India is an exquisite, yet strangely melancholic place: a country of stunning beauty, yet startling contradictions: of striking poverty and astounding riches, spiritual harmony and secular conflict. It’s a nation that shows that life itself is an anomaly; one merely has to accept it with love and respect, acknowledge it with tolerance and understanding, and honour it with both grace and pride. We are, after all, the same in the end: each human, each made up in equal parts of bones, blood and flesh. And it is this philosophical approach, this spirituality and natural harmony with others that is so evident in the creations of LA HEERA, an exciting, exceptional new brand now gracing the shoulders of an ever-increasing multitude of men and women in Geneva, and one reflected by the stylish designer’s approach to life itself.
Despite her small size and fragile appearance, Lady La Heera, as she has been christened, is a strong, forthright woman whose natural beauty, earthy charm and sparkling personality have made her the toast of society in town as well as within her close circle of friends. Like the designer herself, LA HEERA creations embody a seamless blending of the East and the West: stunning combinations of warm cashmere lined with icy gems, suede and fur, French lace and Indian silk, gold filaments upon the simplest of linens, each in their contraposition a perfect complement of the other. No one can better describe the phenomenon than Lady La Heera herself.
In the words of Lady La Heera:
There is a beautiful proverb that goes: “necessity is the mother of all invention”. Coming from a strict Indian background, I found independence through freedom of expression. As my father was essentially in the business of precious stones, I was used to the luxurious feel and look of exotic ornaments. So what immediately came to mind for my creations was the beauty of Indian fabrics, in particular their vibrant colours, combined with rare gems.
The event that acted as the catalyst for my entry into design was when the Princess of Monaco appeared at a public reception wearing a pashmina shawl, which caused a fashion sensation. I caught onto the idea at once, which led to my desire to start creating shawls. In addition, not having ever lived there, it generated a desire within me to rediscover my heritage. So I actually grew closer to my culture. I finally started LA HEERA in 1999 and opened my first private showroom in 2001. Having to travel between the East and the West over the years further enriched my designs. Colours were the key element.
I come from Jaipur, known as the Pink City. So, I believe in the therapy of colours and there are many, such as fuchsia, parrot green, ferozi – a special turquoise – that simply cannot be found here. Therefore, although black is the shade worn most in Europe, it is what I make the least. When you create an interest, you create a demand and thus a market. I soon realised that what was most successful were the pinks, the greys – from pale to graphite – and the blues – from baby to peacock to midnight. I also wanted to represent the high-end, luxury side of India, through the use of the best cashmeres and workmanship from there.
From ancient times, Indians have been weaving gems and gold and silver thread into cloths. From the beginning, I have always tried to make a marriage of the East and the West. Having lived my whole life in Switzerland and learned that every country has something special to offer, my desire was to keep certain aspects of each –the colours of India, for example, combined with cloths, such as pashmina and cashmere, that would work best in the climate here in Switzerland – and create products that were neither too ethnic nor too Occidental. My creations also reflect my moods, through the choice of colours or the use of certain textures and embroideries. It was this combination that then came to define the brand and my products. The name “Heera”, for example, means diamond in Hindi and “La” adds the French or Western touch.
The key to the brand’s success, however, is based on two things: exclusivity and personalisation. My wish is that, from the moment I receive my clients with a glass of champagne to when they leave my private showroom, every one of them feels like an Indian prince or princess. I want them to feel pampered and unique. So I rarely produce the same models twice and if I do a series, I always have it in several colours. It is also for this reason that I keep it private, as I believe that everything rare is also exclusive and I want to bring that to my customers: a reflection of that pride in my heritage.
Indians are very proud of their culture. We are proud to have one of the oldest religions in the world and we have lived through many cultural transitions. It is the mixture of traditions, religious beliefs and holiness which makes India such a spiritual land. The Egyptians have been there. The Mongolians have been there. The British have been there. There was a period of rule by the Portuguese. Those exchanges with different cultures and religions from outside as well as inside India have brought great complexity and diversity to a culture full of differing means of expression, wisdom and experience and it is those facets that then appeal to the senses of the Western world: the colours, spices, art, dance, music, mythology, and spirituality, which is important everywhere.
So, what has changed during my lifetime? That is hard to say, because for me, change is a permanent state. There have been so many changes during my lifetime and still more to make and to come. Yet the one that I want most is a better government system with stronger sentences for men who do not respect women and their rights. We are, after all, still a matriarchal society. Both historically and mythologically, women such as Indira Gandhi and the maharanis who have previously governed were our warriors and, for the Indian woman of today, they are still in her heart, soul and beliefs. This is a woman who stands by her heritage, which is her inheritance, her partner, her elders and her children, and never backs down. She is a multitalented woman, endowed with great kindness as well as enormous wisdom.
What I hope for in the future is therefore betterment for them. I thirst for an India in which women will no longer be subjected to the unthinkable acts of certain individuals, those who seem to have lost respect for our goddess, mother nation and mother India. Women in my country face sexual, economic and social oppression, as women do anywhere else –Europe, Africa, the Arab world, the United States –it’s a global dilemma.
However, Indian women have had the right to vote since 1921, earlier than many others around the world, and have had political power ever since ancient times. People don’t see that, when we look back at our Indian myths, we have always had strong female leaders. We have had female deities and warriors. We have had female political leaders.
The issue is thus often distorted and misperceived by the outside world. One has to consider the fact that the population is 1.252 billion. Thus, the reality of India has more to do with its size. It is effectively not a country, but a continent. The question that must be asked is therefore not “How do we bring about change in India?”, but rather “how do we create a sense of togetherness?” First, we must create a better education system. Secondly, we need a new role model, in the same line as Mahatma Gandhi.
As an Indian women myself, I too face questions of duty, beliefs, and traditions. My beliefs, though, are very simple, spiritual and universal, based on my creed: “to live a sin is the same as to commit one”. Love is my greatest strength and driving force, the one that motivates me most in life and work.
What I seek to promote through my designs, consequently, is a mix of my individuality, my beliefs and those of my heritage. It is a means of creative expression, a way of remaining true to my roots and to myself as a woman. LA HEERA is my signature. It is part of my soul. It is a reflection of me.
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