SHE may be a leading name in jewellery design, but Farah Khan Ali first got connected to the craft by chance after taking a course at the Gemological Institute of America with a friend.
She fully intended to party while in Los Angeles, but instead topped the class and then took a course in jewellery design to satisfy her artistic sensibilities.
Farah returned to India in 1993 to begin an astonishing journey in the field of jewellery design, which has made her famous around the world. She has become the go-to designer for women wanting to shine and celebrities needing that extra touch of class.
Garavi Gujarat caught up with Farah to talk about her career, all things jewellery, top tips, hot trends, success, inspirations, her global brand and more.
What do you think has been the secret of your remarkable success?
I believe that the secret lies in loving what I do. I’m passionate about design and nothing gives me greater pleasure, with the exception of my children, of course.
I put more than 1,000 per cent into everything I attempt. My journey was never planned as a goal, it was more about enjoying the moments that came along. So in that sense, I’ve had many adventures, both good and bad. With each fall, I learned to climb higher.
I don’t really have an agenda in life. I don’t design to make money or for name and fame. I don’t love to design either. I design because I live to design and I guess it shows in what I do. I’m grateful to God for blessing me with talent that allows me to create objects of beauty.
Which of your collections is closest to your heart?
Every collection of mine has been close to my heart as each was a moment captured in my life at a particular time. To define which piece or collection I like the most is not possible.
Where do you get inspirations from when putting together a collection?
My inspirations mainly come with my interaction with nature and wonderful gemstones that emerge out of the ground, which take millions of years to form and dazzle in all their glory. I’m attracted to beauty and any form that captivates me spurs me to design, be it natural or manmade inspiration like architecture.
How would you define the Farah Khan Ali brand?
I design jewellery for the woman who loves herself and loves celebrating her life. She is real, confident, and more. She multi-tasks effortlessly between being a mother and career woman. The Farah Khan Ali woman is someone who is comfortable in her own skin. She wears the jewellery, not someone who lets the jewellery wear her.
Which celebrity would you love to create a piece of jewellery for?
I would love to see Angelina Jolie or Queen Rania of Jordan or Malala Yousafzai wearing my jewellery because all these women have one thing in common – they are all strong personalities who care enough for the world to make a difference. They don’t need to wear jewellery to define them, but define the jewellery they wear.
I think what really sets my fine jewellery apart is the strong design language I bring to the jewellery. The greatest compliment to me today is that women all over recognise an FK design and when a brand can do that, it means you have been successful in communicating visually. I also use unusual colour combinations with feminine motifs and that makes my collection unique.
Stars including Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Kajol, Madhuri Dixit, Kangana Ranaut, Parineeti Chopra, Beyonce, Serena Williams and many more have worn your designs. How do you feel about being referred to as jeweller to the stars?
I have been fortunate to have almost everyone in Bollywood as well as major international stars wear my jewels. I never intended to be a jeweller to the stars. I am grateful they love my work and like donning my pieces in their personal life as well as at red-carpet appearances. Most are personal friends. Having said that, I have never asked anyone to wear my pieces – they usually approach me and I am grateful that they love what I do.
Tell us about your 2016 collection?
The collection this year is a bright, bold mix of precious gemstones teamed with semi-precious ones and all accented with diamonds. Most are statement pieces that will make heads turn. I also have a beautiful rose gold collection that is striking and easy to wear in daily life. I believe no matter how big or small a piece of jewellery is, it should always make a style statement.
What will be the hottest jewellery trends in 2016?
Innovative jewellery that is trendy and adventurous. Women today want to experiment. They want pieces that make them stand out. So I see a revival of age-old jewellery with a twist, which can be worn in a more contemporary manner, with both Indian and western wear.
What top jewellery tips would you give to women?
As I said earlier, wear the jewellery, don’t let the jewellery wear you. Less is more and let your smile be your greatest accessory.
Always buy from well-known brands because you will get value for money. Also, brands are here to stay and customer relationship is more important to them than just a sale.
Buy precious coloured gemstones in addition to diamonds, as they go up in value much more than diamonds, contrary to popular belief. In the last five years, diamonds have gone up 50 per cent in value whereas precious gemstones have risen 200 per cent in value.
Store your jewellery with care – even though diamonds are indestructible, they do scratch against each other, so wrap them in zip locks or felt and in different bags.
What jewellery would you consider essential in every woman’s collection?
Two pairs of earrings (long chandelier earrings and a pair of studs), bracelets and a nice ring are the essentials.
Which are your favourite pieces of jewellery?
My favourite piece of jewellery is 34ct emerald ring I wear every day and a diamond ring my husband gifted me, which I designed and made when we were dating.
What is your top wedding jewellery tip?
Buy your wedding jewellery first then your outfit, and not vice versa. This is a mistake most women make. Don’t deck up like a Christmas tree. Decide what you want in focus – is it the clothes, the jewellery, make-up or hair? Keep it elegant and simple. If you are going to wear a heavy necklace, keep the earrings simple and wear a beautiful maang tikka. A bride usually glows on her wedding day so keep the make-up minimum and focus on the eyes or the lips, not both.
What advice would you give women who don’t have big budgets?
Great taste doesn’t necessarily mean expensive jewellery. Many believe my pieces are super expensive, but when people come to buy them, they realise that is not the case – beautiful designer jewellery doesn’t necessarily mean designer prices. For women who have limited budgets there are many options. At my own store I have jewellery in a wide range for all budgets.
Tell us something that not many people know about you?
I’m eccentric to the core, passionate and suffer from OCD. I can drive anyone, including myself, crazy trying to be a perfectionist.
You are very prolific on Twitter, but do you think you are too outspoken at times?
I believe in expressing my opinion and no one should have a problem with that. I usually speak on social and religious issues that cause disharmony. I also share my creativity on Twitter and interact with my followers on a regular basis. I think having an opinion is important and if people think I am outspoken, so be it. It’s important sometimes because one’s silence can be mistaken for acceptance of something that causes great displeasure.
I’m not an actor or a sports star or entertainer, yet I have a large following. (Smiles) Maybe there is some sense in what I express or why would so many follow me?
According to you, what is the secret of having a successful business?
Just love what you do and do it like it isn’t a job.
What would you say is your idea of happiness?
Happiness to me is being grateful for every-thing you are blessed with in your life daily and yet forget to acknowledge. Happiness is spending time with your family or loved ones and doing what you love. Happiness to me is sharing with others, caring for someone less fortunate and having good health. Happiness to me is the things that money cannot buy.
Finally, why do you love jewels?
I love the fact that I can translate an idea or thought in my mind into a three-dimensional object of beauty, one that will outlive generations, becoming more and more precious each year. That’s what I love about jewels – each of these beautiful mineral compositions which comes from within the earth’s crust and is something I work with, make into jewellery, that they will transcend the sands of time. That one day my creativity, work and art will outlive me.
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