. Her forte lies in her concepts which include carving forms on gold, crushing gold to give a crushed paper look, uncommon textures like matte, painting gold in bright hues. Add to this usage of different motifs in an innovative way and you have exotic jewellery to sport.
EXQUISITE BROOCH: Jazz up your outfit. Photo: Satish. H
Poonam has quite a few collections to her credit. Her first collection the Egyptian and Greek (1991) used figurines inspired by the Sistine Chapel and pharaohs to recreate the ancient historical era in a modern light. Another one (1993) used scriptures of various eras in uniquely painted gold. The Mughal warrior collection of 1994 used bold stones, while the Temples of India (1995) recreated the ethnic beauty on gold. One of her collections was in silver (1998) - silver with a brushed look. Crushed gold and fluorescent florals are the other ones launched in the late Nineties and Early 2000.
Her first showroom Signature Line - the country's first customised jewellery boutique in an octagonal penthouse in Fort area of Mumbai is worth seeing on account of the décor. "Shehaz Mahimture, my interior designer, shares the same passion. I dream and she translates it. So she designed the other showrooms as well." says Poonam.
Poonam's creativity flows inspired by many things. "It could be the Sistine Chapel in Rome or a movie," as she says. Since it is a work of art, it is aesthetiically wearable and a timeless piece. "I want to make a woman look pretty and design jewellery for wearing and not to be stored in vaults," she says. "Sometimes I would visualise something and find it difficult to translate it into reality. In the early years it was a struggle but now I think I can do it fast. To a large extent I am reliving that struggle with my daughter Kriti (Kriti is on the same path and has won the De Beers Award for the Poonam Soni brand).
Intricate workmanship (somewhat akin to mesh, lace and `filigree') marks her present collections showcased at a fashion show recently to mark the inauguration of her store. Meshes (crocheted geometric patterns with diamonds), calligraphy (based on scriptures of the world crafted in 18 carat gold), geometric florals (precious pearls from South seas with white gold, shimmering crystals and exotic tikkas (worn on the head) and brooches which can be pinned on scarves were some of the collections shown at the fashion show.
Poonam used to source stones from Rome, Hongkong and London but over the years she has built up the rapport and now she has stones created for her in Jaipur, while her diamonds are procured from Surat.
She does not like to work much with rubies and emeralds but loves diamonds and other stones. "It also depends on the mood of the moment and for whom the jewellery is designed for."
Poonam does not prefer platinum. "My pieces are multi-dimensional and using platinum would make it bulky. Moreover it is an expensive metal. If at all anything is made in platinum it should be solitaires and simple strings," she states. With her set of karigars and workshops in Mumbai, Poonam designs jewellery for certainly a niche market. Designing for trousseau is another strongpoint of Poonam.
A store by appointment is rather strange to believe. Would she not lose customers in the bargain? "Each piece is a work of art. So I feel women need an ambience where they can sit in leisure and check out the jewellery," answers Poonam.
Poonam believes that the right offer at the right time matters a lot and the Hyderabad store just happened by chance. `It is just by instinct that I opened and my partner Sarita Agarwal will manage it though I will be visiting it periodically," says Poonam.
Like a proud mother, Poonam is happy that her daughter Kriti is slowly blossoming into a designer. "It feels so good and absolutely exhilarating that there is someone taking it up and there is no dead end ahead." But she admits to being a tough mother at least on the work front.
Unlike Poonam who is self-taught, Kriti went through a rigorous course in technical aspects and she designs for the young - more "bizarre and funky designs," as she says.
Poonam's clientele comprises filmstars, industrialists' wives and others. Her future plans include expansion (may be to other cities) and perhaps even an institute of jewellery in Mumbai offering two-years course for all wannabe designers.
For all the exquisite designing she does, Poonam does not wear much jewellery. "I used to before but now I restrict myself to solitaires which I love. Sometimes I put on a simple chain with a solitaire."
The designs in the store will be updated constantly and Poonam may make more trips in the future for special orders.
At the moment she is happy with the response. "I am still getting the feel of the city and hope to become a quarter Hyderabadi after a few more."
Reaching the pinnacle of success makes Poonam sound modest. When you think she has gone far ahead she says "there is still a long way to go." A thing of beauty is a joy forever said John Keats and it is a joy to behold Poonam Soni's fine jewellery.
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