10 Questions with Rosh Mahtani of Alighieri, in Celebration of her First Catwalk Show
Even though fashion month hasn’t officially started yet (New York Fashion Week is kicking off tomorrow), it doesn’t really mean the catwalks are empty. Last night, at the Fitzrovia Chapel in London, jewellery designer Rosh Mahtani staged the first ever catwalk show for her Dante-inspired brand Alighieri. While she has been quietly running the brand into new heights since 2014, the recent success of the business (the last year marked 600% growth in sales) made way for Mahtani to take her presentation format to the next level. In case you’ve been sleeping on Alighieri, the Newgen-approved talent is behind those poetic talismans you’ve most definitely seen popping up on Instagram. Hitting that sweet-spot of a mid-level price-point that was virtually non-existent in jewellery just few years ago, Alighieri offers a sense of luxury to all those that can’t afford (or maybe just don’t feel like) having diamonds as their best friends.
Instead of being some large-scale spectacle, last night’s show made total sense as the next chapter in Alighieri’s book. As the diverse group of women gently walked down the catwalk showing off the new collection against the off-white canvas tunics (no, Alighieri isn’t expanding into ready-to-wear just yet), the sensibility of the brand’s story was given another dimension. The necklaces were slightly chunkier, pendants a bit heavier. Titled Where is home?, the collection went beyond just Dante Alighieri’s rich opus and introduced a very personal story of Mahtani’s experience in Zambia, where she grew up until the age of seven. Each of the attendees was gifted a copy of Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Old and new editions, some larger formats, others pocket-sized – this was a way to enable her story to be heard beyond just that show and allow the audience to truly get to know what the name of the brand stands for. But before her stellar catwalk debut began, we caught up with Rosh Mahtani and asked her 10 of our very important questions.
Dino Bonacic: If you had to sum up your first catwalk show in one song – which one would it be?
Rosh Mahtani: Wanderer by Cat Power. The collection is all about searching for a home, and Cat Power’s lyrics and melody really encapsulate this feeling for me.
DB: Who did you have in mind when designing your SS20 collection?
RM: I never have just one person in mind; I was looking back at the jewellery that my grandmother used to wear, alongside jewellery across tribes in Africa, where I grew up. I was looking for commonality in jewellery across cultures.
DB: What’s the one precious stone you want to work with?
RM: I’d love to work with raw diamonds. They aren’t as “valuable” as a cut, polished stone, but that’s what I love about them. They are imperfect and rough.
DB: Which superhero would be wearing Alighieri’s new collection?
RM: I’m not sure if she’s strictly a superhero, but I’m going to say Pocahontas, because of her free spirit and adventurous soul.
DB: How was the production process different now that you have a show?
RM: I’m learning so much this season, as it’s the first time we’re doing a show! I would say that there is a little bit more to think about, and you have to work faster, because you lose 1 month of production time. We have to be ready in mid-August, as opposed to mid-September. But I am enjoying the pressure in a strange way!
DB: What’s the best thing about being a jewellery designer?
RM: The fact that I can communicate with people from all different cultures, through this universal language of talismans.
DB: Inferno, Purgatorio or Paradiso?
RM: This changes depending on what I’m going through in my life! At the moment, it’s Purgatorio, because it’s all about making progress as Dante climbs the mountain, amassing knowledge as he goes.
DB: What’s the most valuable thing you learned at Oxford?
RM: Not to take life too seriously, or care too much about fitting in.
DB: What’s your favourite line from the Divine Comedy?
RM: The opening: “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, mi ritrovai per una selva oscura che la via diritta era smarrita.”
DB: What’s your favourite piece from the upcoming collection?
RM: I really love the new red string we’re using. I’ve been researching the way in which red thread and string are so prominent across religions and cultures, from Judaism to Hinduism; South America to Tibet. I love the spiritual, universal feel of it, especially when layered with gold and silver in the Alighieri way.