Her tryst with the yellow metal began when she was just fourteen. She knew she had an eye for design when she designed her very first trinket. When it was time for her engagement she travelled across South India in search of exquisite jewellery but nothing seemed to excite her. As she closed her eyes, the designs and images in gold seemed to come alive. She decided to get a goldsmith to craft her dream designs, which became an instant hit! Luckily for her, she was married into a family in Pala, (Kerala) that had its own jewellery brand, ‘Mattathil Jewellers’. With her passion in design and the family business to back her, she gradually created her own line of designer jewellery. Pieces from her exclusive wedding collection were worn by top South Indian film stars and celebrities at their weddings. RITZ talks to Asha Sebastian Mattathil, the designer behind the coveted signature jewellery line, ‘M.O.D’!
With the rich legacy of Mattathil Ouseph Devasia (M.O.D), popularly known as the ‘Pepper King’ of Kerala who also built the trusted family name in the jewellery business, ‘Mattathil Jewellers’, it was only a matter of time before M.O.D made its mark with its elegant jewellery line that was a fine blend of tradition and contemporary styles. “I was very confident about my designs from day one. Jewellery is a premium lifestyle product and my dream was to craft a signature line of my own! Today, we have hundreds of designs that have been crafted here in M.O.D and I can vouch for the fact that those designs will never be found anywhere in the world. Designing jewellery was never a task for me. I enjoyed doing it so much that I could do it for hours at a stretch without tiring myself. I draw inspiration from nature, floral motifs and prints, architecture….why, I remember drawing inspiration from a simple chappathi roller!” she laughs. Even as she talks, her little granddaughter comes running in with her puzzle book and she promptly answers her with a smile. Asha’s son, Akshay Sebastian handles the brand’s marketing and the mother-son duo have raised the bar for designer bridal jewellery in Kerala. M.O.D has been one of the 21 Iconic jewellers from India (published by Hello!) alongside brands that have a national and international presence, like Shobha Asar, Poonam Soni and Farah Khan Ali.
“When I see a bride, I instinctively know what would suit her. My priority lies in crafting jewellery that would enhance her beauty, making the bride look her best on her D-Day. We have a ready-made collection of pieces but I also custom make jewellery to suit the bride’s attire, hairdo and style. I have designed for Hindu, Christian and Muslim brides as well as brides from other states, but I must say, each client differs in their requirement. While some like it simple, others prefer to be decked up from head to toe. Setting aside the normal jewellery, what I enjoy most is designing body jewellery like the arm cuff, waist chains, anklets or the head piece,” says Asha.
From traditional Hyderabadi Nizam jewellery, the contemporary version of the Kerala Nagapadam necklace or coin mala, colourful gem stone jewellery etched into exotic patterns and motifs, polki jewellery and elegant enamels to versatile matt designs, her range of ornaments offer variety and exclusivity. The challenge of course lies in achieving perfection while it is handcrafted. “Each karigar differs in his creativity and skill and the secret lies in recognising the right talent and tapping into it. While it’s important that you perceive the customer’s requirement, it is equally important to be able to convey the idea to the right craftsman. Unfortunately, skilled labour is something that is fast depleting,” sighs Asha who has craftsman supplying jewellery from different parts of the country.
It’s a weekend and the store is buzzing with customers. Have demonetisation and the gold curb affected M.O.D? “It would be unrealistic to say that it hasn’t affected us. But we still have a steady flow of customers and honestly, we are finding it difficult to service orders due to the high demand,” says Akshay. In the last six years since they curated the M.O.D designer line, their clientele has had its fair share of celebrities from across the country. M.O.D offers only 916 BIS Hallmarked jewellery and their range starts from as low as Rs 3000. Although it continues to have its head office in Pala, the Panampilly Nagar boutique in Kochi is the brand’s flagship store.
As we chat, a bride enquires for Asha who steps out to check on the client. The girl seems a bit hesitant at first, but as soon she wears the jewellery, she is all smiles and thanks Asha for her beautiful creation, which looks stunning on her. “I have had brides tell me that right through their wedding reception, they had to keep saying ‘M.O.D’ as there were so many enquiries about their jewellery. I have even had clients who have told me that they loved the piece so much that they kept waking up in the middle of the night, just to open the box and look at the jewellery again. My dream now is to attain international exposure, to take M.O.D to an international platform and to design jewellery for women the world over,” signs off Asha.