Style & Beauty
whose name means
‘Ornament of the
Geeta Kalwani, the entrepreneur
World’ in Persian
(Zeenat al Alam in
Arabic), was the
Princess of the 16th
Named after one of the most remarkable
princesses of the Mughal dynasty, Jahaanara
is a luxury denim range that has its roots in
Oman. Conceptualised and created by Muscat-
based Geeta Kalwani, the luxury denim line is
all set to be launched this month
Crème de la Crème Report
120 November 2009 November 2009 121
“ These designs are an
outcome of long hours of
staring into empty space, a
perennial pen and notepad
in the bag for sudden
inspirations and of course,
plenty of dreams coupled with
trials and errors
G eeta Kalwani has an educational background in embroidered garments. I used to wonder why my native
political background. Yet an unexplored passion art of embellishment or karigari was not present in its
in her led to the world of fashion. This culminated full glory. With this thought lingering somewhere in the
in the creation of Jahaanara, an exclusive luxury denim recesses of my mind, I left France to go to Singapore to
line. Exquisite Indian designs and embellishments on the continue my double degree Masters programme. When I
denim wear is the USP of Geeta’s line. An idea born out returned to Paris for my graduation ceremony after a year,
of Geeta’s desire to see her native karigari (Indian art of the thought resurfaced.
embellishment) on clothes, Jahaanara features denim wear “I vividly remember the moment; I was running late
adorned with intricate embellishments that spell luxury and was frantically rummaging through my suitcase for my
and class. evening dress. All that my hands repeatedly found was a pair
As it states on the website, the brand reinvents intricate of jeans. And then I paused, looked and it struck me, almost
designs and colourful imagery from the era of the Mughals, like an epiphany. I could try karigari on jeans! I rushed
imperial rulers who flourished in the Indian sub-continent. back home to Muscat and immersed myself in research. A
The designs primarily focus on nature that include delicate few months and some toil later, Jahaanara was born.”
flowers, birds and butterflies, snakes or tigers beautifully What was the inspiration for such a title?
weaved into the patterns. “Jahaanara, whose name means ‘Ornament of the
To recreate the fascinating designs of the 16th century World’ in Persian (Zeenat al Alam in Arabic), was the most
Indo-Persian art on the couture of modern world is Geeta’s fascinating Princess of the 16th century Mughal dynasty.
mission and she has been successful in taking this initiative She was the eldest and the most favourite daughter of her
father, Emperor Shah Jahaan who built the immortal Taj
But who forward.
Mahal. Jahaanara herself was very enterprising and founder
While the creations are luxurious and are made for
sets the rules? ladies who have a discerning taste for the finest things of many cities, palaces and gardens in her Kingdom.
During a time where women led protected and secluded
I am absolutely in life, Geeta is keen to give back to society. Much of the
lives in the royal harem, she brought about change and
embellishment work on the Jahaanara line is done by
unapologetic about disabled artists from India. influenced the thought of her subjects without losing her
graceful femininity. Our company, Jahaanara, is inspired by
not following the We caught up with the well-spoken and smart
entrepreneur, Geeta Kalwani who will be launching her such a modern day princess: precious and pampered, but
norm collection, which she terms as casual opulence, this month. powerful.”
Excerpts from the interview… Please tell us more about yourself. Have you
How was Jahaanara born? always been interested in fashion?
“I lived in Paris for a couple of years and every time I “I was born in Liberia, West Africa. In the civil war of
sauntered down Avenue Montaigne, I saw the world’s the ‘90s, my family was displaced and we moved our base
most successful fashion houses, often with beautifully to Muscat. My siblings and I, however, schooled in Mumbai
122 November 2009 November 2009 123
years were spent in Switzerland, Paris and Singapore for
further studies and I came back to Oman last summer.
My educational background is in political science; I have a
from Sciences-Po Paris and Lee Kuan Yew School.”
So how did you veer towards fashion?
“Always allowing my heart to steer me, I was led into
as I always topped my school in Maths and Science. But
who sets the rules? I am absolutely unapologetic about not
following the norm.”
A luxury denim brand from Oman is a new
concept in the region. What are your expectations
and how do you intend to reach across to your
“Luxury as a model is not as well developed in Oman
as it is in the rest of the Gulf. I remember during my early
years here, the only luxury store here was a Versace store
in Al Araimi Complex. And then that disappeared as well.
However, as I see and hear, Muscat is progressing by leaps
“As for the other Gulf countries, we have been
approached by some big multi-brand stores but for the
moment, we intend reaching out to the European market as
Jahaanara was initially designed keeping the West in mind.
from my Omani friends who have seen the product, I have
also added bespoke services.
“As for expectations, I have none... they are the root of
all misery. So I thoroughly enjoy what I do, and I take every
day as it comes.”
How has the journey been so far –
conceptualisation, designing, creating?
involved in everything - right from the conception to the
“ More than luxury,
Jahaanara is a thought. A
powerful thought strong enough
to create change
124 November 2009
“ Our next collection will
have a series of jeans painted by
disabled mouth and foot artists
who don’t have hands.
strategy and implementation. I make the Jahaanara jeans
in Italy, and then bring them to the Indian Sub-continent
where they are decorated with intricate gold threadwork
called zardozi, crystal-studded brocades and multihued
staring into empty space, a perennial pen and notepad in the
bag for sudden inspirations and of course, plenty of dreams
to the Mughal era including the website which is but a part,
albeit an important one, of the brand.”
Will it comprise only denim wear?
we have begun working on expanding our range. However,
rather do a few things but do them well.”
How are you planning to tackle competition?
“Denims by nature (due to their thickness and wash
by needlework and to the best of our knowledge, there is
no one else doing exactly what we do. Regardless, I believe
competition is only with oneself and I prefer not to be part
of a rat race. I wish everyone luck but only look at myself,
and all that I am responsible for. If I do my best, and others
What more can you add to the Jahaanara
“More than luxury, Jahaanara is a thought. A powerful
thought strong enough to create change. Crystallising
my innate desire for social development, Jahaanara was
founded to be a cause-driven business. For instance, we use
share our proceeds with them.
“Our next collection will have a series of jeans painted
by disabled mouth and foot artists who don’t have hands.
eventually like to invest in education of the girl child in
When will you launch the collection?
“We will be launching at the Leaders in Luxury
followed by our entry into the European markets.”
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