In a scenario, where jewellery designing is the ultimate fall back career and where every actor's wife or out-of-work actress opens a jewellery shop (just take a walk down Bandra's Turner Road, if you don't believe me), it's refreshing to meet someone, who knows her craft and is serious about her business.
Aren't we all tired of seeing Bulgari fakes floating around everywhere? How many of us want to pay for an overpriced fake? When I meet Varuna D Jani at her store that's the first question I ask. Does the clutter in the jewellery market bother her? In this game of PR and networking, does design take a backseat? Pat comes the reply. "A jewellery designer may not necessarily have done a designer training. Same way with fashion. But they may have an aesthetic sensibility. You have to completely give 100 per cent hard work. You can't do it haphazardly. I'm here from morning 11 am to 8.30 interacting with the clients. That is the USP. As an adornologist, I can understand what suits that individual. Networking is important and most importantly is following your passion without thinking of the end result. I have never looked at what other people are doing. I like Farah Khan Ali's work and she has an identity. Neelam Kothari too has identity. Also, design is very subjective. I'm no one one to comment."
That's Varuna - grounded, focused and measured. Even though she hails from the illustrious Popley family and jewellery is in her blood but she's never bothered comparing herself with others in her family. "Coming from a family of jewellers, it has been an advantage also. I have always believed in my ability and my passion for jewellery. I think I need to compete with myself rather than comparing myself to my family or anybody else. I have never looked at what my brothers are doing."
We script our own life
Life's not really been easy for Varuna and she had to start from scratch to establish her brand and identity. "Everyone feels I have had an easy way out since I have a legacy of jewellery business. My life is no different from any other person because I actually got married at 18 and relocated to Dubai in 1991. I was always passionate about jewellery. I started sketching from an early age and I would adorn my dolls. When I got married, the priorities changed but I never gave up on my passion for jewellery. I would visit the Gold Souk in Dubai all the time," she recalls.
"Whatever you desire very deeply sometimes comes to you in life. It is we who script our entire life. In 2006, my father needed some assistance over here and due to that I came back to help. From 2006 to 2008, we created Varuna D Jani. Popley was selling jewellery starting from Rs 2000 and going up to crores. It was important to narrow the focus and speak to a TG. We started Varun Jani for Popley which was Rs 10 lakhs and above worth of jewellery. For two years, we were very successful and things were going good," she adds.
"When I gave my first interview, I remember I had said, 'I want to become a brand and want to be known all over the world for fine jewellery.' I think I charted my own destiny when I look back. In 2008, I had to make a very difficult decision. The easy option was to go back to Dubai with a lump sum of money and the right thing to do was to follow my passion which was about adorning women. I had never seen hardships in my life. I grew up in a house where everything came to me on a platter. In 2008, I ventured on my own, not knowing what was in store for me. When I started, I liquidated all my assets from Dubai. I wanted to start on my own because I wanted to be responsible for my success and failure. I didn't want it to be a burden on my husband or anybody. I know that there was a lot at stake because I have three daughters. I still remember one week prior to the day I was about to open my store, there was a terrorist attack and the recession had already struck. I think it was the wrong time when my brand began.
I started creating jewellery from a garage and I used to feel good because even Steve Jobs started from a garage. 2008 onwards, awards started pouring and I got appreciation for my work. I got three to four awards every year. I didn't want to keep Varun Jani for Popley. I thought I'll attach Popley when I become something. I started with Varuna Jani. Not having a family name to your brand and recession didn't make it easy for me. I had an export order which got cancelled because of recession. I didn't have many customers coming in and I was struggling every single day. I was getting a lot of appreciation but rewards had not started. In the jewellery industry, in the last 25 to 30 years, nobody has been able to make a name. Obviously it's all about relationship and family jewellers. Everyone was selling on VVS standards. After I started the brand, the prices of diamonds doubled and I was fed up of proving my honesty to people."
Transparency and honesty
"Transparency and honesty with my personal interaction, my innovative designs and the differentiating factor - all these things are responsible to reach where I am today.
I think honesty and hard work paid off. In today's times, two things which are missing are - perseverance and adaptability. Everyone thinks that everything is going to come in an instant. Even after so many years, everyday is a struggle. Everyone looks at the success story but no one looks at the hardships which the person has gone through in life which can take years. The three Ds are required: desire, drive and determination. When you work fast you tend to lose your integrity."
'The more the merrier'
"Someone who buys a Varun Jani piece will come back. Ultimately what a woman wants – she wants to flaunt, she wants versatility. She wants to be the showstopper. That is more important. I don't think I need to bother about anyone. There's a market for every single person. What's your long term goal is important."
A lot of jewellery designers have gone to the extent of copying Varuna's quotes from her interviews in the press. She is peeved with the fact that she was the one who started the art of adornology in the city and now others have jumped onto the bandwagon and calling themselves adornologist.
"Copying is also an art. As long as you are copying and giving it your own touch, it's okay. I always say that even God made seven of a kind. There is nothing wrong if you can beautify existing beauty. If you copy completely, it is just not acceptable. I design with a woman in my mind. I try to create jewellery circling around women and their face cut. What a frame does to a picture, jewellery does to your face. I keep the woman in mind and think of what will give timeless versatility and sophistication to that woman."
The Varuna Jani woman
"She's someone who doesn't need to prove anything to the world. She's strong and powerful. She wears jewellery for the sheer pleasure of adorning herself rather than showcasing of wealth and prestige. She has a very strong identity. She is the showstopper and not the jewellery."
Work life balance
"My life revolves around my work and my family. I hardly go out. Because I feel, children however big they are, need family time. I have breakfast with my children. We get up early and are together and I'm with my children for dinner. I see to it that I'm there with them for breakfast and dinner. Sundays, I give half of the day to my children and half to my 'me time.'"
Designers I admire
"For me, it's about 'classics redefined' so it's Harry Winston. For the glamour quotient, I like de Grisogono. When it comes to fashion, I love Armani's Emporio line. I like Valentino for bling and Elie Tahari for the sophistication and sensuality he gives to a woman. I do take my inspiration from fashion because fashion and jewellery go hand in hand."
The impact of costume jewellery
"Costume jewellery was always there. These things look good only before marriage. After marriage, we all want to buy real jewellery. Before marriage even we used to wear costume. For a woman, diamonds will always be her best friends," she signs off.