Profile: Mawi Keivom

We talk endless globetrotting, far-flung cultures and that Bauhaus camera bag at Mawi Keivom’s studio

Mawi Keivom.

Mawi Keivom’s namesake brand all began with a charm necklace. A chain to which she hung jewells and vintage baubles sparking a sea of style-seeking copycats across the globe. MAWI was born; and since show start at London Fashion Week in 2002, Mawi’s covetable designs fuelled by foreign encounters, far-flung cultures and ancient traditions have been capturing hearts worldwide. High-end costume jewellery and accessories with a forward thinking aesthetic, a tonne of glitter and bags of glamour – it’s no wonder we’re all in love. Here, we chat childhood globetrotting, her native India, her sources of inspiration and that Bauhaus camera bag with Mawi Keivom.

When did you first know you wanted to be a designer?

I had a creative rich upbringing and growing up I was surrounded by craftsmanship. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a designer and there was never any doubt that I would pursue a career in fashion. I spent all my pocket money buying issues of Vogue and was obsessed with making clothes, so I would raid my mother’s old trunks for vintage clothes which I would then cut up and re-work. I went on to study Fashion Design but there was never a grand plan to design jewellery or accessories. It all happened organically and fate led me up the trinket path and I’ve never looked back. I’ve always been making my own jewels and customising my own personal pieces, then mixing them with vintage finds and trinkets, so it was a very natural progression. Not having any formal training in jewellery has also been a blessing because I didn’t have set boundaries as to what I could do. Being self- taught has been a huge learning curve but it’s been so rewarding.

So tell us, how has your childhood globetrotting inspired you as a designer?

It’s definitely inspired my distinctive eclectic style and adventurous outlook. I travelled the world and experienced places, people, cultures, situations but most of all the creativity in all these amazing far flung corners of the world. I can’t escape these influences and my designs are a testament to my eclectic upbringing. Whether that was time spent with Beduoins in the Arabian Desert, or shopping for rubies and sapphires in Burma, haggling over the price of carved tusks in Africa, or discovering the little hidden souks in Yemen – all these sentiments and sensibilities leave their mark on you. Each place has it’s special little story and fond memories. All these experiences have continued to inspire and shape my vision.

Mawi’s studio.

Which country inspires you the most?

India inspires me endlessly. I am from the indigenous hill tribes of Manipur, in Northeast India, and my ancestral home is unique, special and inspiring to me. My father’s diplomatic career meant that as a child I lived a nomadic lifestyle, moving from country to country. This exposure to global culture and diversity at such a young age has been very influential for me, although ultimately I have a special bond with India and it has played an integral part in my creative growth – this influence continues to manifest itself today through the strong undercurrent of Indian and tribal undertones in my collections.

What was it that drew you to London?

It’s creativity , originality, rebelliousness and attitude. It’s the coolest city in the world. It has always inspired me and has always filtered through in my collections and my jewels really encompass the spirit of London. It has embraced me and given me the platform to realise my dreams…and I can’t think of a better place to have launched the brand. I also love the vibrant mix of communities and the multi-cultural vibe. The diversity of the people, cultures and ethnicities makes this a really exciting inspiring place.

Agreed! So how would you describe the Mawi aesthetic?

The Mawi aesthetic incorporates a mix of heritage and tradition, industrial luxe and sculptural influences, with a rebellious edge. I draw a lot of my inspiration from youth subcultures, punk attitude and styling, industrial design, music, as well as the art world, architecture and sculpture. I am always looking for fresh influences from a wide variety of sources and my work is all about combining elements of this eclectic mix, resulting in ever evolving multi-dimensional designs.

Mawi’s studio.

What was the inspiration behind your SS15 Mawi collection?

There are three divisions; THORN DE FLOURO explores innocent enchantment through naturalistic motifs and futuristic neons, inspired by youthful beauty and the brand’s playful handwriting. Ornate petals bloom across opulent necklaces, bracelets and rings, intricately formed by ultra-bright stones in shades of neon pink, hazard yellow, citrus orange and vivid green. Contrary to an air of saccharine sweetness, these fruitful clusters are barbed with signature MAWI spikes – diminutive yet deadly and a fierce defender.

ROSE GARDEN portrays show-stopping glamour through eastern decadence for a beautifully extravagant collection. A bold bouquet of acrylic roses are displayed across statement necklaces, bracelets and earrings in crimson red and glossy black, set against delicate sprigs and sparkling leaves of crystal. Celebrating classic florals with vintage undertones, we also applied these traditionally beautiful elements to ear cuffs, linear chokers and exotic hand chains – juxtaposing contemporary form with a delightfully old-school aesthetic.

LOVE BUG takes a journey through an English country garden, celebrating super-natural elements and accented by a charming swarm of bejewelled bugs. Contrary to conventional creepy crawlies, these crystal love bugs twinkle with colourful gemstones in shades of rose pink, yellow citrine and emerald green adorned with sophisticated pearls, traditional crystal leaves and the brand’s signature luxurious chunky chains, in premium rose gold and hematite plating.

Talk me through the Bauhaus camera bag, it’s amazing!

Fine quality leather is synonymous with luxury and craftsmanship, and I had always wanted to develop a collection of bags combining MAWI’s signature components with premium leather. I wanted to translate the vintage camera holders through futuristic pop-art minimalism. The BAUHAUS graphic clutches and shoulder bags combine a renowned aesthetic with streamlined design and supreme craftsmanship. Inspired by, and in homage to, two prominent photographers, they are aptly named the TESTINO and RANKIN. Clean and linear, the bags’ only hardware is made up of signature MAWI cube components, reimagined in translucent neon resins. These abstract yet reliably functional pieces are presented in a cartoon colour palette of kermit green and battleship grey, overall displaying a winning combination of cutting edge design and craftsmanship that elevate the bags to a wearable art form.

If you had to pick a song to soundtrack AW14, what would it be?

‘Diamonds Are Forever’ by Shirley Bassey, from the James Bond movie.

Lastly, what can we expect next from Mawi in the future?

More exciting stuff that continues to inspire, innovate and push boundaries.