It takes just minutes to cross galaxies in Evoluzione, where New Delhi-based jewellery designer Hanut Singh’s latest collection inspired by “architecture, movement, cosmic elements and talismanic things”, twinkles like stars. Rows of linear earrings studded with rubies, diamonds and pearls fire away their inner shades like glowing supernovas.
In an alcove at the rear of the store sits Hanut Singh, his casual attire offset by a grand watch and a grander bracelet. But, what catches the eye is his olive-green pants with a flaming orange sun, reminiscent of a Japanese painting. It seems as if Singh is wearing it as a tribute to the country that first roused his imagination when it came to designing jewellery. For, it was on Japan’s shores, tipping into the Pacific, that Singh chanced upon an abalone shell and fell “hook, line and sinker in love with it. I knew I wanted to do something with it. I always wanted to design jewellery. I just needed to find the right time within myself. This was it”.
Singh came up with his first collection when he was 28, but knew that this was what he wanted to do when he was only two. “It runs in my DNA,” he says. “Parts of my work are inspired by my family background.”
Singh is from the royal house of Kapurthala, an erstwhile princely state in the Punjab that celebrated French architecture, fashion and prized jewellery from Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels like none other. He says his grandmother — iconic beauty Sita Devi, considered among the best-dressed of her time and who even inspired a Gershwin song — was an early inspiration.
“I love the Art Deco period because it was the greatest as far as design invention, architecture and fashion were concerned; a superb movement in the 1920s and 1930s that has never been repeated — the finesse of it was completely heightened. My work has a hint of the past, but it’s also very much about the present and future. Though I may use the past as a slight reference, 90 per cent is all mine. My collections are constantly evolving.”
Over the past decade that he has been designing, Singh’s collections have come to be seen as narrative art forms, which tell stories way different from those of other designers.
“I think my work is unique, I’m told that it is… there is nothing you can go and buy in any market,” says Singh, who edited magazines and worked at a record label before he gave in to his childhood passion.
Singh’s work has found resonance among several Hollywood A-listers, who flaunt his designs on the red carpet. Although, lately, he has been doing commissioned work, Singh insists that he designs for himself and lets people respond to it. “I design what I want to design… even my commissioned work is created the way I want it to be.”
Singh also designs rings and necklaces, but, often, it is earrings that are a vehicle for his kind of art that blends new-age minimalism with old-world splendour.
“My work is my life. I’m obsessed these days with ombre work on stones. It’s always fun and a source of enchantment to work with new stones that energise and give you creativity. I get many stones cut to suit my specifications. It’s a game — you hunt for something, you find something else,” says Singh, who visits jewellery fairs in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tucson and Las Vegas for the incredible variety they showcase.
“I’m always travelling and that informs my work. The eye has to travel,” says Singh, who declares that Manhattan is his “soul home — a melting pot of brilliant creative infusion. I keep going back”.
Not surprising for a designer whose work captures the chaos and calm of our universe so well.