Sushma Shah handcrafts jewellery from waste and manages to lure even the most unconventional buyer to try her experimental pieces!
By Asmita Aggarwal
Sometimes we aspire to do the exact opposite of what we see around us, maybe it is because we already know what it entails, the perils and the advantages. That’s why Sushma Shah who’s family and cousins own half of Zaveri bazaar, Mumbai chose to move away from traditional diamond and gold jewellery and started designing baubles, you could create out of even industrial waste.
She liked the ring of the word “Rejuvenate” and went ahead with it as her brand’s moniker, “it embodies the spirit of rekindling and reviving”. Sushma, who grew up in Mumbai believes what we think of as waste can be refashioned and given a new personality. She became a story teller and the characters in her book ranged from recycled wood, industrial pipes, old coins, scraps, in a label, she launched six years ago.
“Fashion jewellery has a huge scope of creativity, which conventional jewellery lacks, there is only so much you can play with there, I wanted a wider focus. And when my mom, who has grown up buying diamond sets worth Rs 20 lakhs (minimum), saw my collection and wanted to wear it, I knew I had succeeded,” she explains.
However, the process of acceptance has been slow as many viewers still question, who will wear such bold, big pieces? “Earlier women were conservative, now I have observed accessorising is the new way of dressing up and clients want experimental products (a coin worn as a nose pin and clocks in the ears,” she explains.
What remains Sushma’s biggest strength in her design process where every product is hand-crafted and there is a narrative that accompanies it. The “Rustic” line saw her give a new lease of life to burnt industrial pipes, which were washed and cleaned and now adorn necks of fashionable women. “It was my way of protesting against pollution that factories cause resulting in global warming. I pick topics that I see around and disturb me and my jewellery does all the talking covertly,” she admits.
Rejuvenate offers pieces that begin from Rs 500 and go up to Rs 3,000 and Sushma’s favourite are the chunky ones that look larger-than-life. There is a lot more about Sushma that impresses you— from her poems, writing a blog and living in the US for almost five years and longing to come back to her country. “My husband did his MBA from Ohio, and I worked there during our time in the US, at the Empire State Building, but I felt it was a cold nation, it lacked the warmth of India, so we moved back,” she says.
Jewellery has moved out of lockers and Sushma believes working women don’t aspire to wear the same 10 carat solitaires to work every day, “it’s boring” rather they want pieces that rev up their everyday ensembles. Whether it is a sari, dress or pant-suit, Sushma makes versatile products from body chains to anklets, brooches, armlet and as they are versatile you can wear the same thing in two different ways.
“The practicality of the piece is most important to me. Jewellery is now an adornment, we will buy the real stuff as an investment, we are Indians, but we also want to have a little fun with interesting knick-knacks, that’s where I step in,” she smiles.
A lover of what Amrapali creates, Sushma a self-taught designer, goes by her instinct while designing and also the malleability of the raw materials she uses. “I like to play with motifs and in my ‘Heritage’ line, the elephant became the fulcrum. The future I foresee for my brand is to go international and start exporting,” she concludes.