alighieri rosh designer

With an unconventional background for a jewellery designer, Rosh Mahtani takes her studies in French and Italian literature and reinterprets Dante’s Divine Comedy to bring something new to the jewellery market. She finds beauty in imperfection; nicks and dents bring the creatures of Dante’s 100 poems to life.

The eclectic assortment includes mix-and-match earrings, charm bracelets and medallion necklaces, all 24-carat gold-plated bronze. The collections are handcrafted using a wax carving technique and are deeply personal for Mahtani. Her hope is for wearers to become equally connected to the pieces. With collection titles like ‘Chasing Clouds’, ‘Teardrop’ and ‘Warrior’ she suggests the jewellery has an emotive power beyond its visible beauty. The jewellery is meant to travel with each wearer on their own journey and in turn become intertwined with their story.

We caught up with Mahtani to discuss the birth of her brand, recent collaborations and what’s next for Alighieri.

Name

Alighieri Jewellery

Designer

Rosh Mahtani

Origin

London

Homebase

London

Type of brand

Jewellery and objects

Where can we find your designs?

The Store Berlin, Soho Farmhouse, Joseph, Shop at Bluebird, Modern Society and on the Alighieri website.

Who is the ideal Alighieri customer?

The ideal Alighieri customer is someone who loves to know the story behind a piece of jewellery, and enjoys collecting their own as they wear it. I also love it when customers wear the pieces with other objects – I’m constantly inspired by how people put Alighieri together in different ways.

Did you always want to be a jewellery designer?

I have always loved jewellery but never thought I’d become a jewellery designer. As a child I wanted to be a writer or explorer. In retrospect, I was always collecting stones and shells and hunting for treasure, then displaying them for all to see, so maybe subconsciously I did!

Do you have any formal training in art or jewellery design?

None at all. I wasn’t great at art at school and never studied jewellery design, though I was always quite a visual person. When I did a one-day course in wax carving aged 24, I finally felt like I had discovered a language that made complete sense to me.

How do your studies of French and Italian literature influence your creations?

I still think of many of the characters I met in my studies. Calvino’s ‘Cosimo’ in Il Barone Rampante who runs up into the trees and refuses to return to the ground for the rest of his life; Dante’s feeling of loss and fear when he enters the dark wood; and even Madame de Sevigne’s witty 17th-century letters to her daughter, instructing her to take copious amounts of chocolate in times when the heart is overpowering the head. The sense of adventure, loss, humour and melancholy somehow always find their way into Alighieri, whether in the jewellery itself or in the campaigns.

How do you translate the poems from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy into jewellery?

After I graduated I felt a little bit lost and kept reading the Divine Comedy. I couldn’t help but imagine the characters, their feelings and descriptions in golden objects. That’s when I started making one piece of jewellery for each one of Dante’s 100 poems. The poet’s story is so universal and so incredibly visual that I like to sculpt these sentiments into wax and allow them to take on a life of their own. Sometimes I start with a quote, a word, a canto or character – I never quite know how they are going to turn out, much like the beginning of a new odyssey.

What else inspires you?

I love to travel. I’m really inspired by going to new places (often alone) with my old film camera. The things that always inspire me are long train journeys, lions, working with my friends, crustaceans, Fleetwood Mac and the moon. Particular inspirations at the moment are dreams, Adeline de Monseignat’s sculptures, Japanese Pearl Divers and Jean Miro’s sketches. I take photos and write journals whenever I’m on the road and recent trips are always on my mood board for the next collection. Iceland, with its dramatic landscapes, was a big inspiration for the ‘Teardrop’ collection – I always need to see a new place before starting a new collection. How do you perceive the intersection of art and fashion?

For me, it’s where a text written in the 14th century can be juxtaposed with the story of a contemporary woman; when the narrative told by artists in the Renaissance can become relatable to a person who lives in 2016; by the way the jewellery is styled in a current and timeless way.

Describe your typical day…

On the move! I wake up really early to respond to emails and manage production (these are things I can do while the sun is still asleep and the world feels calmer). Then I head to the studio in King’s Cross, check on customer orders, make the pieces, send out press requests, manage the website and so on. In the afternoons I go to Hatton Garden to work on production and often have meetings with various buyers, journalists and collaborators. By 6PM I’m ready for a Campari-Schweppes before heading back to the studio for some late-night wax work and any international orders. There is also often an impromptu jewellery photo-shoot somewhere in the day!

If not London, where would you live?

I love to install myself in different places and see what it’s like to actually live there. Right now, I would probably live in Sydney if not London, for the wonderful rocky nature and the ocean, or in a little town in France where I could get food from the market every morning. Brazil has also always been on my list…

You spent time living in Florence, Paris, and London. How would you describe the differences in their fashion scenes?

I would say Paris is the most regimented; there is a uniform and a way of doing things. It usually involves jeans, a pair of loafers and a white silk shirt, all done to perfection. But it is also full of incredible flea markets where there are many a treasure to be found.

Florence is slightly similar among the ‘old-guard’ tradition, where white linen suits and floral dresses are not uncommon in summer. But this is changing as more modern and minimal designs are flourishing on the Renaissance backdrop, such as the first concept store, Bjork Florence, run by the wonderful Filippo Anzalone in Santo Spirito.

London, on the other hand, is a place where anything goes, nobody bats an eyelid at your outfit even if you wear pyjamas on tube. You can see contemporary sculpture and Victorian architecture side by side. I think that’s what makes it such a dynamic city and a great place to create a brand or be artistic. There’s encouragement and opportunity for entrepreneurship in the arts here.

How do you see Alighieri evolving? What do you think is next?

At the moment, we’re expanding into other areas which you will see more of in 2017. We’ve been collaborating with RTW designer Anna Quan on white shirts and modern tailoring and shoe brand By Far, as well publishing house Wundor Editions. The plan is to develop the Alighieri aesthetic into many more realms so it’s a brilliant (and very busy) time.

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