Pallavi Foley: Breaking Free - By Shanoo Bijlani

Pallavi Foley: Breaking Free - By Shanoo Bijlani

Pallavi Foley: Breaking Free by Shanoo Bijlani

Bengaluru-based jewellery designer Pallavi Foley, a glittering supernova in the firmament of Indian jewellery design, is known for her signature sculptural shapes and audacious feminine forms that veer towards futurism. Movement, dynamism and modernity are the high points of most of her three-dimensional lines.

Gifted with an uncommon imagination, the fearless artist thinks in visual 3D forms. Defying norms and pushing boundaries gives her a creative high and highlights her individualistic streak. The new-age jewellery designer talks to Solitaire International about her extraordinary career and rise to fame.

Pallavi Foley loves to challenge convention and rewrite the rules of design. Each of her collections is backed by thorough research and a strong concept that is first sketched on paper to the last detail. Then, it comes to life in the atelier where she spends hours with her craftsmen looking into the fine detailing and functionality of each piece.

Early days

I've always been fascinated by the transformative power of art; one minute you have a blank piece of paper and the next minute, it's become something else. So of course, as a child, I drew all over the walls of my room, that's how I expressed myself.

I see patterns in 3D. I'm not sure where I get that ability from, maybe from my childhood. My father used to be a builder and would spend a lot of time in the buildings he was making. First they lay a foundation, then they put in pillars, then a roof, then walls, and finally, doors and windows... but it all begins with a drawing, a plan on a piece of paper. Somebody's got to see that in 3D in his or her head.

I studied accessory design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi and then design at Domus, Milan. I'd thought about studying fashion design but they told me at NIFT that I was good with forms -- the three--dimensionality? -- and that I should be studying accessory design. I'm glad I did.

I joined Tanishq after NIFT. I'd won a few jewellery design awards while still graduating and then of course, while at Tanishq, i saw people from around the country wearing my designs. That was a massive high for someone in their early twenties.

Early on during my time at Tanishq, I was asked to design the crowns for the Miss India beauty pageant -- I've always seen that project as helping me push my boundaries. There's a traditional way of making a crown and there's the other way. If, as an artist, you do what's been done countless times before, there really isn't much point to it. But the minute you start thinking the non-traditional way, you've begun to challenge yourself.

After 10 years with Tanishq (and a few national and international design awards; I'd say my favourite is my 3-space design winning second place in the Beads category at the Saul Bell Awards) it was time to move on. To set up my own label -- Pallavi Foley Boutique Jewels.


Simple. Nature is my biggest inspiration, and teacher. A leaf that I've seen somewhere, a flower somewhere else, a fruit, a butterfly, water -- they all seem to find their way into my designs.

You know, something happens when i design, an "inner me" takes over. People sometimes say I'm being fearless but really, I'm just following what my inner eye is telling me. You have to believe in yourself.

I'm a visual person. What I read in a book, something I hear, my daughter talking, her singing, even an experience -- all of that turns into pictures in my head.

After that, it's all about picking from those pictures and turning them into pieces of jewellery.


I'm currently working on a collection called ‘100 Charms from India’. I've finished about 50 so far. There's the nimbu and mirchis we see hanging outside the doors of Indian homes, the chappal we see hanging from the backs of trucks.
To me, each of the charms is also a memory -- something i saw somewhere, someplace and so what we are really offering you is a way of wearing a memory.

Another recent collection of mine was inspired by jaalis. Like our traditional jaalis, the forms are complex, but we've taken that a step farther and also made them fluid.

Like I said, I look at them in 3D. So I take a flat jaali, look at it in 3D, and I begin to twist, turn, and curve. That jaali then begins to look very different. It, I believe, takes on a whole new meaning. Then I decide how best we can translate those new forms into pieces of jewellery.

Traditional Indian jewellery-making techniques have always been my base. I also use computer-aided technology to achieve some forms, but the final creation of my pieces happens by hand.

I do some of that crafting myself, often making the first prototype of a piece of jewellery at my workbench. You have to know what can (and cannot) be made to be able to design it.

I am lucky that I work with some of the best craftsmen in the country. I love how they make the most difficult techniques look simple.

I've always endeavored to establish the link between fashion and jewellery. Yes, jewellery is an accessory but it can very dramatically transform an outfit.

The Birth Of The Wear Your Prayer Collection

I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandfather while I was at NIFT. A lot of weekends, we would walk in the Lodhi Gardens where, in the middle of telling me a story, he would begin to chant the Gayathri mantra. He said it gave him strength. It was an enchanting thing to witness, his faith.

Years later, a good friend going through difficult circumstances asked me to give her something that would bring her peace and give her strength and I thought of my grandfather again. Merging two strong influences, the Fabergé egg and my late grandfather, I designed my Prayer Egg collection -- drop pendants with the prayers of ten different faiths on them.

What I love most about the prayer eggs is that people don’t necessarily buy a prayer of their own faith, they buy the one that resonates most with them.

Even some of the karigars who have worked on the pieces wear them now. They say that good things have happened since we began making the prayer eggs.

Current Jewellery Trends

Prayer I think is a big trend. The popularity of my Wear Your Prayer collection I think proves that. Charm bracelets seem to be popular as well. What we are aiming for is jewellery that is dramatic but yet very wearable. We've also been working on pieces that are modular, as in they can be worn in parts, not necessarily all together at once.