Deepa and Jay Lakhani are the duo behind 8-year-old jewelry label – Deepa Gurnani. They were kind enough to invite me on a visit to their showroom and studio.
Both hail from traditional design backgrounds. Deepa (originally from Mumbai) studied at Central Saint Martins and worked for design greats like Alexander McQueen, Fendi and Ungaro. Jay also went to design school at FIT and trained with Fine Jewelry greats from Tiffany and Bvlgari. They both had an early understanding of the quality standards expected to succeed in this business.
After their wedding, they cofounded their hand-embroidered line. Starting out with handmade belts, they expanded into hair accessories and now include bridal, fashion jewelry and bags. Henri Bendel picked up their first collection and now they retail in over 2000 stores around the world.
The first thing that caught me completely off guard was the weight of the jewelry (Being someone who loves statement necklaces, I’m used to heavy pieces that need to be removed after a few hours of wear). Their jewelry is lightweight and because it is stitched onto soft fabric, it is also not irritating to the skin. As I was curating their assortment for my favorite pieces, I was so happy to see that they really had something for every girl or woman – whether understated or a stand alone piece.
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How did the idea come about to use embroidery as the foundation to your label?
Deepa: I had beaded many couture pieces for McQueen and it has always been an important part of my aesthetic in India. I wanted to contribute to sustaining this art. All our pieces are hand made at our factory in Mumbai.
Jay: These craftsmen are the most skilled artisans and they bring our creative vision to life.
Who is the “Deepa Gurnani” customer?
Deepa & Jay: We don’t believe in stereotyping the woman that wears Deepa Gurnani. We have little girls who love our pieces and older mothers of the bride who will wear us on a special occasion. The Deepa girl is the girl next door who is looking to add sparkle to her life.
What is it like to work together?
Jay: We both wear completely different hats. I focus on the front end and sales while Deepa spends her time focusing on production. We do meet when we both design together. It helps that we each allow the other to focus on what we do best without any interference.
Quality is always a concern when dealing with something so delicate.
Deepa: We stand behind our product. If you are dissatisfied in any way or if something accidentally falls out, we replace it for free.
Where do you see the label in the next five years?
Deepa: We would love to expand into ready to wear collections.
What is your inspiration for the next season?
Deepa: The collection is a departure from my usual aesthetic – it is slightly edgy and has a darker feel to it.
What is the sutra that ties you to fashion?
Jay: Look around you (pointing at the products that surround us) – we call these seven hundred items our babies. We really sleep, eat, breathe what we do here everyday. Empowering the artisans, creating a sustainable business and giving back have really fueled our love of fashion. Our business has allowed us to set up an orphanage in India and provide for ten children with special needs. When you realize your vision becomes bigger than just you and that it includes a way of life for others – it is an immensely humbling and gratifying feeling.
Where can we find your products?
Deepa: In the US, we are sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Anthropologie, W Hotels, Wink NYC and Shopbop. In India, we can be found at Bungalow 8. You can also shop us on our website.