Mawi (pronounced Moy) Keivom, set up her eponymous label over 10 years ago. Now a piece of Mawi jewellery is instantly recognisable.
The bold, luxurious statement pieces are true objects of desire, with their lavish embellishments including gemstones, chunky chains, studs, and spikes, beautiful design and craftsmanship. Necklaces such as, ‘Pretty Tough’ and ‘Punk Rajah’ demonstrate how Mawi masterfully creates powerful, elegant pieces.
Her name Thang-Mawi means, ‘great fame’, it’s her given tribal name. Mawi also means beauty, ‘I feel like it was my destiny to create beautiful objects.’
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
I’m from the indigenous hill tribes of Manipur in North East India – land of folklore, tigers, panthers and tea. Our people are originally of Tibeto -Burmese origin. My ancestral home is unique and special to me. Although I was born here my father’s career took us around the globe so I never had the opportunity to live there. There is nothing better than coming home to your ancestral roots and the yearly trips I make to India are always the highlight of my year.
HOW HAS INDIA AND ITS EXQUISITE JEWELS INFLUENCED YOU?
India is vast and incredibly diverse and it’s one of the most inspiring places in the world. Despite having lived in many different countries I have a special bond with India and it has played an important part in my creative growth. There is a strong undercurrent of Indian and tribal undertones in my collections. Symbolism and motifs are also very important to me. In tribal culture our ancestors wore jewellery not just as an adornment but for spiritual well being too. I’m also inspired by subcultures, industrial design, futuristic, traditional and contemporary references.
DID YOUR MOTHER HAVE A VAST JEWELLERY COLLECTION?
My Mom sparked my interest in costume jewels. She was a pretty cool chick in her heyday and wore her hair in a beehive with mini dresses, pointy sling backs and costume jewels. She also inherited all of my grandmother’s tribal ancestral jewels as well as vintage pieces, from Victorian necklaces to Indian gold jewellery. She was very protective over them and kept them under lock and key. There is one necklace in particular which gets passed on from mother to daughter and always stays in the family lineage. It’s a hand strung amber necklace and it’s handed down through generations: usually when you come of age or when you are married. I always had my eye on that piece, even way before it was time for me to inherit it. It’s the one piece of jewellery that defines everything about who I am and where I come from. It’s very special to me.
HOW DID YOUR FASCINATION WITH JEWELLERY BEGIN?
As a child I was always fascinated by ornamental trinkets, sparkly jewels and chunky gemstones – a combination of my mother’s fine collections as well as ones inherited from family heirlooms. Early on in my childhood my mum was instrumental in my creative development. She stressed the importance of crafts. I had to learn how to knit, sew, crochet and bead from a young age and by the age of twelve I knew I wanted to be in fashion. This early exposure for the appreciation of art, beauty and workmanship has been a key influence and has continued to shape and define my aesthetics.
WHAT PIECES OF JEWELLERY ARE YOU WEARING?
My current obsession is Mawi razor blade finger tip rings – one on each finger – like a GANGSTER!
WHAT DO YOU REGARD AS YOUR SIGNATURE PIECES?
The Sunray Tube necklace and the Punk Rajah Spike necklace are the all time Mawi classics – a mix of edgy chic, industrial styling and luxe glamour all in one.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE ICON, KNOWN FOR THEIR JEWELS?
Catherine Baba, Wallis Simpson, Diana Vreeland and Iris Apfel.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ERA IN HISTORY?
My favourite time period would have to be 1920s and 30s. I love everything about this era- from architecture, furniture to music and fashion. It’s elegant, timeless and classic and will always be a source of inspiration for my designs.
ARE DIAMONDS A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND?
Personally I prefer coloured gemstones. I love rubies and emeralds – green happens to be my favourite colour.
WHAT IS YOUR BIRTHSTONE?
I’m a Libra and Opal is my birthstone.
WHICH DESIGNER ARE YOU YET TO COLLABORATE WITH THAT YOU ADMIRE?
I would love to collaborate with Givenchy, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Chanel as well as create pieces for fine jewellery houses like Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels and Bulgari.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT IN YOUR WORK TO DATE?
I can’t say that there is one particular date or moment- there have been many proud moments. From seeing Samantha Cameron wearing our designs to winning the Luxury Brands of Tomorrow to seeing someone on the bus wearing a Mawi – these are all proud moments. We have just celebrated 10 years in business and that is a huge milestone in itself. We’ve successfully evolved as a leading accessories brand, opened two flagship stores, launched handbags this Spring-Summer season as well as re- launching our men’s jewellery line alongside numerous collaborations. It’s been tough, we’ve shed tears of joy and tears of hardship yet every step has been a learning curve. We have garnered a loyal clientele, established a strong signature handwriting and the brand continues to inspire, innovate and push boundaries. That’s something to be proud of.
To learn more about the brand or to purchase some jewels of your own, visit the Mawi website.