INTRODUCING: FLORA BHATTACHARY
Central St Martins-educated fine jewelry designer Flora Bhattachary creates limited-edition luxury jewelry from our base at the Goldsmiths Centre in Hatton Garden, London. Equally inspired by her family’s links with India and the glamour of the country’s past as well as her clients’ personal stories, Bhattachary delights in designing intriguing pieces with an evident couture edge. Her work has been featured in Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, The Times, Telegraph Luxury and the Jewellery Editor, and has won the designer a number of accolades (from Professional Jeweller Hot 100 NexGem to selection for IJL’s KickStart, and a number of Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Awards) and collaborations on exclusive designs for Banneya London, Cove London and Chow Tai Fook. We caught up with Bhattachary to discuss her work and Asian influences, acclamations and exposure her brand has received and future plans.
Are you interested in making fine jewelry accessible to a wide audience or you wish to cater to a niche audience?
I make jewelry that appeals to clients with a strong interest in design and who “get” my style. I think that customers need to feel a connection with your work – there is so much generic work out there. I really appeal to a core audience who understand the influences on my designs and the cultural mix that has led to my aesthetic. I put huge emphasis on the craft skills in my work and the quality of the pieces – and, although my designs are often inspired by India – it is important to me that they are made by skilled craftsmen in the UK. I love repetition and my work can be pretty bold, so inevitably it won’t appeal to everyone. That said there has been a huge democratization of fine jewelry recently. Now younger clients are buying fine jewelry for longevity, but they also want to be able to wear it regularly – and not put it safely away purely for its value – so I think that the appeal of fine jewelry has widened.
Your collections are inspired by your links with India. What are the main themes or motifs you have incorporated?
I tend to draw on inspiration that I connect with personally in some way. For example, I developed a collection after seeing a portable shrine in the V&A that was excavated from the archeological site in Taxila. I was given an ancient carved stone bird while visiting Taxila as a child – so this had a deeper level of significance to me. I frequently draw on pattern or motifs from architecture or ancient buildings. I originally studied history, and I’ll often find myself coming back to my family history, my own personal history, or historical artifacts.
Tell us about your collaborations with Banneya London, Cove London and Chow Tai Fook. How did they come about and how would you rate this experience?
I love collaborations because they give you a chance to work to a brief. It’s a much more disciplined way of working and I enjoy that focus. The designs for Chow Tai Fook came about through St Martins. We were set a competition brief and the winners had their pieces made and sold at a charity auction. My white gold and diamond choker was selected and worn at the Chow Tai Fooklaunch event by Hong Kong star Fiona Sit. For Banneya and Cove it was a case of designing some exclusive pieces specifically for their clients. Working with Banneya is great because clients can customize the designs, and alter the metal or stone colors to suit their tastes.
You have won a number of accolades and awards. How has this contributed to growing your brand?
Yes, winning awards definitely helps get your work on the radar. I was lucky to win the ECOne Unsigned competition immediately after graduating from my MA, and that led on to being named one of the Professional Jeweller’s Hot 100 NexGem. I’ve also won a number of Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Awards for my work. I think that that really helps to reassure clients that your pieces have a certain quality and design integrity.
Which is the most challenging part of the design process? What about the most rewarding one?
I absolutely love drawing and developing ideas – that is where my real passion lies, so I think that I’d say that is the most rewarding. Many of my designs include hand carved stones which can be a challenging material to work with – especially if you try to push the conventions of how it is used. The most challenging part of designing is always working out how something that you have drawn can actually translate into a finished piece. My designs are very sculptural, so I solve some issues by carving designs in wax as a way of thinking through the execution of my ideas.
You are active in the engagement ring market. What are people looking for? Are there trends we wouldn’t know about? Are there limitations or challenges you need to keep in mind?
I’m inspired by personal stories, and working on bespoke pieces with a client means that you get a chance to really get to know them. Often people really aren’t sure what they want, but they know that they like your work – so then the challenge is getting into the detail of what they are looking for, what inspires them and how they live their lives. I offer the chance for people to commission something that’s completely unique and I think that the key trend that I see is in that desire for a something specifically tailor-made with unique input from the client.
Are your personal preferences in jewelry reflected on your collections?
Absolutely – but of course as I spend a lot of my time thinking about jewelry, my personal preferences naturally evolve! As a designer I think that it’s important to accept that what inspires you changes. Taste is a fluid thing – it’s not static – so I’m always thinking about where to go next.
How do you select and build on your stockist and retailers network?
A number of my stockists specialize in handmade work produced by designer makers in the UK. It’s important to understand which stores are right for you and your work at the time. Currently my stockists offer a personalized service to my clients. The difficulty is expanding and still managing to maintain that link with customers, and to ensure that they can still feel a connection with your designs.
What are your future plans?
I’m currently about to start working on a new set of designs for an invited jewelry show at a London gallery in spring next year – so watch this space!
Images © Flora Bhattachary