“Jewelry makes women feel really special, intimately beautiful, and allows them to revel in their own femininity. Understandably, women are so passionate about it,” opines Poonam Soni, One of the top jewelry designers in India who founded her eponymous brand three decades ago in 1989, pioneering a luxury brand in a tightly closed and conservative Indian jewelry market, which was difficult for an outsider to penetrate, let alone make an impact.
Poonam Soni carved a unique space for herself in the Indian jewelry industry with her revolutionary design concepts and technique. She made her presence felt as a leader in the global luxury markets. She was featured in all the prestigious coffee table books like the Rolls-Royce, Eco Art by Prince Albert’s charity, Quintessential Collectors Guide from London and even listed in the Black Book Library of Beyond Black, along with Masters like Jar and Van Cleef and Arpels.
“Jewelry definitely has had a great influence in my life ever since I was a little girl. I’d see beautiful jewelry adorning my mother and I would ask her to let me try them on. Needless to say, those beautiful experiences have inspired me to create exquisite jewelry to make other women feel as beautiful and happy like I did,” says the much celebrated jewelry designer on what makes her brand of jewelry so popular amongst her patrons.
Poonam Soni’s contribution to the Indian jewelry industry has been a unique style of colourful, thematic, handcrafted jewelry that can only be described as one-of-a-kind. She developed a brand with its own strong identity of celebrity endorsements, marketing through launches, private showings and exclusive by-appointment boutiques. She developed a product for the collectors and came to be known as ‘designer to the collector’.
Celebrated American fashion designer, Michael Kors endorsed her Collections and introduced her jewelry to his private customers at the Carlyle hotel in New York. Soni was wooed globally when Marc Jamet of the LVMH Group, Paris, invited her to showcase at the Jardin D Acclimation at the opening of the ‘Incredible India‘show, along with Dior.
Prince Albert of Monaco invited her for a global tour and she represented India among international designers. Her Falcon brooch was auctioned at Abu Dhabi, sponsored by Sheikh Al Nahyan at the second highest bid, by Lord Mark Poltimore, director of Sotheby’s .
The influence of art is clearly evident in Poonam Soni’s jewelry and some of her collections have become global trends like the Greek and Egyptian, inspired by the Sistine chapel in Rome. Her art-inspired jewelry includes ‘monochromes’ when she collaborated with ace artist Lakshman Shreshtha to adorn his miniature painted canvases into bejewelled pendants and necklaces. Her collaboration with Nawaz Modi Singhania, using the latter's galloping horses to make jewelled wristlets got the stars and celebrities to the brand.
Poonam Soni’s Collections have consistently won global accolades and one of the biggest honours received by the brand was when the Spanish government offered patronage to her collection ‘Gaudi revived’ inspired by the Catalan architect Antony Gaudi's works in Barcelona. The Collection used architectural effects, painted stained glass and each piece was sold by an authenticity certificate by the Spanish government and even received patent rights.
BBC jet, the luxury channel from London, flew down for a day to interview this unique designer who had her own brand philosophy of being an exclusive and niche brand while refusing all investors to remain undiluted.
“There have been countless proposals from all over the world to invest in my brand as they believe in its inherent potential. And that exactly has been the prime reason for me to politely deny. I wish to keep my brand’s authenticity and exclusivity alive. I want it to remain ever exciting for my patrons and that won’t be possible if some investors turned it into too commercial a brand,” explains Poonam Soni while talking about how she remains the highly sought after jewelry designer even after having spent over three decades in the industry.
Her popularity is evident in facts like the Tahitian government publishing an entire magazine dedicated to her, chronicling her works. She was the first Indian designer to feature in TJIF, Italy, as a trendsetter. She endorsed gold for the World Gold Council in a series of videos and platinum for the Platinum Guild, London when she designed a unique, flamboyant Platinum collection, changing its “Tiffany’s” identity.
The commerce ministry of India launched a passionate project of GI (geographical indications) for the first time and Soni was invited to be a part of the same. With this project, Poonam Soni’s dream to help protect and enable the artisans to grow became a reality. She led the PMO’s “Make in India” campaign with jewelry seminars, contributed immensely to State Level Forums and worked towards the betterment of the industry.
With the evolution of a socially new market with a diversely changing thought process and economy - Poonam Soni has re evolved the brand with expansion into Fashion jewelry. She has also created a digital online platform and launched ‘Metamorphosis’ - an endeavour to create new designs from your existing Locker Jewels for her patrons from the last 3 decades.
She was honoured and awarded prestigious awards and became India's most felicitated designer. Her brand Is also the recipient of the De Beers’ Millennium award at the Louvre in Paris by Oppenheimer himself, bestowed on her elder daughter, Kriti Soni, who herself is a leading jewelry designer. Her younger daughter, Esha Soni has created a niche for herself in the Global fashion industry heading Ralph Lauren’s accessories department as Vice President in New York.
Poonam Soni’s brand has an archived room of stories written passionately by the media nationally and globally. Today, the Poonam Soni brand is also ready to tell its own story as India’s first heritage luxury brand as the pioneer of designer jewelry in the land of passionate jewelry lovers, who would love to hear of their favourite designer compared to Coco Chanel by Svetlana Kazakova of Instyle, Russia or the meeting with Linda Fargo, the stylish gate keeper of America’s biggest luxury destination, Bergdoff and Goodman.
As for why jewelry appeals so much to all women and you get an answer that is as witty as the lady herself, “I strongly believe that exquisite jewelry impacts each one of us at a personal, emotional and even professional level. If there is a woman who doesn’t feel this impact, I am yet to meet her!”
And so quips the creator of the original international jewelry brand from India, Poonam Soni.
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Forbes India journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.