For Rosh Mahtani, jewellery is wearable sculpture. A union of fashion, art and lyricism. In 2014, not long after graduating from Oxford University - where she read French and Italian Literature - her cult accessories label Alighieri was born. After a one-day wax carving class, she was drawn to bringing Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ to life through objects. Six years later, the London-born, Zambia-raised, (self-taught) designer's modern-day heirlooms - think antique-style medallion necklaces and beautiful baroque pearl drop earrings - have garnered the praise from Princess Anne to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
“I love being surrounded with objects, 'mess', artefacts, wax, candles, stones,” she says. “Visually, this sparks so many ideas; two completely different stones will be lying on the table next to each other, I'll glance at them and think, wait, ‘what if we pair these together, the organic with the perfect? If I tidied everything away neatly, I wouldn't have these moments.” So, how does she get it all done? From the joy of creative musings to organised mess, this is her to do list. Over to you, Rosh.
"I'm a big fan of handwriting everything, there's something about black ink on paper that allows me to process the tasks in my head. I've done it ever since I was at school, in my homework diary. I always draw little empty tick-boxes next to each task, the satisfaction of physically ticking the box still gives me joy!
The lists are never linear. I write the title, the date, and then then doodle my way through the sheet. I like a fresh sheet of paper - a new day, a new list. It helps me put yesterday behind me. Whenever I make the list in my notebook, I feel like it's too permanent, it needs to be separate from ideas, I like to save my notebook for creative musings. During lockdown, I found a box of beautiful creamy textured letter paper that we used for our last runway show. It feels like a luxury to write my to-do-list in it. It's a lovely way to start the day.
Writing a to-do list is very psychological for me, it's my way of sitting down and saying, ‘OK, whatever it is, you can face it.’ Just start at the beginning. Whenever I had "too much homework" to do as a kid, I would always say to my dad, I just don't know where to start. He would always say, "start at the beginning".
These days, mapping out my day focuses my mind, helps me feel less anxious; my daily lists often break down the day into half an hour segments, one step at a time. There's so much going on that if I don't do this, I get very lost.
I'm an organised mess. There are two sides of me - I'm very focussed and organised in the way that I work on logistics, and with the team. I like to get to the point and make things happen with very short lead times, so there's no other way but to be organised. I think it's all about concentrating on the big picture, and not spending too long on the parts that aren't going to make much of a difference. I've definitely gotten better at this, I used to agonize over every email! The creative part of me is not organised at all, and I would never want it to be.
I'm very instinctive, and I wear my heart on my sleeve; if a project excites me, it's immediately obvious to my team. I started Alighieri in order to be surrounded with incredible people and tell stories together. If there's no heart of storytelling in a project I find it hard to be attracted to it. I have to say no to projects if they don't excite me.
It's really hard to find the time to work on passion projects, but I'm actively trying to get better at this. Being surrounded by materials at all times helps, so when I'm on a call, I'm still looking and getting inspired. It's such a luxury to be able to create for fun, but I have so many ideas I want to execute. It’s one of my goals to block out time in my calendar to just play.
Alighieri is my baby, I'm so proud of how it's grown. I would say I've always been very motivated, I don't think you have a choice in the beginning. I'm very lucky that now I have an amazing team. If I'm ever having a day where I feel low, or tired, seeing how motivated and passionate my team are inspires me and gives me the energy to work. There's just so much I want to do! Dreaming is the motivator.
I need to be busy to be productive, I often say yes to so many projects that juggling is just the way of being for us! Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but I try to put each project in its own box on the list.
My working style has changed over the years. I used to work every minute, late into the night, on the weekends. I've learnt to rest more, to learn how to stop at the weekend, after a few nervous breakdowns of running myself into the ground! I'm learning that giving my brain a rest is so important, so that I can do good work."
Images | courtesy of Alighieri