For 30-year-old Hong Kong kid Payal Shah, jewellery designing is a serious business. Art pieces of jewellery come naturally to Shah. Her 10-year-old, fine, occasion-wear jewellery brand L’Dezen has quickly become a favourite among Hollywood A-listers. Celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen, Lady Gaga and Alexa Demie are flocking to wear her custom creations and Payal’s pieces have been worn by Michelle Obama, Rihanna and Nick Jonas to name a few.
The pandemic shifted consumer demands to everyday jewellery, and Payal launched her second venture Psylish last year to meet this demand. In a conversation with LuxeBook, Payal talks about her inspiration, her creative process as well as setting up a business during the pandemic.
What role did your childhood have to play in your decision to become a jewellery designer?
I didn’t grow up thinking I’m going to become a jewellery designer. I knew that I enjoyed the elements of subjects such as Math, Business and Art, and a combination of these. I wanted to focus on creating design solutions. I knew that I didn’t want to design because things are pretty but also had a meaning behind it. I went and studied architecture design at the University of Westminster. What was great about architecture is that you get to dip into a little bit of everything, so you get a bit of business, engineering and art. And so, it really opened the doors for me in many different elements, like whether it’s being great at Photoshop or learning the CAD design software. Once you have these kinds of skill sets, you can do many things in any kind of design career.
How did L’Dezen come about?
After I studied architectural design in London, I returned to Hong Kong to work for a hospitality firm. I’ve always loved design, and in addition to my day job, I used to make jewellery for my personal use. This was obviously influenced by the fact that both my parents are diamond merchants, so I had ready access to these beautiful stones.
As I was creating these pieces for myself, I attended the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, and one of the businesses there loved what I was wearing. He asked me if I would be interested in making a capsule collection for them. They then flew me out to Vegas, and I remember how much fun it was, and the amazing reception my pieces received. I continued collaborating with the brand to learn more about the industry and how it works. Eventually, as I gained confidence and found the right resources, I started L’Dezen. That was about 10 years ago.
You mentioned that your parents are diamond merchants. Do you think that was influential in your decision to pursue this career?
Definitely. But growing up I wanted to stay away from what my parents are doing as much as possible. But when I came back, I had a different love for materials, and I started using materials that were very raw and it’s shaped like the different facets of diamonds I was using. I was only creating handmade jewellery. It was a whole different business from them, but obviously, the foundation was similar and growing up with that indirectly, I got influenced and exposed to the industry.
How would you describe the style of L’Dezen?
I want to say that each collection speaks from a different visual diary of my life. Each one has a different form and inspiration. For example, I have a collection called Urban Jungle which is all animal print. It represents the hustle and bustle around which I grew up in Hong Kong. It represents the jungle that is there within all of us. Another collection was inspired by all the chandeliers I’ve come across in the world. We’ve got Violet, which is our most popular collection, all flowers and butterflies, one of the most beautiful symbols in the world. The flower motif is the most desired when it comes to any kind of design. In a nutshell, it’s basically different elements of the world through my design.
You’ve studied architecture and interior design. How has that influenced your design aesthetics?
The one major thing in my jewellery is that it is some of the most lightweight pieces for the way they look. One of the best feedbacks we get is that we create some beautiful stuff and some gorgeous heavy-looking jewellery which is light-weighted. Our pieces, considering how occasional and luxe they are quite comfortable. The practicality and utility our jewellery offers comes from studying design solutions as an architect.
How would you describe your creative process?
Sometimes I look at some of the materials I really want to use and some colours that I want to include, and I work backwards and figure out a way to highlight that specific material in the best possible way. I then architect a piece of jewellery from ground-up. The other way, is that we play around with mood boards and reflect on our state of mind. We create pieces according to that mood. Last year we did a lot of petite flowers and some very avant-garde pieces. We started using a mix of two materials that we never thought we would put together. There’s a lot of trial-and-error involved.
What are some of the most meaningful pieces according to you?
Our ‘Violet’ collection is highly admired. Our flower motifs are recognisable from anywhere.We have now created an archive of some amazing pieces that have won awards. We have the empower ring, another piece that I am proud of. It is supposed to represent the sense of empowerment you get when you wear a piece of jewellery that is majestic. We have this earring called 360, in the Urban Jungle collection. When you walk, the earring propels forward, and it’s like watching gravity in action. And then we’ve got ‘Fireworkouture’. Whenever I think of people celebrating their biggest moments alive, I think of fireworks. So, we’ve created an entire motion firework into a necklace.
What does wearing jewellery signify? What kind of a deeper meaning does it have?
I think wearing jewellery is like wearing another layer of skin where it is a way to show off your personality before saying or doing something. I think jewellery for people mean very different things. For some people it’s heritage. We have clients who buy jewellery with the idea of wanting to pass it down to three generations. But then we also have clients who come in and are rewarding themselves for a big moment in their life and are buying jewellery for that reason. For each person, a jewellery piece of jewellery is a symbol of a different moment in their life.
Your pieces have been worn by the likes of Rihanna, Michelle Obama and Sofia Vergara. What does it feel like to see your pieces on celebrities?
It’s a massive reward and it is in some ways a validation when someone you admire for their style and character to then give you that same feeling back by picking your creation. When you think of Rihanna, you think of someone a woman that stands for herself no matter what and creates beautiful art within herself with the medium that she has. I always talk about Mindy Kaling casually emailing me for her Cannes Film Festival look. I just didn’t believe that it was her. Next thing I know, I’m on FaceTime with her helping her dress for her Cannes looks. I think designing for the Met Gala is probably the most wonderful feeling because people are there to celebrate art meeting design.
What are some of the must-haves in every woman’s jewellery collection?
Some of the must-haves that a woman should have in their collection is a pair of studs that go with everything. The first thing people tend to remember is your face when they’re associating themselves with you. And I think that studs are really so versatile that you can wear to an evening gala, or you can wear to an afternoon brunch or to a morning meeting. A dainty necklace that can complete every look is also a must-have. Bracelets are great. I love stacks so I love to keep adding a stackable bracelet. Most of the time I wear my evil-eye bracelet because it’s always great to get rid of the bad eye also because it’s a design statement. I think rings are the most cocktail piece of jewellery.
You launched your everyday jewellery business Psylish a year ago. What challenges did you face in setting up a business during the pandemic?
One of the biggest challenges was definitely logistics. I think setting up the business is fine because I live in the same country as my manufacturer. It was the logistics of different countries, travelling had become a day of the past and jewellery is one of the most difficult pieces to ship back and forth. It wasn’t a necessity that people really needed during the pandemic. There were other items that people were prioritising. Another problem we solved within our website is when we added augmented reality to our Psylish website. We tried to bring the store experience to people’s screens as much as we could through virtual reality.
L’Dezen took a hit, a decline in terms of consumption because jewellery wasn’t something on people minds while the pandemic was on. That’s why the everyday jewellery was so important because there were no occasions happening, so every day is what people were investing in rather than occasional wear. But if we survived the pandemic, we would be able to rise. Expenses that were not necessarily needed for that point in time were cut off. In fact, I launched Psylish due to the change in demand from occasion jewellery to everyday jewellery.