Please tell us about yourself
Call it lack of nerves or the inability to express her feelings, ace jewellery designer AVANTIKA KUMAR AGRAWAL fell in line with the conventional ‘engineering-or-medical’ study route taken by most youngsters in India. The result? She went through a four-year engineering course enduring a tedious journey. It was only after a lot of soul-searching that Avantika, who was bitten by the designing bug, decided to follow her instincts. Thereafter, she embarked on a tour that liberated her from the trappings of her own doing. Soon, success followed her like a shadow. In a span of one year, her ‘Aaraa by Avantika’ jewellery brand now sells exclusive and distinctive baubles online. After all, it pays to listen to your heart.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Listen to your instincts and you will get instant payoffs; ignore it, and you get a creative heartburn just as Avantika Kumar Agrawal of Pune, Maharashtra, experienced before she found an outlet to release her pent-up artistic energy. Sometimes, it is important to tone down the voice of reason and pay attention to the voice of the heart to find peace and joy in wanting to do something that one likes.
As a child, Avantika loved to dabble in arts and craft. The crayon-scribbled walls of her house bore testimony to the fact that she was born for designing. “A box of coloured pencils was enough to brighten up my face then,” she recalls with a smile. “Throughout my schooling, I held on to my passion for drawing, sketching and painting.” She even won many prizes in various prestigious painting and drawing competitions at the regional and national level, including drawing competitions held by Unicef, Sakal, Indian Express and Camlin to name a few.
However, somewhere down the road, she chose to disregard her ‘inner calling’. Instead, she paid heed to her parents’ wishes and opted for an engineering course. “I was 17 then, and my thoughts had not yet crystallised. I went with the flow as I didn’t want to hassle my parents,” she reveals. But during those four years at the college, she experienced a strong pull towards creative arts. She’d wrap up her college assignments quickly so she could spend hours in front of the canvas, sketching and painting. She also dabbled in jewellery created from paper and wood and sold it through local boutiques in Pune.
“At the end of the engineering course, it dawned on me to make a career out of something that I loved doing,” she notes. “My parents, too, helped me find my calling. On one of his business trips to Ahmedabad, my father happened to visit the National Institute of Design (NID). He came back impressed with the philosophy and culture of the institute. He met the then director of NID, Darlie Koshy, who informed him that I could make a career shift and study for a post-graduate course in Design. And that is how I landed at NID to study the Lifestyle Accessory Design course.”
How was the experience at NID?
The transition from being an engineer to a designer was a journey of self-discovery for Avantika. As an engineer, she had been trained to work on a bigger canvas, and in the case of designing, it was the other way round. “It was difficult to initially comprehend these conflicting ideas, but hard work and good guidance helped me to arrive at a balance in my designs. While pursuing Lifestyle and Accessories Design i never thought of specializing in Jewellery design. During my second year i sent my entry for India International Jewellery Week 2010 (IIJW) and was selected. I designed a collection that presented jewellery in a new light altogether,” she says. “NID helped me discover my passion for creativity. It has so far been one of the best experiences of my life. The course enabled me to articulate my imagination and inventiveness through design. Under the guidance of my mentor Shimul Mehta Vyas, I was able to resolve the differences between engineering and design and bring together the strong points of both the disciplines in my creations.”
What was your career path after NID?
Post-NID, the designer interned with Amrapali Jewels, Jaipur, for eight months and got hands-on experience to hone her skills as a jewellery designer, and learnt about running a jewellery business, right from manufacturing to pricing and marketing. Her work at Amrapali included a lightweight silver jewellery collection, and four theme-based collections in gold-plated silver, including fashion accessories like hairbands, belt buckles, key chains, key charms, and brooches.
Soon, Avantika went solo and debuted at the India International Jewellery Week 2010 showcasing the ‘Aurum’ collection for which she received rave reviews. Thereon, there was no looking back. In September 2012, ‘Aaraa by Avantika’ was launched online. The brand has two lines of jewellery and accessories. The first is a Zardosi collection, and all the pieces are woven by Avantika. To retain its exclusivity, she ensures that she doesn’t repeat her designs. The patterns are modern, but also reminiscent of the Indian traditional heritage. The Zardosi line consists of bold neckpieces, rings, brooches, hairbands, hair pins, and more.