We’ve heard of stories of people who give up promising, fast-paced, high-paying careers to further their childhood hobbies into successful businesses. But for ex-lawyer Devangee and her best friend Shruti, who was into even management, the business they were going to begin, was different. Of course, Vivat was born to fill a gap in the market for consumers – a gap with regards to quality and accessibility of accessories. Jewellery was either precious, or costume, and while the former could only be worn on occasions, the latter was either too low in quality, or too expensive. Devangee and Shruti intended to highlight Indian fashion through accessories that were hand-made by artisans from the remotest of villages in India. Devangee mentions, “When people talk of fashion, everyone looks up to New York fashion or Parisien fashion. That’s all great, but we have so much here, in India itself, that for some reason does not get the focus it should.”
But, Vivat is not just that, it’s a fair trade jewellery brand. One of the raisons d’être for Vivat was working with artisans at the grassroots level in order to uplift their lives, both, in the short as well as the long term. “We realized, if you go beyond the outskirts of the touristy zone of the city, and into where these artisans live, you’ll learn that they’re really not doing too well for themselves”, adds Devangee. Through Vivat, they’re actually making a huge difference to the lives of these people – women empowerment through job-creation is a focus area for the entrepreneurs, and so is their children’s education – they’ve allocated funds for higher education of these artisans’ children, encouraging them to study and secure a better future, while their parents work hard for the family.
It was a sheer delight, talking to Devangee, the effervescent one-half behind Vivat. Here’s a look into her style mantra…
WM: Why jewellery? How did you’ll come to starting a jewellery business?
DG: I’ve always been making jewellery for friends and family. We had a karigar who would come home, and out of the beads or stones that were left, I would make my own little pieces. That’s how jewellery-making for me started. Back then, though, it was just a hobby. I went ahead, pursuing my career in law. The long work hours took a toll on my health, and I decided to take a break. It was during this time that my best friend and I had been to Udaipur for a common friend’s wedding, where the idea of starting this business, popped up, and we decided that my hobby will be turned into a business. As soon as we got back to Mumbai, we got down to research and groundwork to get this started, and Vivat was born.
WM: How has your journey with accessories been, as a wearer?
DG: I’ve always been more of an accessories person. I’m not big on shoes, I like bags, but I’ve always been most happy with my jewellery. I’m not that much into earrings, I love my statement necklaces.
You’ll never see me clashing prints, I love solids or something with a little bit of print. I like clean lines, that way, my necklaces always stand out.
WM: How do you categorize your pieces for different kind of women?
DG: We believe that every customer who comes to us should not go back empty-handed because maybe something they really liked didn’t fit their budget. That’s why we have our lines categorized according to price points, but also, according to people’s tastes.
We have three lines – one is the semi-precious line, for women aged between 28-60 years. These women are more serious about their jewellery, they want elegant-looking pieces, have the spending power, and want exclusivity. So, these pieces are usually made out of more sophisticated raw material. The second is a high street fashion line, the pieces in which are very trendy and stylish. It’s called the Travelling Gypsy line. My partner and I, and our respective spouses, love to travel. So, we tend to pick up a lot of pieces from our trips. We go to local bazaars and pick up unique pieces, sometimes even raw material that we bring back and then create designs here, once we’re back. This line works more with college-goers to young professionals, and those in their early 30’s. The third line is more of a bohemian line. We came up with this line almost two and a half years ago. I’m from Gujarat, and have grown up noticing the Rabari tribe a lot. But it is only after getting into this industry that I started noticing their jewellery. And it’s beautiful! This is a very accessible line, but it’s also gold or silver plated. We keep in mind that a lot of people might have sensitive skin. So, while we make these pieces in German silver and other metal alloys, we do have them plated, so people with sensitive skin don’t get any allergies, and also these pieces are not heavy on their pockets.
We also do custom pieces for weddings. We have a lot of clients who are using our jewellery on destination weddings, because for such weddings, people want to carry statement pieces, yet they don’t want to take a chance carrying around a lot of real jewellery.
WM: We like your style, it’s interesting. Could you elaborate more on it?
DG: I give comfort a lot of importance. It’s just like if you’re not going to be comfortable in your own skin then you’re going to be awkward, and that’s going to show. So, if I have to go for a formal dinner, then yes I will dress up. But, if I was to head out to dinner right now, I can even put on a blazer over this (she was wearing her white shirt-dress at the time) and just get my heels, and I’m good to go.
WM: Your work makes you travel a lot. So has your wardrobe changed because of a lot of travelling?
DG: (Giggles) Yes, the best part of my work is that I get to travel a lot! About my clothes, I’m not a brand-crazy person. I love some brands, but I also love picking up pieces while I’m travelling. I love the clothing sensibilities of Europe, because whether the garments are structured or unstructured, their lines are very clean, and that really appeals to me. And that allows me to play around with my necklaces! I love mixing and matching pieces. As long as I’m not wearing flowers and looking like a garden, I’m good with mixing and matching. Oh by flowers, I also mean floral prints, I just don’t do them.
WM: If you could describe your style sensibility in one word, what would it be?
WM:Three things (we now know florals is one), you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing.
DG: Super-busy prints. I’m okay with a graphic print, if it’s really big. But, I just can’t mix massive busy prints. I think polka dots are also something I wouldn’t wear. And florals, of course.