Designer Riddhi Fazal had established a successful niche for her line of high-quality, custom made Indian jewelry when she met Premal Badiani, who as luck would have it, had her own custom bridal apparel business. The two immediately saw an opportunity to join forces to provide brides living in the US with a full service bridal experience. In addition to working one-on-one with brides, they have also collaborated on editorials for South Asian Bride magazine and Maharani Weddings. Read on to find out how Riddhi got started.
Tell me how you first started designing jewelry and what inspired you to start your business?
I founded Belsi’s Jewelry with my sister Belinda Patel in 2010. She’s based in India and handles the India part of the business which involves sourcing our materials, working with manufacturers, staying on top of trends as well as handling the production process from beginning to end. We collaborate on the design process together and talk by either phone or Skype while I handle all the sales and marketing.
Our family is from Indore in Madhya Pradesh and there was an enormous influence there in terms of the art and culture. My father was also interested in gemstones and he would have our family jewelry come to the house and he would mix and match stones and pearls and different beads to create really unique pieces and that’s how my sister and I were first introduced to jewelry design. Even though we are self taught designers, we’ve been around it our whole life and it’s something we’re both very passionate about.
Why did you focus specifically on Indian costume jewelry?
A big part of it was timing. At the time, the price of gold was skyrocketing and consumers were looking for different options for jewelry and semi-precious jewels started becoming more popular among brides. Also, it allowed us to stretch our creativity and design pieces not just for weddings and other formal events but also for every day wear.
What were some of the challenges you faced in the early days of the business?
The biggest challenge was learning how to promote the brand and get the word out about what we were doing. As a new brand, we didn’t have the name recognition or have a store front where we could meet our customers and show them our products. So, we focused on doing trunk shows and bridal shows which gave us an opportunity to showcase our work and build trust with our clients. Rather than pay for publicity, we really wanted our work to speak for itself.
What motivated you to persist despite the difficulties?
We really believed in what we were doing and wanted to prove ourselves. We looked at challenges as motivation and an opportunity to grow and become better at our business.
Is it hard to come up with new designs season after season? Where do you get your inspiration?
My sister lives in Gujarat and is surrounded by all this amazing architecture so that is always a huge source of inspiration. As designers, we’re constantly learning and evolving and so we challenge ourselves to think broader and go beyond what we’re done previously. We’ve learnt that people don’t just want the basics but want something new and fresh. When we design a piece that seems a bit out of the ordinary, we wonder whether it will sell but it seems those are the pieces that sell out the fastest!
You work with a lot of brides on custom orders. How does that process work?
Most of the brides we work with already have their outfits picked out or know exactly what they want. So once I’ve met or spoken with the bride we start by choosing the colors and figuring out how many pieces they want and then start working on the designs to perfectly complement their outfits.
Do you ever disagree with the bride on the design she chooses?
Sometimes I think Pinterest is a curse (laughs). The biggest pushback I get is when a bride falls in love with a design she’s seen somewhere that’s not right for her or her outfit. I try to be understanding because I know the client is working off of an idea and what she imagines it will look like rather than seeing the actual product so that’s probably one of the biggest challenges I have.
What are the standout/most popular pieces in your current bridal collection?
We specialize in kundan/jadau work with meenakari work. Our chaandbali earrings are very popular pieces with brides as they can wear it for their sangeet or the wedding day.
Why has costume jewelry become such a popular choice for brides?
I think brides now want jewelry that’s versatile that they can wear again and again, rather than something they wear once and then have to keep locked up. Our designs vary from traditional to contemporary and modern brides want options. Our jewelry is also highly customizeable so what started as a curated bridal collection in the early stages of our business quickly became a custom process for brides who are looking for something unique and different for their special day.
What advice would you give brides shopping for jewelry for their wedding?
The one thing that I keep telling all of my brides is to not wait till the very end to do your jewelry buying. It usually gets neglected and then they are stuck with a piece that they are not happy with in the long run. And definitely experiment, have have more fun with your look and try to be unique rather than say, so and so wore this and that’s exactly what I want.
You also design a line of contemporary jewelry. How are those pieces different from your bridal/traditional line?
We use more natural stones like agate, druzy, agate, and pearls in our contemporary line. In our bridal line we focus on kundan (flat diamond studded jewelry) with meenakari (enamel) work.
Tell us about your collaboration with Poshaac Couture. How did the two of you meet and what led to you working together?
I met Premal at a bridal show where she visited my booth but we were unable to meet. We collaborated on a photo shoot together after but still hadn’t met in person. We officially met on another photo shoot and had an instant connection. Since then we have collaborated and our business goals aligned with each other which led us to working together.
What is most gratifying to you about having your own business?
The most gratifying experience about having my own business is the excitement and fulfillment you get when a client/bride likes your jewelry pieces and recommends you to their friends and family.
What has been the biggest highlight since launching Belsi’s Jewelry?
The biggest highlight was having our work recognized and featured in South Asian Bride magazine for the first time in 2013.
Images courtesy of: Belsi’s Jewelry, South Asian Bride magazine and Maharani Weddings
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