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Opulence  is not gawdy. It isSensual , subtle , classy. Here areFive embodiments of true luxe
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Like any true artist, Alok Lodha, 56, doesn’t want to sell some of his jewellery pieces. These are pieces the fastidious second-generation jeweller—more a passionate gemstone collector really—works on for years and sometimes, even decades on end, to complete. Because he may not find the right intensity of the last two pink-red matching rubies (of the total 196 precious stones) to complete the five-string identically graded, antique necklace. Or because he may be fervidly scouting sources around the globe to lay his hands on natural Basra pearls with the perfect lustre and exact size for the bracelet that he has sketched. On other occasions, he will not think twice about cutting a 51-carat emerald into almost half its size to fashion a rare hexagonal shape. Then there are gemstones in his collection so exquisite, like the gargantuan 185-carat emerald, which have the potential to become national treasures, let alone priceless heirlooms. His flagship store in Delhi’s old-money alcove, Sundar Nagar, primarily displays jewellery created around gemstones of rare provenance and exquisite value. This ravishing necklace named Greenesence—priced at Rs 1.5 crore—is fashioned around a deep green Colombian emerald weighing 35.09 carats. To cover a natural fissure in the middle of the stone, a 3.23-carat solitaire has been set on top of it in a unique kissing technique fashioned by round and oval cut diamonds weighing 43.67 carats. In painting terms, this would mean a one of a kind Cezzane canvas, where the painter deliberately painted a peach in the middle of his apples.

The catalogue of the rugs of the Brahmaand (universe) Collection, by design prodigy Ashiesh Shah, shows images of them strewn across desert landscapes. The indigo orbs surfacing out of the khaki tones of the dunes in otherworldly contrast—almost like holes on a flat earth—look like portals opening into the deep blue recesses of interstellar space. Made in collaboration with Jaipur Rugs, arguably India’s largest handmade rug maker, the mandala-shaped rugs are an outcome of meticulous craft, beginning from the picking, hand carding and spinning of the wool into a very fine yarn and its subsequent weaving with intricate finishing processes. The finished pieces, woven using wool dyed with ombre hues of indigo, vibrate with a fusion of influences—from Rajasthani architecture to miniature paintings, zodiac wheels, Indian sacred geometry, Raza’s Bindu paintings and neo tantric art—all of them osmosing into the layered and very Zen geometric patterns of the rugs. The designer further involves weavers and artisans to reinterpret the designs of the Brahmaand series by ‘weaving in’ their folk motifs and geometrical shapes to create a unique range of rugs called the ‘Brahmaand Manchaha’ collection (pictured is a 5 ft x 8 ft oval rug from the collection, priced at Rs 9.24 lakh). The term means a universe fashioned by the heart. Charged with the weavers’ lived influences and self-guided asymmetrical improvisations, the contemplative core of the design comes alive like the hum of a mantra chant. More than just a fine rug, it is, for some, a personal patch of the infinite.

The special line of bespoke handmade shoes by the sultan of couture, J.J. Valaya, walk his walk. Evolved from the bloodline of the ornate mojris and juttis that accessorised the Indian groom in the Nineties and at the turn of the century, and their embroidered, velvet-fused leather lovechild, the pump moccasin with mughal cut silhouettes in the last decade—this range of meticulously crafted, hand embroidered and hand stained leather shoes of the Alma Collection launched last year, leave a footprint of understated opulence—much like Vallaya’s recent oeuvre. The formal oxford shapes are disrupted by a risqué side placement of the laces and the more sculpted than ornate upper is welted onto the signature leather soles of the shoes that cost Rs 69,000 for a pair. The hitherto singular motifs embroidered on the vamps of the shoes have opened up into multiple aureate patterns—made with rich yet minimal patches of rich silk thread work or gold zari embroidery. What steps out is as much a shoe for a grand reception as it is for the nightclub. Both bandhgala suit and jeans friendly, yet married to none, it makes an edgy personal style statement. Sure to lower all eyes.

Restaurateur Aditi Dugar of
Mumbai-based Masque at
a coffee tasting session in
Araku Valley

About 120 km north of Vizag in Andhra Pradesh, along the rolling hill slopes of Araku Valley in the Eastern Ghat are plantations of coffee that occupy the same space in the minds of coffee drinkers as what Darjeeling does in the minds of tea aficionados. The coffee grown in the region by the indigenous farmers of the valley under the aegis of Hyderabad-based Naandi Foundation is being acknowledged as among the finest in the world. Its primary taste is that of a revolution. For the past 15 years, a silent ecological upheaval is underway in the region in which the coffee bean is the spearhead of a transformational model of growth developed by Naandi, termed Arakunomics by The Rockefeller Foundation. This is centred on the deliberate development of native forest biodiversity, and the practice of organic, biodynamic, and regenerative agricultural techniques that is encouraged in the area by making the farmers stakeholders in open and fair profit sharing of lucrative economic models, guided by very efficient marketing and high value addition of products created with global standards.

Coffee ‘cherries’ being picked in the
higher reaches of a plantation in
Araku Valley

What these grand words translate into on the ground is coffee that is grown as per specially earmarked ‘terroirs’, special pockets of biodiversity plantations with nutrient and microbe-charged soil and climate combinations that pack the ‘cherries’, coffee beans with dense natural sugars that yield batches with distinct clarity, natural fruity sweetness and rich complexity. Only the brightest red coffee ‘cherries’ are chosen for processing. The graded beans are dried in moisture-controlled units with distinct techniques of creating specialty coffees without the use of any chemicals or single-use plastics. These coffees range very high on global tasting parameters, and are auctioned to select buyers in micro lots that can range from Rs 12,000 to Rs 20,000 per kg and go up to Rs2 lakh per kg in international resale. The world is waking up to the smell of coffee from the Araku Valley.

For the seekers of light that we all are, Gautam and Prateek of Klove Studio illuminate a new path of lighting design. The bulbous and often breathtakingly delicate blown glass shapes assimilate into grand light installations that break the glass ceiling of design and claim the wall space as art. Over the years the materiality and form of the lights (that is, if the mega, tintedglass petalled chandeliers, complex feral foliage forms and atavistic totemic shapes can be called lights) has far exceeded their function to provide aesthetic luminance. They have instead become cynosure glass artworks for several corporate buildings, celebrity homes, public spaces and numerous art exhibitions. The Grasshopper light is unlike any other light in Klove Studio. The tortuous linear wood and metal light arms, inspired by the shape and kinesis of a grasshopper’s legs, fold back into symmetrical oblong hand-blown glass bulbs, all placed horizontally at different levels to create a masterpiece of asymmetrical form. “It has a mid-century influence, contemporary sensibility and a timeless appeal,” says architect Vaishali Kamdar. Despite its massive shape and weight—at over 75 kg and a price tag of Rs 17.5 lakh—the piece charges the space with a dynamic minimalism. It is a light in its own spotlight.


Story: Bandeep Singh
Producer: Arnav Das Sharma
Creative Producers: Raj Verma, Nilanjan Das
UI Developer: Pankaj Negi