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Because you are beautiful

We are a bunch of sensitive and progressive people who are appalled by body shaming and concerned about how the construction of images and ideas around us can lead to damaged self esteem. We also do feel the need to talk about bodies and mental health like they are normal things and not something to be ashamed of.
The images/photographs/videos we generate are shot with everyday people, under everyday circumstances and we do not morph or correct their skin tones or set right their bulges. We also do not try to create expressionless, motionless maniquin kind of images out of living people. We believe that people are beautiful, with all their blemishes and scars, in all skin tones, shapes and forms and their moods, expressions and differences are what make them alive. So we try to capture and retain what we find people in people- them.
We further like to add that no jewellery can make anyone beautiful; it can only emphasize the existing beauty in people. No one becomes more attractive by wear a piece of metal or stones and it is it lie that is sold to us that makes us see people as lesser than some glittery objects. The jewellery can have meaning and be alive only when it is word by a person and its beauty is exuded by the confidence and grace with which one carries oneself and owns up to one’s entire being.

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Not because you need it

At the risk of being self-contradictory or even perhaps not growing as fast as we may wish to, we ensure we do not send out the message that people are in desperate need of what we offer them. Jewellery is an accessory; a luxury – and we would like our audience to remember that.

We are absolutely against the kind of unhealthy messaging that goes around in the name of marketing that makes people feel lesser for not having enough things. And well, no number of things is ever enough. We do not feel that festivals need to appropriated or invented or the most intimate feelings and emotions of people deserve to be manipulated so that we can sell a product.
We know that we have something beautiful to offer and we hope that if people want it, they will buy it, out of the abundance of their hearts and resources and not because they are trying to fill some lack of need.

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Sustainability

Being conscious of what we make/consume and our relationship with the planet as well as fair economic policies are extremely important to us. We have realised that the need of the hour is to inject this balance into everything that one creates, especially in the dna of businesses.
Silver is a metal that can be reused and recycles forever. Not a bit of the metal is every thrown away as all of it is melted and put back into use. While there are concerns regarding mining processes, it is good to know that most of the metal that reaches one is being rotated and circulated within the larger production chains. Depending on the purity of the metal, we do encourage our buyers to exchange their own silver jewellery as well.
Silver is affordable but it is still not throwaway prices and that further ensures fair payments as well as limited and more thoughtful consumption. We further ensure that our artisans use healthy processes and have a good environment to work in.
Our packaging is very special since we work with handicrafts of Agra and of Uttar Pradesh to get beautiful, reusable and long lasting packages to our buyers. It supports the slowly declining local industries and brings back their importance into the lives of our buyers who love our boxes as much as they love the jewellery.
We further cut down on wastage and plastic by using old sarees and dupattas for making pouches with jute strings to carry the package in.
To minimize waste of paper, we use seed paper where we need to. We also do not have visiting cards since they mostly lie around and ending up in the bin. We have replaced those with seed paper bookmarks which one can use and then later grow into a plant.
As an online brand, we do need to ship our packages in bubble wrapped plastic but we do ensure that it is approved grade plastic and suggest ways of reusing them to our buyers.
The idea is not just to use sustainability as a buzz word for image building, but to actually be able to inspire ourselves and others to see how far we can stretch ourselves to learn and arrive at a good balance where our profits and comfort do not inconvenience other people and the environment.

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weCreate weCurate weCollaborate

WE CURATE: Of the hundreds of pieces available in the market, we pick the best we can, filtering them through many criteria and bring them together into collections.
We are in a world where the choices are infinite and with the choices also comes the overwhelm and the clutter. Our objective is to reduce the online clutter by carefully selecting and sorting what we bring to you.
We believe that less is more and when one has less things to see, one can give more time to detail.

WE COLLABORATE: We collaborate with artists who have a distanct style and voice and are creating beautiful works of art in diverse media and varied scale. We pick their signature style and integrate their work into silver so their art and message reaches to those who value and love unique and experimental stuff.
Collaboration is about giving space to all the voices that come together to build something and so while we are doing the designing of the art pieces made by these lovely people, we ensure that their work is placed in its context and the designs we make are an extension of the spirit of the art work itself.
The whole of ISOVI team also functions on the principles of collaboration where people work with each other, not for each other. Each one’s opinion and expertise is given due space and that what gives our brand the distinct voice and versatality that it has.

WE CREATE:We have begun making our own collections, which are conceptualised, designed and handmade inhouse.
Our first collection TUKDAA is created using the waste from the famous marble industry of Agra.
We are looking forward to making many more of these eclectic and meaningful collections that share our thoughts and vision with the world.

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The Excess in accessory

One of the things which we have been struggling to remind ourselves, and it cannot be enough times that we understand it, that our lives, in themselves, as they are, and we, as we are, are beautiful, complete. That is what we try to communicate to anyone who comes in contact with us or our brand- that you are beautiful, complete, and much more, as you are. Our jewellery, or any jewellery cannot make you beautiful or confident or happy. Unless you see yourself as beautiful and buy from a place of joy and freedom, nothing much is going to happen. You will only fall in a loop of endless searches and swiping and be bored and move on to the next new thing. Cycle repeat. Buy it because you want to, knowing that there is an element of choice. Buy because you are aware of the abundance in your life. Because the only thing a beautiful piece of jewellery can do is to awaken you to your forgotten beauty or show to you a side of you that you had not known. The other thing it can do it is to reveal to you your taste, the things that matter to you and the innate capacity in you to appreciate beauty. Our brand, the work we do, is a way of realising this and sharing and communicating the same with our friends, audiences, buyers.

It often sounds like a contradiction- why are we selling jewellery, if we feel our lives are anyway complete and why would anyone buy the jewellery we are selling if they don’t need it? It may sound outrageous, unrealistic and crazy, especially for a brand that intents to sell itself- but the truth is this- we dont need to sell jewellery, and you do not need to buy it. As such, it is nowhere close to being an essential product. It is what it is- an accessory. Something that adds to what already exists. Something that may emphasize, underline or highlight the beauty that already is in you. It is, clearly, a mark of privilege. We have the luxury to indulge in beauty, in what can be very simply called excessiveness.

Most of us have been geared to think of excess as something negative. We have learnt to see our lives as limited, determined by needs and limitations. Raising these questions becomes difficult when one working on designing marketing strategies for a brand. There are pressures of breaking even, generating profits, doing what is “essential” to make things roll. Unless, of course, one reminds oneself, that what we are doing in the first place, is in fact, inessential. And the pressures, well those too are rather unhelpful and more imagined than real. As we unfolded this to ourselves, slowly and patiently (and in moments running out of patience even), allowing ourselves to bring our doubts to the table, we realised that this work is as unnecessary for us, as it might be for our buyers. Necessity and survival are different matters altogether, from a monetary point of view. We could do several other things and our buyers would find several other sellers. Then why this? And though there might have been a series of events that drove us to certain decisions, why do we still stick to them? All this led us to questioning how we define our needs, our wants, the very nature of our own likes, dislikes and mechanisms of existence.

As people with a reasonable education, decent jobs in the past which we quit to do something of our own, something that we would enjoy, and with the clarity with which we could see how the markets and language of selling plays upon the insecurities and ideas of incompleteness of people,  all the above questions hung heavily upon us.. Our love for silver or for jewellery was not enough of an answer . Especially with the diverse interests, skillsets and passions each of us has. It occurred to us that we had to invert the logic of our enquiry to wrap our heads around the puddle of ideas that we were caught in. We had to move away from very particular things regarding the nature of silver and jewellery and brand language and ask ourselves the simple questions- Why do we do anything? What is life? What is work?

We dwelled over the weather, the life we have, and having hit the massive dead end of unnecessity (bordering on pointlessness) of things, we had to refresh our minds and wiring all over again. It took us days, perhaps months.  What we then came to realise was no less than wondrous. It was so evident and clear that it needed such grueling questioning to be wrenched free from the conditioning of our minds. It was simple – life as we experience it, with all its ups and downs, highs and lows, madness and sanity, our capacity to create, to feel, to make these webs which we then find ourselves entangled in, the questions and the answers, the points and pointlessnesses, all of it, every single bit of it, is an instance of excess. Everything over and above the magical act of breathing, of that process of inhalation and exhalation, each of it, is excessive to life- life as a whole cosmic phenomenon- of which the entire universe, the planetary system, the beings, sentient and not, our very perception and consciousness of it- as something outside of the cycle of mere transformation of matter or energy-  is it not all an instance of excess? That passage between the moment of birth, which can well be seen as the moment of death, from the smallness of our limited body and understanding amidst the mass of humanity and surfaces of land and oceans to the infinite limitlessness of our imagination and possibilities, between the illusions and realities, everything is excessive. One can observe as a stoic, renounce or reject as ascetic or celibate, rejoice as a poet, an artist, or be a very ordinary being flowing through impenetrable ebbs and rise of everyday existence.

And that is precisely where we glue ourselves back into our act. It is the idea of rasa, of being an aesthete, of doing things with the awareness of their excessive nature, as something which is more about the passing of time (life), making a journey, from a place of peace, joy and freedom in whatever we do. It is about being able to acknowledge and underline the excessive and enormous nature of our lives. It is a feeling of wonder, where one can think of sringara, of adornment, of appreciation, of giving. We have been able to understand our fascination and decision to work with silver jewellery much better after all this thinking. Perhaps this is a the case with a lot of decisions- one works ones way backward- finding logic to support a choice/decisions made intuitively or for which we  have forgotten the reasons, absorbed in the act of doing, till a new road block or conflict between thought and feeling emerges[ read more].

We always knew this but it was never articulated for us- We are not writing, working, creating because we want to sell. It’s the other way round. We want to write, create and share what we think is beautiful and hence we sell it, so that we can continue with it, given the functional necessities of the system we have found ourselves, at this particular juncture of time and space.

Likewise, we do not want you to buy what we sell because you need it, or have a certain lack which will be filled by a mere piece of metal. We would like you to buy it because you know that you are beautiful and beyond need, and you might want to indulge in and appreciate it further, as yet another mark of acknowledging the excessiveness that you life is.

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Silver is the name of constant transformation

As college students we always had friends who either couldn’t afford gold or did not like it. And since fashion jewellery was everywhere, in the most attractive designs and mostly affordable prices, it was an obvious choice. However, a lot of it caused severe allergic reactions, mostly due to high proportions of nickel used in it. And we hankered for alternatives.

 

Back home, silver was only stuff for anklets and chains and some rings prescribed by astrologers. Or gifts for new babies or weddings or Diwali. Else, it was something worn by nomads and tribals, and that is not we should aspire to!

 

Interestingly, being in metropolitans and having some artsy and independent women with very specific tastes around us, we encountered silver jewellery. And for these women, silver being less expensive than gold did not make it less classy. It being a tribal style made it only more desirable, if anything. It would take us a long time from there to now and understanding the complex politics of taste. But we began to admire and love silver, for its affordability, durability, skin friendliness and its tribal wildness.

 

When some of us, who had been caught by the wind of big cities wore silver back home, in our two tier- three tier cities, our parents either laughes at us, calling us names like – dheemri, banajaran  meaning nomadic, but implying much more- a lower class- poverty ridden or street dweller status, or they would tell us to wear gold and not flush their reputation down the drain.

 

As it happens, for some us, reputations are not built on the metal one wears. And being nomadic or not being rich are not really bad things; quite the contrary. The fascination with silver comes with a fascination with the moon- with the lesser light, which doesn’t lit up the world. It has its

blemishes and many shapes and forms. It doesn’t comply with human ideas of beauty and perfection, and those of us who love the moon, are those who have learnt to redefine the very meaning and perception of beauty, completeness, perfection.

 

The idea of lack has been drilled into our heads. We are imperfect. Our lives are imperfect. Our bodies, our loves, everything is imperfect. And we keep need to improving, knowing fully well that nothing and no one can be perfect. How do we do that? We keep studying, and have higher pays and greater profits. And keep working our minds and bodies off. Why? So that we can buy and upgrade to newer things. We need things to make us better, to realize our true selves.  Such a wonderful formula to achieve a goal which we have been told from start is unachievable. How do we not question- is it not us who give meaning to things? Is it not us who colour things through our perspective and make all these stories? Is it not us who actually determine how perfect or imperfect we are? We conduct our own trials in our own courts by our own rules.

 

It is strange and interesting. Because the whole idea of selling, the whole market has hinged itself on the idea of need. On the principle of lack. On the logic of having to feel lack and that things are necessary. It is the driving force of consumer culture. 

 

We are fascinated with silver because it reminds us of nomadic people and of the love of beauty in imperfections. It signifies adornment which is about expressing oneself rather than jewellery being a mask for investment or statement of patriarchal wealth. We are fascinated with silver because it heals. It is white, like the moon. And it turns black, like the night.  We love silver for the same reason that it is loved loved by the nomadic and the tribals- it bears witness to constant transformation that occurs through interactions with the outside, with air, with nature.

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Packaging

We were quite certain that our packaging would be as beautiful as the product, but we wanted to work on finer aspects. We know that every time we buy something from an outlet or online, we come back with bags and packets that either need to thrown away instantly or have limited life. We wanted to not create the same problem for our buyers.  Our packing had to be:

  • reuseable
  • multipurpose
  • long lasting

Also, we felt that our packaging can be a very good way of sharing the handicrafts of Agra, or the rest of the state, Uttar Pradesh with a larger audience. The handicrafts of U.P. are world famous and loved all over the country as well. However, the artisans are mostly disenchanted given the low wages, decreasing interest in the locals. What they don’t talk about mostly is the need for recognition and advancement when they are struggling to just about make ends meet.

We decided to start exploring from our own city, famous for its inlay work and zardozi world wide. But the present generations in the city, especially those with buying capacity are either unaware or disinterest in the crafts. One of the reasons is perhaps having seen that work around for too long and hence taking it for granted. Further, the accessibility to other forms and works and coming in of brands does create a very complex situation. While the crafts happen at mass scale, the locals have little to do with, unless directly involved in the trade or in export.

It seemed like the perfect thing to bring these crafts into our packaging. We started with stone boxes in inlay and hard board boxes covered in fabric with Zardozi or Reshamdozi (embroidery with fine wire or thread).We played turned things around a little by using velvet with thread and raw silk for wire embroidery as opposed to the traditional work of wire on velvet. Details about the inlay work as well as Zardozi as a form merit another long post, which we will share soon.

  

We tried working with soft stone boxes with inlay work and while they caught the eye and fancies of many we were encountering two issues: it is heavy, and easily breakable. After a year, we decided to move on to something different. And we came up with the idea of working with wooden boxes. We source the wooden box from local vendors in Saharanpur. The box made in Mango wood is eco-friendly, reusable and sturdy. We have been experimenting with pastel colours and silver foil scratch work for these boxes and thus far they have been loved with everyone who has seen them.

We do not charge extra for the packaging, but we do have different packaging for orders worth different amount, so as to be able to keep it sustainable for ourselves. The packaging is a gift for our customer that would perhaps encourage them to work towards recycling, reuse and renew an interest in the local handicrafts. We also hope that some others in the industry will join hands with us and switch to long lasting packaging made by local artisans, thus working both towards the growing of the craft and lesser damage to the environment.

We have a few other interesting elements to our packaging.

  1. We have pouches made from old saarees. Initially we started using the bulk of unused old saaress of our mothers and grandmothers which were very close to our hearts and difficult to simply throw away. This kind of upcycling and reuse thrilled us. Later, some of our friends and relatives too have been giving away saarees to us so that we can make these pouches. We go to a local woman for getting these pouches stitched and she really enjoys it since she cannot step out to work with a little kid to take care of. Each time a pouch as this reaches you, you have something of a dear one from one of our families.

  1. We use seed paper wherever we must use paper. Brochures, visiting cards, wedding cards, all these things lay haunting, adding to the bulk of waste in our lives. A lot of us struggle to figure out a good way to dispose them. We have been resisting the temptation to make a visiting card. And most of our material is online or we share it on phone. But in case we must use paper, we try and stick to seed paper. Seed paper is recycled paper made with seeds inside it. So if you throw the paper in soil and water it, a plant with grow.

  1. We realized we need to buy some plastic covers for the purpose of couriering. So we have chosen recycle grade plastic. Also, the plastic cover can actually be used to out a plant in- so you have the seed paper and the plastic bag to put it in.

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Khillo

This is our first collaboration with an artist/designer, in line with our commitment to issues of body positivity and mental health.

 

This collection has been made from blue pottery, by a single artist- Lyla Freechild. The process of blue pottery is a very rigorous one, involving a lot of steps and patient loving. So, we dedicated the collection to her great grandmother, who she has never seen but also been inspired by, listening just to stories of her. Khillo Bai, was a survivor of the partition, a strong woman who had lost a lot and yet managed to maintain her lightness and joy. Anyone who talks of her has a smile on their face, thinking of her clownish ways with kids and compassion with each one.

 

Each of these pieces is one of a kind, coming from her larger body of work on gender, body and sexuality- I am nature.The pieces in these collection, despite delving into the deepest pains and fears accompanying the creative life of a woman in our context, have that same lightness and joy. Her work explores issues of body image and menstruation in great detail. It might be interesting to note that the terms hysteric and hysteria come from Origin

 

 

mid 17th century (aslk an adjective): via Latin from Greek husterikos ‘of the womb’, from hustera ‘womb’ (hysteria being thought to be specific to women and associated with the womb).

 

We are mostly unaware how gender biases are deeply rooted in our very language and thought process. Women are stereotyped as dramatic, as excessive, as those who feel or say or do too much, as hysteric. Historically,such a representation has led to creating grounds for thinking of women as dangerous or stupid creatures in need of protection and control. A lot of these images of women were formulated as a means to control their sexuality, as means to exert power and keep a check on the patriarchal lineage. The kind of work that artists like Lyla do are a direct intervention in the imbalanced social narratives that we have been existing with, which are also at the heart of a lot of violence and inequality in the society.

 

 

Our model for this collection, Erum, is a poet, healer and social worker. Constantly striving to find her own identity and true voice, there is something madly playful about her. Erum has a strong identification with nature, trying constantly to work towards recycling, reusing, being connected to all that is nature. A lot of her work in on healing and emotions catharsis, especially related to women. Like Lyla Freechild, the maker of this collection who has renamed herself 3 years back, Erum too renamed had herself Atmiye a year back. Unknown of each others’ existence, these two women have been doing all that makes them unique, stepping beyond the boundaries of caste, creed and religion.

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KAALI

This collection derives inspiration from Kaali, referring to the black and bold Goddess, the one who can slay but is also known as the mother, the protector.

 

Silver, when it comes in contact with air, inevitably turns black. The shimmer of raw silver is rather short lived unless it is protected through various means. Each of these pieces is bold, making a statement of your acceptance of who you are, in all your dark divine beauty. Most of the pieces are handmade, either in completeness or partially, deriving inspiration from the jewellery of the tribal women, who have been known for their strength and capacity to survive.

 

This collection is a celebration of the tarnishing or the blackening that comes naturally to the metal. It is at the same time, a way of delve into the darkness and the destructiveness that is very much part of any creative process, or anyone’s life, so to say. The feminine is the source of all creativity – the feminine as a part of that duality found in each one of us, irrespective of our biological gender. All that multiplies, all that reproduces itself, all that proliferates and nurtures is a feminine force, what is called the aspect of ‘prakrati’ in Vedic mythology. Like all forces and energies, it changes its form and shapes, and can oscillate from the very fierce to the very soft possibilities of being.

 

For the shoot of this collection, we worked with Neha, who is also a part of the team. We wanted to explore the excessiveness of her life, her obsession with books and colours and the dreamy darkness one can often see in her fierce , almost prohibiting attitude. At the same time, she has the possibility to nurture and accept all that nature has to bring to one, including the tarnishing and rough edges.

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CHAANDI

About the photoshoot:
 
To explore the coolness of ‘chaandi’, we decided to do a photostory by the river. It is unfortunate that over the last couple of decades the river that flows in our city is known for all the wrong reasons; for how it is dying and full of filth. And slowly, the river is drifting away from the living memory of the locals, or at least a certain generation. We wanted to go back to the river, to make it part of our conversations once again, not for just being on the brink of death, but for something more- for the peace one can find being near it even today, or for the beauty that can still be seen in it, if you want to.
 
However, it does take a shift in perspective to see something differently. And we were fortunate to be in company of travellers for this shoot. One of the most important things about traveling is the newness of perspective, the openness to beauty and faith in the universe that one needs to have as one sets one’s foot out of home. We found just the right people for it. Danielli and Douglus were into their 9th month of bicyling around the world when they came to Agra. What was supposed to be a 2 day thing turned into a beautiful stay of about 20 days, where we shared and exchanged so much of our lives, culture and perspectives with each other. We convinced them that there was more to Agra than the Taj Mahal and petha. As they stayed, we cooked, we sang, we danced, we laughed and cried together. Through their trip we collaborated on a couple of projects, and one of them turned out to be this shoot.
 
We went to Kailash temple (one of the four famous Shiva temples in the Agra), by the river Yamuna. Danielli wanted to dress in Indian attire and we decided that to make her our model. She loved some of the pieces of this collection and it suddenly felt all of it fitted perfectly well.
 
Here we had in front of us this strong and beautiful women, traveling around the world with her partner whose dream it was to cycle around the world. And there was the river, the moon, the cool and the new eyes of travellers, uncorrupted by preconceived notions and habit. We could see the river differently. And create images in a manner more fulfilling. And in all this process, Douglus collaborated with us behind the camera.
 
(The photostory has been conceptualised and executed by Tahir Ahmed at the Studio Blue Cat, which is the creative & media collaborator of ISOVI)