Steeped in Indian culture and folk art vocabulary, Lai, which means “beloved one” in Sanskrit, is a design-led collaboration working with artisan clusters in India to create jewelry and home accessories that meld traditional craftsmanship with modern aesthetics. Through pieces fabricated according to sketches provided by Lai’s founder and lead designer, Puja Bhargava Kamath, the brand aims to promote the work of Indian artisans and revive fading creative traditions.
Lai takes the spirit of creation as an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of craft in India. In creating jewelry, age-old techniques are employed by master metalsmiths, including rava, granulation, a specialty of Gujarat; jail, fretwork, a specialty of Jaipur; meenakari, enameling, a specialty of Rajasthan; and ‘bidri,’ metal-on-metal inlay, a specialty of Bidar. Many of their necklaces and rings feature vibrant miniature paintings that are made using the same techniques and skills employed since the 16th century. For an extra-bright splash of color, the brand has introduced lacquered wood bracelets, earrings, and beaded necklaces. Additionally, for the display of these items, Lai offers oxidized silver trays adorned with elegant Matisse-esque drawings of women.
“We like to think of ourselves as storytellers who tell the story of our land, our culture, and its folk arts through jewelry,” says Puja. A graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, Puja created Lai in 2011 with the goal of offering artisans sustainable employment and global market access. Puja says the brand’s works “draw from the past but do not blindly replicate it—they are culturally inspired but very current.” Puja has won several jewelry-design awards from the likes of De Beers, the World Gold Council, and Perles de Tahiti.