When it comes to fine jewelry in Dubai, it can often feel like we’ve seen it all before: lashings of heavy gold, jeweled hamsa hands, and evil-eye pendants dangling in every shop window from Gold and Diamond Park to Gold Souq. One young designer however, is raising the bar when it comes to homegrown fine jewelry brands. Meet Swati Dhanak.
Born and raised in the region, Dhanak has been surrounded by diamonds, gold, and sparkling gemstones since she can remember, truly making her an expert in all things fine jewelry. Drawing inspiration from abstract art, architecture, and landscapes (her Movement collection drew from Dubai’s rippled deserts, while Shards explores the form of shattered glass) Dhanak has combined her traditional skills with cutting-edge design, and the results are breathtaking.
Her pieces are all made-to-order and use the finest 18k gold and diamonds molded into strong lines, geometric shapes, and the most unusual compositions. For example, her Splatter collection follows the movement of paint being splattered onto a body, and how the lines take form and spread across the skin. The intrinsic detail and science of texture and shape are paramount for Dhanak, setting her pieces apart from competitors. Kind of makes you question your choice of nameplate necklace now, right?
Savoir Flair sat down exclusively with Swati Dhanak, to discuss her brand, her inspirations, and what’s next for her. Discover 10 need-to-know facts about the designer below, as told in her own words.
She comes from a long line of goldsmiths.
“As a kid, I frequently visited our family-owned gold workshop in Dubai with my grandfather, who moved here in the 1950s, to expand the family jewelry business. I have several happy childhood memories of going to our jewelry store in the Gold Souk with him after school. I would spend hours watching him and my father work, and would even help out by running small errands for them. These early experiences instilled in me a strong sense of jewelry making and led me to design my own jewelry line. A lot of my jewelry is still made in the same family-owned workshop I visited as a child.”
She's a hit in Hollywood.
Worn by the uber-chic Zoe Kravitz and Olivia Munn to movie premieres, the label is definitely picking up traction amongst the cool girls of Hollywood. “The Swati Dhanak girl is definitely fashion forward with her own individual style. She is not afraid to experiment and make a statement,” the designer says.
She lives in New York, but hasn't forgotten her roots.
“Dubai has had a huge influence on my designs and aesthetic. It has always been such a metropolitan city, and growing up there allowed me to have exposure to international pop culture and fashion, in addition to traditional heritage, growing up. Events like Design Days and Fashion Forward in recent years have really allowed local designers to thrive, and I am absolutely inspired by their aesthetic and design philosophy. Some of my favorites are Nathalie Trad, Bil Arabi, All Things Mochi, and Lilian Afshar.”
She's not afraid to take risks.
“The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is to try everything at least once.”
Dubai is her 'happy place'.
“I try to find inspiration in everyday life and in my travels. Spending a couple of months a year in Dubai and the rest in New York gives me a good balance. I have to admit that spending time in my “happy place” (the Majlis area at my parents’ house in Dubai) helps me clear my mind whilst doing the workshop rounds when I am developing a new collection.”
Rings are her go-to pieces.
“It’s hard for me to pick one piece as the favorite from my collections, but I have to say rings are always a top choice. The floating shards and large splatter rings are my go-to pieces.”
She sees beauty in chaos.
“I draw inspiration from abstract art, architecture, and natural landscapes. I gravitate towards geometrical and asymmetrical elements and like to push boundaries that characterize fine jewelry. One of my first collections, Shards, explores the asymmetry and shapes formed by glass when it is shattered. Each piece within the collection is designed by placing individual ‘shards’ together in a unique way, exploring the idea behind mosaic tesserae.”
She appreciates the classics.
“I remember the first piece of jewelry my parents gifted me. They were a pair of classic diamond studs that I still wear and cherish to date.”
She's a risk-taker.
“It’s always scary when you’re releasing a line with your name on it, and launching my first collection was definitely a big leap for me. That said, I felt confident in my designs and knew they would bring a unique point of view to fine jewelry, which gave me the self-assurance to go forward with launching the brand.”
2017 is only the beginning for her.
“I have been working on a new collection and plan to launch it in New York in the fall. The new collection is called Staple and is inspired by the shape of a staple pin. I have developed the collection to look like flipped diamond staples are holding the pieces together. The pieces in the collection have an industrial feel to them, but with a refined edge. I wanted to use an everyday, non-glamorous object and turn it into luxury.”