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An unlikely Indian story, narrated in jute and steel

A nondescript building in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar market holds a studio that makes and sells architectural jewellery that pays homage to the old art form of patwa

Published: 17th September 2016 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th September 2016 01:10 PM   |  A+A-

You could list it among Delhi’s best kept secrets. Not in a hundred years would you suspect Lajpat Nagar, the capital’s kitchiest market area, of playing home to En Inde, a line of contemporary jewellery that is the ultimate in cool. But then it’s also a line that pays homage to the age-old craft of patwa and uses the idea of India as a continual reference. So perhaps it’s only fitting that En Inde has moved from tony Meharchand Market to an area that any patwa would feel comfortable in. 

Once, patwa pieces were found largely across North India, the handwork of braid-makers who created jewellery with beads and silver and gold thread. The earring was their most favourite piece, followed by the simple necklace.

AN.jpgAnupama Sukh Lalvani and Sonal Sood, co-founders of En Inde, have co-opted the patwa practice, junked the earrings and made the necklace their own. It’s a complete and uncompromising takeover. Indeed, if it weren’t for the ancient technique of thread-winding that goes into the creation of each piece, the old patwas would have a tough time recognizing En Inde as a member of their tribe. These are no blingy trinkets of pleasure. The beads are almost gone, as are the gold and silver. In their place stand strong, architectural compositions in jute and steel; pieces that are metaphorical, full of symbolism and demand contemplation. Not just because of the strong focus on craft; but also because they look like physical manifestations of mindful meditation.

Lalvani, who is an architect by training, says she doesn’t know exactly what will emerge when she sits down to design a piece. “I consider my work an interpretation of the natural world. When I look at the components, they say something to me. And they end up making their own shape,” she says. “I start out with simple thread and steel and end up creating a new language. Sometimes I feel as if I’m creating a new DNA.”

ANa.JPGLalvani, who was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, is fascinated by the rituals and rhythms of indigenous tribes. “They have a language that I like to emulate. Many nomadic cultures use mirrored surfaces to ward off evil. I like the talismanic effect and use stainless steel to achieve it.”

Some of Lalvani’s utterances (“I put it out fearlessly, and I want people to wear it fearlessly,”) may sound off-kilter to some people but only till they see her work, which carries an air of urban armour. En Inde’s pieces speak an unyielding language. They dangle insouciantly from jute threads which may have been fragile once but have taken on a resilient tone while undergone the rites of passage with Lalvani and her patwa, for whom the designer has the deepest respect. (“His talent is limitless,” she says.)

The company was founded in 2004 by Lalvani. In 2009, Sood, a talented photographer who’d earlier worked in investment banking and luxury retail management in the US, came on board. The two now work together seamlessly, with Lalvani in charge of design and Sood running the enterprise. 

“We had no real idea about pricing when we started,” laughs Sood. “Anu would tot up the cost of the materials, add something by way of profit and put it up for sale. But we were never cheap.” They still aren’t.

En Inde’s neckpieces start at around `8,000 and go up to `16,000. That is something a lot of people, used as they are to bling, just don’t understand. “They say, ‘This is just thread and steel; not gold, not diamonds’. Only a few consider the hours that go into the winding of the jute or the cutting of the steel, leave alone the designing,” Sonu adds.

But, happily, there are also many clients who accept the designs equivocally. They buy a bangle; then a small neck piece and then, boom, they’re converts. It’s difficult not to be, especially when you learn the stories behind each piece. Consider the cuffs that adhere to the ‘Five Pillars’ of En Inde. One speaks of Trust, another of Love. There’s also Believe, Niyam (or Discipline) and Gratitude. In a world of fast fashion, who would say no to a brand that is built on timeless principles? That makes a hat tip to what’s past even while forging a new path with steely determination? Not Olympian PV Sindhu, for sure. She’s been spotted in the En Inde Believe cuff of late.

EN INDE

B45-A Lajpat Nagar 2 Second floor

New Delhi 110024

Phone: 011 49050832

By appointment only

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