Alighieri Founder, Rosh Mahtani joins us for the latest instalment of From The Desk Of...
Whilst studying French and Italian Literature at Oxford University, Mahtani fell in love with Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. After graduating, she took a wax carving course in London’s Hatton Garden – working at Avenue 32 in tandem. The part-time course proved to be a launching pad for Mahtani’s now coveted Alighieri – a Dante-inspired collection of gilded medallions, freshwater and Baroque pearls, and silver treasures.
Reflecting on her career trajectory thus far, and sharing the best business advice she’s ever received, Mahtani joins us desk-side…
How do you start your days?
I love starting my days quite early to catch up on emails before the rest of London wakes up. I will sit with a cup of coffee at my kitchen table and watch as the sun starts to pour through into my apartment.
What’s your go-to uniform?
I’m always running around so my uniform is always classic and easy. I’m very monochrome – cigarette trousers and a white silk shirt with layers of gold and silver. I like my outfits to let the Alighieri layers of the day do all the talking. My favourite right now is the Silver Selva Oscura Choker and our new collection In Vino Veritas Vessel.
Describe your workspace/ workplace…
I usually start my day in my apartment, and then walk into our amazing Hatton Garden studio and showroom. The space is designed by Fred Rigby Studio and feels like a little sanctuary, with big arches inspired by Italy, olive trees cemented in the rustic desks, and shelves full of books and artefacts. I love the communal workspace feel we have in the studio, so I can be close to all my team members and work super collaboratively!
Identify something in your workspace that’s special to you…
There are so many special things to me in the workspace. I fill the space with artefacts and sculptures from all my travels, so I am constantly inspired. My most precious item is probably my first copy of The Divine Comedy, the book that inspired me to start Alighieri Jewellery. This copy was found in a market by my mum when I was studying at university and has stayed with me ever since.
What is your lunch order?
At the moment it is some tom yum soup from my favourite Leather Lane Market just round the corner from the studio.
What are your work place essentials?
I’m a very visual and tactile person, so I still take all my notes by hand – my notebook is invaluable! We also burn the most amazing incense in the space, from an amazing London-based brand called Cremate. Our Alighieri playlists are an absolute must-have, and I’m never far from a candle and my wax-carving tools.
What time of day are you at your most creative?
Every day is different, but I am definitely a morning person. I make each piece with a candle and some wax – the process is super therapeutic for me, a ritual I started eight years ago now. The morning hours are always a really special time to practice the ritual, before the world has arisen.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
So many! From bringing collections to life from initial ideas to shooting the final campaign to meeting our amazing customers and hearing all their stories. I am also a bit of a data and numbers geek so I love seeing a strategy perform as we continue to grow the brand. For me it’s a balance of both.
… and the most challenging?
As a sole founder it can sometimes be a lot to juggle – managing and growing the team and the brand, as well as being Creative Director and tapping into all things artistic. But I’m really lucky in that I have a brilliant team to support me.
What did you study at school/university?
I studied Italian and French at university, where I discovered Dante Alighieri’s incredible work, The Divine Comedy. A story of a man lost in a dark wood, trying to find his way. I related to this story so much, and after I graduated I carried the book with me like a safety blanket until I started making one piece of jewellery for each one of his poems.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Zambia and moved to London when I was eight. My grandparents are from India.
What was your first job?
The fashion cupboard at Harper’s Bazaar. Steaming clothes.
What sparked your interest in jewellery and jewellery making?
I have always had a strong connection to jewellery because it is so universal. Across different religions and cultures, from prehistoric times to now, jewellery is a completely universal language. It is a form of self-expression, a way to communicate with strangers, talismans steeped in meaning, created to be handed through generations.
I was drawn to the ritualistic process of making jewellery from wax and with just a candle and a couple of carving tools. In my process every mark I make or texture I create comes from a feeling within me. Creating these pieces is the purest form of catharsis for me.
Do you have a mentor or an inspirational figure who has guided or influenced you?
Many; so many amazing people have guided me on my journey! I would say my strongest inspiration is my mum who has been featured in a few of our campaigns.
What are some of the hurdles you had to overcome in the early days of Alighieri?
I had no experience in jewellery making or building a business when I started – there were a lot of people around me who were very doubtful that it could be a success. I worked three jobs at once and poured everything I earned into making my collections. There was so much rejection in the beginning, a lot of no’s from stockists and press, and you had to learn to be really resilient and keep going.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
Take advice but ultimately, always stay true to your own conviction. Aside from that – see everything as an opportunity, ask as many questions in any circumstance, learn about every aspect of a business even if it doesn’t seem applicable.
The best advice you’ve ever received…
A Seneca quote: “La vie, ce n’est pas d’attendre que l’orage passe, c’est d’apprendre à danser sous la pluie”.
Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Things are going to go wrong all the time, challenges are going to be thrown your way, and it’s all about learning to be agile and dancing with them. There’s no such thing as impossible.
What are you working on right now?
We just got back from the wholesale market in Paris, which we hadn’t done physically for two years, so that was really special! This weekend, I’m working on a photographic love story to Florence -–Dante’s hometown and the place where I fell in love with Italian culture. Can’t wait to release it!
What’s next for you and Alighieri?
We are excited to do more physical activations this year. Our customers and their stories mean so much to us, so we love meeting them and creating immersive experiences for them all across the world. Stay tuned!