Till a few days ago, Manizhe Ali was known as a jewellery designer who focused on making affordable silver jewellery. She has been associated with this craft for 12 years and her clientele — mainly family and friends — felt silver was her forte.
But every notion was defied when she took her love for accessories a step further and forayed into kundan pieces. Her first kundan exhibition was held at her residence in Bath Island from August 13 to August 15.
When asked what inspired her to dabble in kundan, Ali casually says, “Sometimes there is no solid source of inspiration. We just need to look around and observe.” But she confessed that some of her designs are inspired by the miniature paintings and kundan jewels passed onto her by her great grandmother. She boasts that the pieces she owns have the spirit of the culturally rich Lucknow in them. “These pieces from old Lucknow are very refined,” she says.
The plan of keeping Lucknow’s essence alive in Pakistan, however, wasn’t an easy one. It took her almost one-and-a-half year to find a group of workers as passionate about kundan as her. She finally found a group of artisans, who were initially goldsmiths, but later switched to kundan because of the decreasing demand for gold.
Unlike her silver pieces, which have a cool, contemporary feel to them, the kundan pieces are extremely traditional and have a regal twist. “I was very careful with the approach this time around,” she replies, when asked what made her change her design philosophy. “I was experimenting with kundan for the first time and I didn’t want to take any chances.” The designer also held a trial exhibition a fortnight ago for close friends and family just to test the waters and the response was “so overwhelming that I thought I should step up in this business. Buyers loved kundan, carnelian (aqeeq) and turquoise items.”
“I observed that silver-buying clientele bought one piece of silver and picked up three kundan pieces,” the designers asserts proudly. “The buying pattern convinced me that the designs did appeal to them and that my prices are reasonable.”Ali felt the tikas were her hottest selling commodity. “Not even a single one was left behind.”
With such a rave response, one wonders if Ali will quit silver jewellery making altogether and focus on traditional pieces. The designer responds, “I want to continue with kundan, for the results have shown that I should but I will not discontinue making fun and wearable silver jewellery.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2012.