Dagmar, with its name meaning ‘a glorious day’, was unveiled in 2004 by Pavan Anand. And standing true to the meaning, it surely must have been a beautiful day that gave a new, contemporary definition to Indian jewelry
By: Tejashee Kashyap and Soumya Jain Agarwal
Posted on: January 16, 2020
An affair of passion that began from childhood, Pavan Anand’s love and fascination for diamonds got him designing jewels for celebrities and royals from around the world. The dapper Indian architect-turned-designer tells his story from the beginning. “I recollect an incident when I was barely six years old at a family soirée, I tugged on my mom’s stole, pointed to someone and asked what the huge shiny thing was on her ears!” This was that very moment when he fell head over heels for diamonds and thus, began the journey of educating himself about every gem and jewel in the world, and most importantly, what they meant for people and economies.
Reminiscing the days of his childhood, he recalls, “My grandmother was a jewellery connoisseur and had a room dedicated to a local goldsmith in the home all year long. By age 6, I knew the prices, demand and details of diamonds and gems. I could evaluate the approximate cost of someone’s earrings by age 7 by simply spending a few seconds with them in the elevator. Maybe it came from another life, but my curiosities and interests growing up were different from others.” Although he jokes “I think, I was a slightly strange kid.”
Turning his admiration into a massive art, Mr. Anand launched his first brand ‘Dagmar’ in 2004. Even though he earned a degree in architecture, his heart lay in designing sparkling stones. “I also absolutely love edifice design and real estate. So studying Architecture was a given. I still remember the day I finished my 5-year Architecture Degree. I announced to my friends and family that I would be launching a jewellery brand the same year! I received a combination of shock and confusion in response for the most part, but I was determined.”
Imagine Pavan Anand, with his sharp jawline, in a classic trench strutting into a Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman store. This was where the major turning moment of his life happened: “I walked into the fine jewellery section and in front of me lay the work of some of the most luxurious brands and designers. It was astounding. It was at that moment that I knew I was going to create art that would lay alongside these brands soon. Surely enough, four years later exactly that occurred. I was back in India a month later and well underway to creating my first collection!”
The Designer & The Collaborators
The first Dagmar collection was created by juxtapositing soft sheepskins, fur and suedes with diamonds and gems stones. The eccentricity of it worked beautifully and each piece looked enduringly feminine and bold. And soon after, Mr. Anand started ‘Pavan Anand Fine Jewels’ (PAFJ), creating grander jewelry pieces for his loyal customers.
Collaborations between big, luxury names are always an instant hit. And Mr. Anand understood that a long time ago. Way back in 2007, he had partnered with Jyotsna Singh, granddaughter of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, creating capsule collections together for four years. In 2009, Sushma Kilachand, a designer who grew up in the environs of Patiala Palace in Mumbai, came on-board with the brand. “Sushma and I launched the line in Toronto via a very prestigious showcasing at the Waddington Auction House. In the years that followed, we showcased at the Toronto Film Festival, Jakarta Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week. At NY Fashion week we presented the line not just as jewels, but we created an artful vignette. We were soon in 28 cities across the world,” he shares.
Mr. Anand counts 2012-13 as the high point in his career. When Versace was launching in Jakarta, Dagmar was chosen to partner with them for the store launch. Dagmar’s Casablanca hoop was featured in the Oprah Magazine. Dagmar also collaborated with Nankai, a luxury handbags brand in Singapore for a huge showing at the Marina Bay Sands. Despite all this, owing to his down-to-earth and humble nature, he doesn’t credit his success only to himself. He shares, “It’s taken a decade and half of astounding pushing of creative boundaries, fabulous associations and partnerships to create Dagmar (which targets a larger audience, albeit a refined one) and then, lead on to PAFJ (only for that elite 0.1 per cent of the buyer).”
Having being able to create two international luxury jewellery brands, catering to different buyers, without having a background in jewels or business, Mr. Anand has created a market based on his artistic skills, amongst, probably, the most difficult audience: Hollywood, royalty and über society. PAFJ, a brand that personifies high society and red carpet, sees more popularity in Dubai , Kuwait, USA & Singapore. “Women are not only affluent in these regions but are invested in high fashion and luxury. They make the time and effort to look and feel impeccable,” explains Mr. Anand. Dagmar, however, sees more sales in USA and parts of Africa, owing to a larger audience of aspiring fashionable world travelers.
The Craft of the Designer
Creating a legacy for more than a decade, Mr. Anand talks about the finer nuances of jewelry making. “Creating jewellery is technical. The amount of math and physics involved is astounding. Working with soft metals and delicate stones (albeit hard) comes with creative limitations, especially as per the production technique in India. I never look at a piece with an effort to “design”. As poetic as this may sound - the moment I hold a diamond or gemstone in hand, or even simply look at one - a process unravels where it almost feels like the gem is telling me what to do. In a few minutes, I can already visualise the art I would like to create. It’s almost effortless. I start creating a 3D form using a buffer design material immediately.”
As a designer or any other creative person, you never know when inspiration strikes. It’s easier to begin, but difficult to innovate when you have to create something on a regular basis. It’s a chase of the muse and keeping it for a longer time. So, how does Mr. Anand manage to still put out such fresh ideas and styles? “I am always observing people. When I encounter a beautifully put together woman or a man with a strong personality, the visual of that results in an explosion of ideas. I draw most of my inspiration from within me and from people themselves. Yes, locations, travel and history can educate you but inspiration is something different. I observe my clients - how they dress, speak, even body language and charisma. I create for them what my interpretation is of them. I am never enforcing another idea or concept on them.”
Along with that, he tends to gravitate towards nature in terms of florals, vines, animal and bird forms. “I love drama in design; forms that are dynamic like an alighting bird or a jaguar on the prowl and movement in design. And sometimes, I think, your own milestones become your future inspiration,” he says.
To give a brilliant shape to his ideas, Mr. Anand is quite selective and conscious while choosing gems. He has worked with some the most expensive, unique stones on the planet - pink diamonds, Pariba Tourmalines, Colombian emeralds. His Dual Dragon Ring uses Burmese Ruby Cabochons for eyes and Flawless Diamond solitaires; the Sapphire and Fox Fur brunch cuff combines faux fox fur and leather with a 32 carat Blue Ceylon Sapphire; and the Phantom Chic Ear clips include Brown Diamonds and outsized Morganite. Mr. Anand was one of the first designers to incorporate leather in jewelry. On asking upon his favourite gemstone, he says, “Without a doubt, the Argyle Pink Diamond from Australia! Jennifer Lopez was one of the first mainstream celebrities to sport one of these over 17 years ago. It set off an international rage back then. They are one of the most exquisite looking and collectible gems on the planet with envisaged dwindling supply. I have had the rare fortune of working with a few good-sized pink diamonds through my career! I really enjoy using them in combination with light blue and green gems.”
Although Mr. Anand’s jewellery house concentrates on women’s needs, we were curious to know what he has in plate for men. He answered, “I think the line between men’s and women’s wear, when it comes to fashion and jewels, is becoming thinner and thinner. Historically too, it was a very thin line if we looked not too far, at say, the Maharajah of Patiala or the Nizam of Hyderabad. A confident man can wear anything and look fabulous. We do create wedding bands for lots of same-sex couples. Currently, with the R&B culture, a lot of men, including myself, very comfortably stack on a diamond, PAFJ cuffs and solitaire chains. I like that crossover in design. However, I don’t really see myself especially creating a line for men.”
A conundrum that any woman deals with is always between ‘too much’ or ‘way too less’ accessorizing. But, expect Mr. Anand to aid you in however you choose to style yourself. “I am a black and white personality. Greys aren’t for me. Either I can enjoy and create a very minimal stark piece almost bordering on Avante Garde or it needs to have enough extravaganza and drama to be visible from a mile! I enjoy both, but the extravagant drama is definitely more in keeping with my true aesthetic. Having said which, my astute eye edits the final design to ensure it always looks tasteful and elegant.”
The Future of & by the Designer
In today's world, the concept of sustainable living is at peak. So, how is the world of luxury jewels equipped with the fundamentals of sustainability? He shares, “Jewellery is no more an item to meaninglessly hoard in large volumes. It is a product to revel in, to enjoy, to flaunt and to be empowered by. People are buying less (in volume), but more keeping the value in mind. The entire point of a brand like PAFJ is to create products and even educate wealthy clients about what has “value”- be it extremely rare and limited gems or unique craftsmanship. The point of us as a brand is to ensure sustainability by ensuring each item is truly collectable and isn’t just a random piece of diamond-encrusted gold. The intelligent and conscious buyer is purchasing just 3-4 pieces annually. These will include rare treasures like pink, blue and green diamonds, Pariba tourmalines, Tsavorite Garnets, Padparadscha sapphires, Jadeite, Alexandrite and Colombian Emeralds. These are true treasures. Of course, we have never used gems originating from conflict zones. The business is flowing in a direction to ensure sustainability quite organically I think.”
Mr. Anand also laid out some trends for jewellery in 2020. According to him, “for the luxury space, size matters and now, more than ever. Bigger the diamonds, more the demand. Most brands will gravitate toward designs that focus on ‘rocks’ - be it diamonds or coloured gems. Chandelier and vintage styles may become less in demand. Pariba Tourmalines are going to be the talk of the town. We are also going to see a lot of fashionable men sport baubles in the era to come.”
Spilling beans for us about the future, Mr. Anand shares that he is going to put a lot of focus and emphasis on research. “Every now and then, brands create trends. For example, the way fellow jeweller Fawaz Gruosi (de Grisogono) did with the black diamond…I am always on the hunt to create the next big thing - new gems, new cuts and new techniques. We are currently working on some beautiful pieces for a Royal family in the Middle East. With Dagmar, we are more focused on going pret, maybe even hitting the online space.” He is also working round the clock to start luxury residences soon.
Although he has explored all the dimensions of opulence, grandeur and a high-end illustrious life, he still believes in luxury that goes beyond pretty jewels and artefacts. Having the ability to live life as one wants; having opportunities and dreams to conquer; surrounding oneself with positive people that empowers in all stages of life and living without any fear and compromise on one’s beliefs is the meaning of ‘true luxury’ for the king of affluent designs and magnificent jewels.
Written in collaboration with Veronique Poles