This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with category winners in the Accessories Council's 2019 Design Excellence Awards (DEA). Students are enrolled in Fashion Merchandising Professor Andrea Kennedy's Introduction to the Fashion Business class.
We were nervous, and you can’t blame us.
I mean, it was both of our first interviews. And, to be honest, we had no clue what we were doing. We spent the nights leading up to the interview hopping from room to room trying to figure out what outfits had the right balance between trendy and business casual. We sat in class on October 10, waiting for the time on the computer to turn to 12:45 so we could make our way down to Tribeca.
We walked down Moore Street, going over our notes and practicing our handshake—anyone who saw us must have thought we were crazy.
We reached our destination, Deepa Gurnani, where we were meeting with the co-founder of the brand, Jay Lakhani.
Deepa Gurnani was founded by Jay and Deepa Lakhani. They create beautiful embroidered accessories, including their Catarina Earrings, which won the Accessories Council Design Excellence Award (DEA) in the fashion jewelry category. Jay and Deepa submitted these earrings for the competition because it was a piece they felt very strongly about. Jay described the light-weight earring as “a statement piece” that has been seen on celebrities and in all the popular stores.
Stepping into their office space was breathtaking. The walls in the room we sat in were covered with hand-crafted jewelry. There was a calm vibe, which settled our nerves right away. We sat down with Jay Lakhani and immediately knew we’d been worrying for nothing. He’s very personable and friendly. We got to talking and spoke a little about ourselves, where we’re from, what our majors are, and our future goals.
After this little introduction, we jumped into the interview, starting by asking Jay how he got into the field and if this was what he always wanted to do. Jay studied at FIT, knowing he wanted to go into the jewelry industry. Both his parents worked with fine, traditional jewelry, but Jay wanted to work on the fashion side. Working in sales, marketing, and design for Deepa Gurnani, Jay is able to create products that are accessible to more markets. Jay’s wife, Deepa, works on the luxury, high-end side of the business.
When it comes to inspiration for his work, Jay said that inspiration is not hard to find and noted that during travel, “something or the other comes to [us].” He stated that travel allows easy access to spark new and beautiful creations in which, “no two pieces are the same.”
Our conversation continued with Jay talking about his experiences training under the designers at Tiffany and Bvlgari. One tip he shared with us was that “retail is detail.” If you want to sell something and be able to understand the beauty and the importance of it, you need to make sure you know every detail about it, including who your customer is.
One aspect we love about this brand is that a portion of the company’s profits are given to charitable organizations. Deepa Gurnani believes that everyone has a purpose in life and everyone should have the opportunity to thrive. When the brand was just starting up, the Lakhanis received support to get their feet off the ground and it inspired them to give that same support to others. Deepa Gurnani is continuing to grow with a flagship store not only opening in New York but also going worldwide by looking to open a store in India.
We ended our interview by asking Jay if he had any advice for students, like us, entering the fashion industry. He told us that we need to stay true to ourselves, be original and find a way to stand out. He reiterated that it is important to make sure you’re passionate about what you are doing and to stick with it. He told us, “Don’t chase money, let it chase you,” which really inspired the both of us.