If you walk into a boutique called Vasundhara, tucked away in a high-rise on Kolkata’s tony Alipore Road, you might just see a petite lady poring over her workstation sketching intricate motifs and occasionally looking up to answer queries. That would be Vasundhara Mantri, the design brain behind the popular artificial jewellery brand in the city for the past 15 years. As you continue to watch, you will probably notice that her inspiration comes from bounteous nature. Drawings of bugs, bees, butterflies, peacocks, parrots and flowers, the mainstay of her design ideology, are all around. Mantri believes in innovatively incorporating both traditional and contemporary elements in her designs.
As we chat, my eyes keep gravitating towards the copper bees gracing her earlobes, a fun adornment that is exquisite in its craftsmanship. “This was from my last collection, a line that was inspired by the prettiness of bugs, bees and butterflies. I experimented with textures for an enhanced look,” Mantri explains, showing off a statement neck-piece that resembles a twig with insects stationed on each branch. Varnished in gold, the ornament, says the designer, is a favourite with young girls for wedding parties and cocktail dos.
About costume jewellery being favoured at weddings, Mantri opines, “The scope to experiment with looks increases manifold with imitation jewellery as compared to what you can do with old kundan, jadau and polki. But even those can be given a twist with our designs. Nowadays, the impression of an artificial jewel has undergone a paradigm shift. These are pieces of art to be shown off with pride. In my initial years, I often faced a roadblock while I was convincing women that this kind of jewellery is as coveted as a heritage jadau necklace, simply because it is more creative. Today, women understand the value of this kind of bijouterie and hence are gravitating towards it.” The best part about Mantri’s craft is that it gives a spin to both traditional attires as well as Western separates.
“At the last wedding I attended in Bangkok I saw so many women wearing imitation jewels. But while some stuck to the jaded fakes, others showed pluck in their choices of smart and glamorous pieces. It’s all about the attitude. If you carry off a well-crafted costume ornament with panache, you will be singled out for your elegant taste,” Mantri maintains. “Times have changed. Connoisseurs are not judgmental about wearing fake stuff to weddings. But the product must carry the hallmark of deft artistry, grace and detailing.With statement pieces, you need to stick to simple colours and cuts in clothes so that the focus stays on the jewellery. The other day, I teamed a kundan and pearl necklace with a monochromatic pink sari and that was it. You should either choose a statement trinket for the neck, ears, head or simply sport a hand harness. Don’t wear something that passes off as real.”
Mantri, armed with a degree from Gemological Institute of America, New York, loves to inventively toy with precious stones. These stones find place in geometric fish, bird and other patterns. While on a visit to a temple recently, the designer was struck by the flowers used in garlands — tuberose, jasmine, marigold and hibiscus. Piqued by the idea, she is now working on a collection that features them. “The pieces will be artistic with heavy floral accents, perfect for weddings. But what I always keep in mind is versatility and comfort. Those wearing my creations should not feel bogged down. They should enjoy themselves in my jewels,” Mantri finishes with confidence.