Alighieri founder Rosh Mahtani opens up about her beautiful Autumn/Winter 2020 show, which saw her presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design by Princess Anne
It was in the Crypt of St Etheldreda’s, the oldest Catholic chapel in England, that Alighieri laid the scene for its Autumn/Winter 2020 collection. Just streets away from the brand’s studio in the heart of Hatton Gardens, London’s jewellery district, this 600-year-old crypt was the site of the three-day-long wedding reception of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon in 1531. Staged yesterday, Alighieri’s presentation was held in the presence of one of Henry VIII’s distant relations, too – Princess Anne, who, following the show, presented Alighieri founder Rosh Mahtani with the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design; an honour previously bestowed on fellow British designers Richard Quinn (2018) and Bethany Williams (2019).
Founded in 2014, Alighieri is a jewellery brand built around a simple premise: making ‘modern-day heirlooms’, as Mahtani calls them; items that you will buy (or recieve as gifts) and treasure for the rest of your life, and even leave to your loved ones, so that they treasure them for the rest of their lives too. Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem The Divine Comedy, her pieces – often golden, and strewn with pearls – riff on a medieval aesthetic but nonetheless belong in the present age. Over the last couple of years, Aligiheri has amassed a cult following, adopted by men and women alike, who incorporate the brand’s ornamental necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets into their wardrobes. That Mahtani has been presented with this award is unsurprising – and well deserved.
Titled Love in the Wasteland, Aligiheri’s A/W20 collection, styled by Another Man’s fashion director Ellie Grace Cumming, explored “the sometimes treacherous road of finding connection in a fragmented world”, an idea inspired by TS Eliot’s seminal 1922 text, which is widely regarded as one of the most important poems of the 20th century.
“Right before I read Dante I was actually reading TS Eliot,” Mahtani says shortly after the presentation. “I loved The Waste Land and it was only after reading Dante that I realised that so many of his references came from the Inferno. For Eliot, postwar London was a modern-day inferno, where everyone is together but no one is communicating, and it’s a sad and lonely place. I think in some ways, we’re living in a modern-day wasteland; we’re so connected in terms of technology but we’re always doing things but never being, connecting or finding those moments of joy. So I wanted to talk about finding love in the wasteland, through taking these bits.”
“For example, these teardrops we had in a previous collection – we had them all in the studio,” she continues. “I just wanted to bring them out again and make something new out of them. The kingfisher in TS Eliot’s wasteland, like finding all the ruins around him and trying to fit them all together into a new story. I think we all have everything we need, it’s just about retelling it.”
In what was her first time showing garments as well as jewellery, Mahtani incorporated these golden teardrops into a beautiful vest, with strings of pearls for straps. Elsewhere, vests and even entire dresses were constructed from these strings of pearls, which were criss-crossed into complicated lattices. Golden necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets accompanied these pieces – dripping, opulently, off the models’ necks, fingers, ears and wrists.
There’s something simple about Mahtani’s modus operandi: making beautiful objects you want to wear and want to keep. She’s doing very well at that – as this spectacular presentation was proof.