Classic With An Edge

Raj Mahtani talks with You & I
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a fifth-generation jeweller with my own signature brand that I started in 2000. Satramdas Dhalamal, an established family jewellery store, was founded in 1880 by my ancestors, who designed jewels for the maharajas and their families. The likes of Lord Mountbatten were among their clients.
How did you end up designing jewellery?
I originally wanted to be a film star, and when I realised it was a difficult path, I knew I had to get into design. I have a keen sense of all things visual, and so I gave fashion design a thought. But coming from a lineage of jewellery designers, my family pushed me towards this. In a way, the joy and scope of designing jewellery is limitless. India has a good aesthetic sense and the elements to create magic, and I find myself fitting in perfectly.
What’s the inspiration behind your creations?
As I travel around the world, I find myself influenced by my surroundings, and I create what I perceive. I’m highly inspired by the architecture and antiques of the Mughal Empire. I approach each piece of work as a challenge that creates sensational drama, and I find my end product to be completely theoretical. I’m fascinated by my surroundings, especially when I travel. Inspiration comes from buildings, movies and music, just the way a song takes you in a certain direction.
How did you know this was your calling?
When I was in college, I just knew it was the perfect job. I’m not built for a commercial 9-5, and right then I knew design was my calling.
Can you share any special moments with us?
When I was asked to do a show at Paris Fashion Week, being able to carry around my creations was a validation of my success. Achievement is being able to take my work across borders and see the world wearing my creations. I was able to wow Paris with my designs, and that opened up a whole new world for me.
What sort of technique or style do you rely on most?
My signature style is definitely opulent. It’s all about one signature statement piece, or nothing. Matching is a concept I don’t believe in, personally. I need to see one product, and it should wow me. All designs come from expression of purity and ecstasy in drama. I pick classical designs and give them my own edgy but interesting spin.
Satramdas Dhalamal, an established family jewellery store 
Who are some of your role models?
Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga are depictions of the extraordinary and non-controlled cult, which seems beautiful in their own senses of style and inevitable statements.
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
A small town where there’s no access to technology is the ideal place for me to unwind. I don’t deal with technology too much, so this sort of getaway helps me connect with myself, just sketching on a mountainside and gazing at the sky.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see my brand holding a much larger place in the retail industry. I want to change the stiffness on the road to being a jeweller, and encourage more talented people to showcase their innovations.
Any plans for the future?
We will be opening stores in Mumbai, Delhi, London, Hong Kong and New York.
How do you balance your professional and personal lives?
I don’t really have a personal life, because all my time from daybreak to nightfall keeps me busy with work. I do like to splurge on the weekends, which gives me a chance to relax and be prepared for yet another week of work.
How has your passion impacted your life?
My life is all about art, my house filled with paintings and candles. Parts of it are empty, which intrigues me and gives me intense ideas. On the one hand, there’s grandeur and opulence; on the other, nothing. That intimidates me and challenges me to come up with new ideas.                                                                                                                                                  ..... as told to Shreya