Metallic Memories : Watching Desi Jewelery become mainstream again

By : Maheen Ahmed

Something that the fashion scene in Pakistan can bare witness to is the come back of traditional jewelry.

This definition of traditional/desi includes elements and designs that are inclusive of Punjabi, Rajasthani, Balochi and Afgan jewelry.

I specify these locations because they are otherwise underrepresented but also not to assume that they are outside of the realm of Pakistani/Desi or traditional jewelry that Pakistani women and have owned,loved, cherished and collected for generations.

What Is Traditional ? And Why It Matters?

Traditional is perhaps best seen as something that is familiar, that is old and faded with age. Something that is earthy and not tampered with chemical sciences. Something that we perhaps remember but feel strange towards like a lost history that we feel a profound bond for.

We just don’t know how to fit it into our lives anymore.

It might be specific designs that we saw in paintings or something only meant to keep safe and not regularly wear.

Traditional is what’s left behind or only seen villages or rural places where people feel like they don’t have to abandon to chose between heritage and today.

So in many ways traditional is; heritage, culture and deeply rooted to the hands of artisan labor and existence.

It is non toxic and naturally found. This is significant because due to colonialism,local migration, changes in lifestyle we culturally left a lot behind and looked down at our local cultures.

We became harsh towards ourselves and now that we are taking back we our images and art we are silently healing.

Aesthetics and Elements of Traditional

Our ethnic jewelry is larger than life. It’s shiny and reflection and of course colorful and is intricate yet simple and splendid all in one.

We contacted the owners of Ayesha Accessories ( @ayeshaaccessories), which is a leading contemporary brand, that specialises in jewelry.

“We are working with Afghan jewellery since 8 years. The past two years we incorporated our modern design aesthetics to it. The owner of the brand, Ayesha Basit is a graduate of Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.

As soon as we incorporated our design elements to it customers really appreciated it and was loved by everyone.

That was the time when everyone started talking about contemporary Afghan jewellery by Ayesha Accessories. However since we are in Pakistan, we don’t have any copy right restrictions here so what’s popular in the market is copied and sold.

Vendors copy our style our designs and are selling it in local markets but as we all know still no one can beat the originals so there will always be a quality difference.

We are constantly working on adding more design elements so that we launch a very different product in the market keeping the trends in mind.”

What’s popular with editorial looks is fashion models in sleek and minimal contemporary western attire, and juxtapose that look by adding chunky and metallic Desi jewelry. And because the jewelry is so large, monotone and present it become the center of attention.

Despite being so old ethnic jewelry allows a lot of creativity. No one can say it’s too much too little. You can do whatever you like but of course generally people prefer to wear jhumkas to feel aesthetically Desi.

This reinvention of style doesn’t have people wearing anklets, churrians, prandas just yet, but perhaps that will also happen soon. Maybe men will also join in and wear those prominent gemstone rings again.

For now it’s mostly just statement necklaces, earrings and rings.

Visually there’s a lot of metal, bronze and silver. There are small pearls and kundan pieces. Almost escoteric images like the lotus flower, peacocks, coins, geometrical shapes, mirrors,madalas and precious stones.

All symbols that represent enternity and fertility. In conclusion it’s stunning and breathtaking.

Anti Luxury

Traditional jewelry is accessible, classy and a statement against luxury. They can be worn anywhere and unlike the ‘khandani’ gold sets you were not scolded or warned about wearing them.

You don’t have to wait till marriage or weddings to finally wear them, and you can actually wear them out and lose them without fear, so the sentimental value of memories and creativity is endless.

Profoundly the access is amazing because because now the bridge between classes and what people wear in villages and cities is meeting. It’s great for the culture and local industry and yes a vision of healing.

Stylist Hassan Rizvi (@hassaniqbalrizvi) had this to say , ‘ There is charm to be found in traditional & Afghani jewelry, especially in its power to make even the simplest of outfits stand out. I love the versatility of Afghani jewelry; wear it to a wedding, with a plain black western top or even a three-piece shalwar kameez, there are plenty of options for all tastes and moods. I’m very fond of our heritage jewelry, more sentimentally so. Growing up, I spent hours rummaging through my mother and grand-mothers’ jewelry cupboards. Their taste was simply exquisite.

Subconsciously, this way of life has shaped my design identity.

Sentimental labor and Unity

We may be writing this and speaking about the rise of traditional jewelry but it should be noted that our ages and times have their unique aesthetic and style that is prevalent.

Its always interesting to see the myriad of ways each person uses the pieces and expresses their own personality through it. That was where these traditions and style came from – someone’s creativity and desire to self express.

We spoke to the owners of Sanvarna Accessories ( @sanvarnaaccessories) and they agreed that rise was ‘immense’ and that people are more ‘comfortable’ wearing local,ethnic pieces and in cities the look is almost fetishized since they see it editorials. They get the most orders for earrings and chokers.

They also shared that actual jewelry worn in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan is actually not like what we buy in the cities.

The design, arrangement is something of that only the women of those areas know how to use wear and operate. So they are built different.

Each place in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and India has their own take on how to style themselves for cultural events and this should be invited into our lives and not gate kept or shunned, but protected yes!

Be sure to share your thoughts and feelings with us in the comments.

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