ONE SHOULD never settle for mediocrity,” says Malini Vachani Akerkar. Having quite successfully donned the hats of restaurateur, interior designer, lifestyle store owner, and now artist and jewellery designer, the Mumbai-based aesthete should know. She and her chef husband, Rahul Akerkar, became one of the city’s most celebrated couples and the driving forces behind Mumbai’s fine dining zeitgeist when they launched their restaurant Indigo in 1999.
Years later, their iconic south Mumbai eatery may have shut shop and Vachani Akerkar may have also moved on from her lifestyle store Palate, but the 52-year-old is in no hurry to hang up her boots. Instead, she has picked up the brush and turned painter and also added the title of “jewellery curator” to her list of achievements. “Ever since we exited DeGustibus Hospitality, I have been chanelling my creative juices, painting abstraction, styling interiors and working on my vintage jewellery,” she says.
Her very first collection of jewellery, inspired by all things Art Deco, now retails from cousin Tina Tahiliani’s store Ensemble. Vachani Akerkar recounts how her love for artistic, chunky jewellery has seen her trawl through flea markets across the world and hunt for tribal jewellery from Africa. “My love affair with vintage design began eons ago, with my mother’s collection of small, but one-of-a-kind pieces of old Kadam jewellery. It was further cemented when Rahul proposed to me 25 years ago with a stunning antique Art Deco ring that belonged to his German great grandmother, Klare Oppenheimer,” she recalls. Over the years, her passion turned into an obsession. “I began collecting books on everything Art Deco. I found furniture, art and architecture, but the jewellery was impossible to find or was exorbitantly priced. I searched the market for affordable vintage jewellery but couldn’t find any,” she says.
The current collection is a result of years of experimentation and research and includes earrings, pendants, necklaces, bracelets and rings using semi-precious and hydro thermal gem stones set in silver and gold alloys. Interestingly, the collection campaign features not models, but three generations of women from her own family — mother-in-law Jinx Akerkar, sister-in-law Avantika Akerkar, sister Radhika Vachani, and daughters Shaan and Amalia. “My jewellery is for women of all ages, allowing them to express their personal tastes, anywhere in the world,” says Vachani Akerkar.
Even as husband Rahul gets set to launch a brand new restaurant and jump on to the degustation bandwagon again, Vachani Akerkar says she’s happy to create art and focus on the interior design of the place this time around. “I began to paint textured walls at all of our restaurants and somewhere along the way I put paint to canvas. My love affair with colours and textures started by observing the dirt and decay in cities all around the world,” she says.