“I don’t know if I picked jewellery, but jewellery might have picked me.”
‘Jill of all trades, master of some’ is how Arpana Rayamajhi might describe herself — there seems to be nothing the jewellery designer, model and self-made entrepreneur cannot do. The Nepali in New York has been seamlessly juggling hats, while making a name for herself and her jewellery on the world stage.
Barely four years since she launched her jewellery line, Rayamajhi has been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, included in The New York Times 30-under-30 list and her jewellery adorned by the likes of supermodel Adriana Lima and Gigi Hadid on the runways of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
“I don’t know if I picked jewellery, but jewellery might have picked me,” Rayamajhi tell us in a recent interview. Always creative, Rayamajhi took up painting and sculpting at The Cooper Union School of Art, and the passion to create her own jewellery grew out of necessity after graduation.
She explains: “I started working with beads because I was broke and I couldn’t afford anything else. I was waiting tables and babysitting to earn money, but I realised if I didn’t do jewellery now, I would never do it.”
Rayamajhi started off selling her designs to friends and their friends, but it wasn’t until she began modelling her jewellery herself and posting photos on Instagram that things really took off. Soon, she scored a feature on Vogue and began amassing tens of thousands of loyal followers on Instagram.
“If you don’t believe in your work, no one will. Sincerity and producing my own work was important to me,” says Rayamajhi. Indeed, it is her identity as an artist that makes her jewellery so unique and transcendent.
“I am really invested in making work that shows the artists’ persona and how their mind works,” explains Rayamajhi. Colourful, playful, eclectic, and incorporating quirky elements like synthetic hair, tassels and miniature idols, Rayamajhi’s jewellery defines her.
It also defines how she has grown as an artist. Starting with beads, Rayamajhi made a big jump into diamond jewellery for the ‘Diamonds with a Story’ series by Australian Diamonds in January.
This was the first time Rayamajhi became an art director herself, and only designed the jewellery, instead of making them herself. Always socially and environmentally conscious, she only took up the offer because the diamonds were conflict free.
Rayamajhi also chooses to remain close to her Nepali roots, but incorporates elements that make her jewellery truly global. Her popularity has not gone unnoticed in Nepal, and that does come to her as a pleasant surprise.
“The kind of reaction I got from the Nepali audience on the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show was amazing. Craze dekhera danga thiyei,” says Rayamajhi, breaking into Nepali to explain how she was encouraged by the reaction.
Rayamajhi went back to Nepal twice last year after a gap of five years, and remembers re-seeing Kathmandu in all its beauty and chaos. She wants to have a flagship store in Nepal to encourage more artisanal talent and support a comeback for Nepali handicraft.
She adds: “I will consider myself really successful if I am able to move a generation. In the end, I want people to see me and see themselves in me. I want them to feel that if she can do it, so can I.”