< Young Turks >
Chicago-born designer of Indian origin, Zeenat Desai beautifully merges two different cultures in her creations
When Rudyard Kipling, in his Barrack-Room Ballads wrote, “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” he hadn’t met the young jewellery designer, Zeenat Desai.
This Chicago-born designer of Indian origin, who showcased her debut collection in IIJW 2012 show in Mumbai, has not only beautifully merged two different cultures in her work but fused two different professions. Zeenat is also an Emmy Award nominated journalist. “I am fortunate that I am able to do two things that I love at once,” says the designer-cum-journalist.
So how did a journalist land up designing jewellery, we ask. “My name is Zeenat,” she replies. “It means ‘ornamentation’ or ‘bejeweled beauty’. So, this just had to happen. I love sketching and for me jewellery is a form of art and expression.’’ Desai displayed a riveting collection in her show. She showcased a skull maharaja necklace created as a modernday ode to the bygone emperors of India’s golden era. It had a gold, turbaned skull maharaja hailed by two imperial elephants perched atop a rendition of an 18th century sword. And then she had what she terms ‘inspired by nature’ pieces of The Cloud jewels sapphire necklace and the Lotus Ruby Necklace. Selected as the ‘2012 Budding Designer’, her avantgarde interpretation of Mughal jewellery made more than a few heads turn.
Being Chicagoan by birth and Indian by heritage, Desai’s designs see inspirations from both worlds. Growing up in Chicago, she was exposed to the most beautiful art deco architecture. And because her family spent summers touring the forts and palaces of India, it was Moghul art that fascinated her.
Zeenat, who holds a degree in public affairs journalism and a GIA certificate in coloured stones, says that she loves creating pieces in gold. Currently, she is focusing on the development of ‘Precious Little Gems’, a philanthropic project founded by her jewellery line — Zeenat Desai Jewelry — with the goal of providing laughter through the arts for underprivileged children living in an Indian orphanage. A portion of the profits from the sale of each jewellery piece benefits the project.