A gold eye-shaped brooch with exaggerated lashes, a faux pearl choker with brass-cast teeth and diamond cavities, golden-ear earrings with large, dangling keyholes, brooches with hanging locks…surrealism has always inspired Schiaparelli’s jewellery, the concepts and flourishes often beyond imagination and description, but astonishingly glamorous.
For its Autumn/Winter 2020 and Spring/Summer 2021 collections, the French fashion house referenced its own collections from the 1930s, when founder Elsa Schiaparelli mined the surrealism that inspired contemporary art and literature to create stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces. Schiaparelli forged strong friendships with artists such as Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau that resulted not only in striking designs but in collaborations with them.
The 2020 take from the fashion house’s creative director, Daniel Roseberry, is captivating but not unexpected. With access to Schiaparelli’s archives, Roseberry has showcased two fantastically successful collections in the past year, highlighting the rise of the surrealist jewellery trend.
Several international brands, labels and designers, such as TASAKI, Delfina Delettrez, Bina Goenka, Begum Khan and Neha Dani, have tapped into it. The beauty of this jewellery trend lies in its atypical aesthetic choices, brought to life by designers and artists. It’s not a stretch to call the trend felicitous—it took off just before the quarantining measures of the pandemic threw us into isolation, leaving us yearning for a creative escape from reality.
A minimal rendition
The trend has found takers in India too, but it has been adapted, re-styled, even combined with other local and global conceptual styles, to suit the Indian personality and aesthetic.
Aaliya Jamal Zaidi, who founded Khwab Studio in Jaipur last year, has infused her jewellery, inspired by mythical and natural concepts such as the Tree of Life and artist Kirpal Singh’s work with irises, with surrealist elements such as abstract shapes and accents, elongated earring hooks and warped textures on brass.
“The beauty of surrealist-inspired collections, such as Schiaparelli’s, is that it’s so joyful and refreshing to look at. That maximalist style is like a complementary foil to the minimalist trend that has been pervading the scene for a while now. It offers that sense of escapism,” says Zaidi. Khwab Studio’s pieces, however, are simpler. “Indian traditional jewellery is anyway so maximal in its own way—similar to Schiaparelli’s aesthetic—that I wanted to draw on the former’s texture-inspired properties, while still keeping it modern and new,” she says.
Apart from the theme of nature, what stands out for her is old forms, given “how beautifully worn they look with their patina, which is why I wanted to use something as versatile as metal, because it can also be reused”.
Last year, designer Gaurav Gupta launched his diamond jewellery line, in partnership with Ahmedabad-based Occasions Fine Jewellery. Its pieces—presented across three collections, Feather, Infinity and Forest—were reminiscent of the sculptural craftsmanship he lends to his couture clothing. It was, again, inspired by nature but rendered in a neo-futuristic manner—such as a pair of ear-cuffs with wing-like designs or a necklace with leaves as light and elaborate as feathery strokes. The designs were inspired by an art nouveau style.
In Mumbai, Kaabia and Sasha Grewal, founders of Outhouse Jewellery, have been making jewellery in experimental, surrealism-inspired designs, giving edgy interpretations to flora and fauna, with bedazzling accents of Swarovski crystals, semi-precious stones and metal.
Beyond the bling
The founder of Delhi-based handcrafted jewellery label Eurumme, Eishita Puri has been inspired to create minimal, gender-fluid styles, with metal cast in different shapes, sizes and links. “Personally, I am a huge fan of jewellery inspired by surrealism. But even though there’s a section of consumers that is happy to experiment with this style, I am not sure how well it’s being received in the Indian market and whether it’s ready for it. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a challenge to find the balance between it being creatively and commercially viable,” she says.
For, though the surrealist jewellery trend can be a statement-making showpiece, it may not work for every occasion. “I have received flak for making mismatched surrealistic earrings because a lot of wearers are still attached to the idea of jewellery sets (where the design theme runs uniformly across all objects),” Puri says. Matching sets are often passed down as heirlooms, so they need to be timeless enough to be worn over and over again. Indian designers have taken the hint to create more pronounced yet nuanced interpretations of surrealism in metal. Designers and labels such as Eurumme, Misho, Kichu and Khwab Studio work extensively with metals and semi-precious stones in unique casting styles. The thinking behind this is that traditional Indian jewellery is already so maximal that brands have to tone it down for newer interpretations. Jewellery designer Swapna Mehta is known for upcycling traditional Indian jewellery to make distinct pieces. Traditional pieces such as the polki and jadau are already replete with motifs, and lend themselves to a close translation of the authentic surrealist style, without the more outre elements. All these brands work with a more maximalist aesthetic too.
It could be a smart choice then to invest in one or some standout surrealist pieces. These off-kilter pieces not only blur the boundaries between art and fashion, but are also reflective of the crazy state of the world. In a year like no other, when our approach to luxury has become more conscious, the Indian, minimalist take on the trend offers repeat value, longevity and diversity to, and in, your wardrobe. Even a little boldness can go a long way.