As we continue to discuss her lockdown, it emerges that the 30-year-old also picked up rollerblading and returned to writing poetry while quarantined in London — one of her two bases, the other being her hometown, Mumbai. But that’s not to say Parekh’s pandemic-induced slowdown has been one of leisurely pursuits alone.
She has been amassing professional accolades and headlines for her “pebble pods” — the first-of-their-kind sculptural earrings designed for AirPods — which were nominated for the best “wearable design” in the 2021 Dezeen Awards, recognizing the world’s most outstanding design projects. She recently introduced Misho’s new line of colored enamel pieces, launched a men’s line and worked on limited-edition pendant necklaces with her mentor, renowned Indian architect and interior designer Ashiesh Shah.
Misho, which launched in 2016, is not just well known in India. Parekh’s creations are also attracting stylists, actresses, athletes and celebrities around the world, including in the United States (think Naomi Osaka, Beyoncé and Rihanna).
The company’s defining edge? Each piece, according to its website, is “sculpted as modern architecture for the body,” using materials such as recycled metal, gold-plated bronze and sterling silver. (Prices range from $50 to $650.) This multidisciplinary intermingling can be attributed to Parekh’s four-year training as a sculptor.
A fine art and art history graduate from Goldsmiths, University of London, Parekh was working on interior design projects, including commissioned sculptures, with Shah in Mumbai, when she realized several pieces she was dabbling with looked better on the body than on the plinth. Ambitions to become a jewelry designer were never on her radar until her off-duty experiments started garnering attention every time she wore them.
The positive feedback sparked a desire to launch her own conceptual jewelry label. It has grown from a one-woman venture on a lone desk into a 35-member team spread between Mumbai and London, with prestigious stockists Farfetch, Lane Crawford, Luisa Via Roma and MatchesFashion serving as the brand’s retail touch points.
Anaita Shroff Adajania — one of India’s top fashion stylists and costume designers, and the former fashion director of Vogue India — thinks it is Parekh’s young energy and assured confidence that make Misho appealing. “As a stylist, I am drawn to designers who think unpredictably and surprise you every time,” she says. “I remember when Misho launched, there was a big move to athleisure. Suhani showed us how easy it was to wear big, bold gold pieces with denim, [tracksuits] and crop tops — mixing what was considered ‘dressed-up jewelry’ with super casual fashion, something that is an omnipresent trend today.”
It was this forward-thinking approach that allowed Parekh’s creativity to withstand the obstacles unleashed by the pandemic. “Architecture, art, travel and people inspire me. So it took me some time to find a balance to be creative in this sort of atmosphere. I had to learn how to be Zen,” she admits. “I stopped thinking about creativity unilaterally, and that was the biggest learning for me.” Cue her now-popular pebble pods, inspired by this era of Zoom calls and waist-up dressing. “I wanted to explore the poetic connection between technology and jewelry, both of which are second skin today. The pods genuinely incorporate form and functionality in a sculptural design. They are beautiful little things to look at.”
Yet the first six months of the pandemic did pose challenges for the brand. Its products are largely handmade on order, and its atelier in Mumbai had to remain closed due to the lockdown. With Parekh in London and her craftsmen in India, designing and prototyping remotely was no easy feat. WhatsApp and Zoom came to the rescue as they experimented virtually in real time, and then samples would be shipped to Parekh for final approval. “Quick thinking was the only way to survive,” she says.
Misho has never subscribed to extensive collections or seasons, and the pandemic reinforced this need for eternal design. “We do very few pieces, and keep returning to refresh them,” Parekh says. For example, the company added a colorful twist to its best-selling rings as an antidote to dark times. Misho is also prone to sharing and re-sharing the same designs on the company’s Instagram page. There is no pressure to constantly chase newness.
Even today, the brand’s debut pieces are still sported by patrons and celebrities, including Kendall Jenner, who continues to be spotted in her Misho hoops from 2019. “The idea is: A pair of hoops you bought last year, you might see on Beyoncé this year,” Parekh says, referring to the icon who donned Misho for her last two Adidas x Ivy Park campaigns. Lady Gaga, Lily Collins, Lizzo and Joey King as well as Indian loyalists Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor Khan have all boasted a recent Misho moment. “I love the bold shapes and heft of Misho’s pieces. They really add magic to the looks we create,” says Hollywood stylist Elizabeth Stewart, who has styled Viola Davis in statement hoops from the brand on more than one occasion.
This summer, Naomi Osaka wore the brand’s mismatched hoops in Sports Illustrated, and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan of “Never Have I Ever” graced Vogue India’s digital cover with Misho rings. Then its hoops, bangles, stackable rings and custom anklets made it into Rihanna’s “Savage X Fenty Vol. 3” show, released in September. “It was a full-circle moment because Rihanna was one of the first big international celebrities to wear us back in 2018,” says Parekh.
But while celebrity patronage has been instrumental in elevating the brand, diversity and representation are more important to the designer. “Be it athletes, musicians or actors, we want to be associated with different women from different fields, races, ethnicities and body types,” she says.
For Parekh, her brand’s global success comes down to her mixing of sculpture and jewelry. “Our biggest strength is that I don’t really design the jewelry as jewelry,” she explains. “It’s designed as sculpture, and maybe it’s art that has a more universal appeal.”
Praachi Raniwala is a fashion and lifestyle journalist in Mumbai.