New York-based Pakistani jewellery designer Sophia Khan has given the Big Apple a taste of Subcontinental regality paired with western chic by launching her brand, Inara Jewellery, in the city. Her brand brings jewellery traditions reminiscent of the Subcontinent to the fore, while ensuring that they are aesthetically appeal to the foreign eye.
Currently working with gold-plated sterling silver, coupled with precious and semi-precious stones, Khan uses twisted wire work and infinity patterns to create her pieces. To appease her foreign clients, she plates her pieces with dulled-down 22-karat (K) gold. “Americans do not like the orange tinge of 22K gold, so while getting it polished, I dull it down so that it’s brighter than 18K gold but duller than 22K’s original lustre,” says the designer.
Khan completed her undergraduate degree in Jewellery Design and Manufacturing from Beaconhouse National University in Lahore. She then worked at Aliel Jewellers in Lahore for two years, and it was after her move to Manhattan that she began her venture of jewellery design and manufacturing.
“I started working in the diamond district as a processor and evaluator,” shares Khan. Manhattan’s diamond district is a wholesale market for diamonds, where companies trade in diamonds, catering to retailers and manufacturers. “I worked at Diamonds International for a year, which allowed me to make many contacts. Last year in February, I decided to come up with my own brand.”
In August 2014, Khan’s collection, which featured a mix of chunky necklaces, cuffs, earrings and ornate rings, was ready to be launched. Having set up a factory in Karachi, Khan says it was a challenge working with the local labour. “It has been a whirlwind of a ride; coordinating with the labour and explaining to them what I want,” she comments. “The biggest hurdle in dealing with this has been the laziness of people in Pakistan. There is a lot of talent but they are not willing to push themselves and their inefficiency is what has been a major burden.”
Khan shares that inara is an Arabic word, which means ‘to shine’. She selected it as the name of her brand as it is both easy to pronounce and relatable. Khan says there is a great demand for Inara jewels in New York and people of the cosmopolitan city are more interested in the story behind each piece rather than the quality or finish of the product.
“Initially, [my brand become known by] word-of-mouth, when people saw me wearing the pieces. Later, I became more proactive and donated a few pieces to the Developments in Literacy foundation’s gala for market research to see what demographic was interested in buying my jewellery.”
As a part-time job, Khan works at Christie’s, an auction house in New York. “Working there has helped me network with the right kind of people and it allows me to gauge what people think of my work and what sort of pieces they like the most.”
The designer explains that Americans love the traditional looking pieces while Pakistani’s opt for more contemporary pieces. “My three-string mala is not only the most expensive piece in my collection but has also been one of the most popular in New York. Angelina Jolie wore a similar piece on the red carpet and people wanted the same look,” Khan shared.
The designer is now venturing into fine jewellery along with sterling silver. “Last year was about creating feasibility and understanding the market. The future holds fine jewellery for me and I am very excited about it.” While the collection is order-based, Khan keeps some of her hot-selling items in stock for people to pick up.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2015.