Newcomer Anuja Tolia discusses her jewelry line
With her company only 4 months old, jewelry designer Anuja Tolia feels as if the time has flown by since she started her business in August. Fashion bloggers are wearing her wares to New York Fashion Week, and retailers such as Max and Chloe are already selling her designs.
A year ago, however, Tolia was just a creative professional attempting to reconnect with her passion while living in Florence, Italy.
No stranger to design, Tolia graduated from Parsons The New School For Design in 2004 and then became a fashion designer for a Liz Claiborne line called “Intuitions.” After leaving the company in April 2008, Tolia applied to a studio arts program in Florence, not quite sure where it would lead her.
“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do there,” Tolia said. “I started taking jewelry classes, and I fell in love and was like ‘I want to do this.’”
Tolia stayed in Italy for one year, designing her first collection, aptly named Florentine. In the line, beautiful, raw, chunky agates are set on cuffs or knuckle rings, perhaps expressing the European tendency to take chances in their fashion. Italian inspiration is visible in the hand-cut cuffs and the romantic, organic shapes.
“Finally I was inspired again by something. There’s history all around you (in Italy),” she said. “It was the mere fact of being able to do something hands-on again.”
She left Florence in June of this year, and from there she traveled to India, the birthplace of both her parents, to look at the manufacturing side of her jewelry. Having designed all of Florentine by hand, she wanted to see what other production methods were available. In India she created her Couture and Ready To Wear lines.
Although Tolia admits her experience in India influenced her designs, she believes some of it was coincidental. For example, in India, she said, gold is very prevalent in jewelry, and there’s a lot of it. Her RTW collection, which she designed while there, is practically 100-percent gold, with the exception of some rings. All the agates in her RTW and Florentine collection are sourced by India and come from all over the world.
Her travels are easy points of inspiration, but Tolia has always been drawn to jewelry. Ever since she was young, she was attracted to big costume jewelry versus the delicate jewelry other girls might have been wearing in her home state of Michigan.
“I like big things,” she laughed. “I like big stones and big rings. I like statement pieces.”
Her rings, which feature flashy, shiny stones in elaborate settings, aren’t meant for a gal that’s afraid to show off her bling.
“It’s nice to have everyday stuff, but when you’re going out, whether it is dinner or a cocktail party, you want to be noticed,” Tolia said. “If you have a drink in your hand, they’re going to look at what’s on your hand. If it’s bigger or bolder, you’re making a statement.”
Much of her inspiration comes from her own style, she said. The New York City dweller enjoys ripping out magazine shoots, or staring at runway shows and determining ways to interpret them into styles for her company. She also credits people-watching and art as sources of creative insight.
What is she working on now?
“I’m designing a collection that will be out in January,” she revealed. “It’s going to have somewhat of the same feeling. There’s going to be a mix…maybe a pseudo-Egyptian, Turkish feel.”