An “Eat, Pray, Love” Moment Turned This 1st Gen. Indian-American Lawyer Into A Sustainable Jewelry Designer

Jewelry designer Shana Gulati

It’s the kind of life story that makes us all yearn for new beginnings, and the opportunity to pursue our true calling. And if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that following your dreams instead of following societal expectations, is a worthy endeavor after all.

In the case of jewelry designer Shana Gulati, her path to launch her own sustainable jewelry brand, Shana Gulati Jewelry, reads like an “Eat, Pray, Love” moment that we can all take inspiration from. Raised in a small suburb in Chhattisgarh, a state in Central India, Shana and her family made their way to New York when she was only 8 years old. She is constantly inspired by the selflessness of her parents as they left everything behind to create better lives for Shana and her brother. After pursuing a degree in law out of respect for her parent’s sacrifices, she fell in love with New York City and began living there permanently in 2001 after a brief stay in London.

Shana’s original name for her brand was “Lady Kismet”, symbolizing for her a new beginning. The idea came from her father, and the name has Arabic origins and translates to “destiny”. This piece was the key to understanding her parents, family, and culture. In early 2021, she began breaking away from a traditional career path and following her dreams of designing jewelry, connecting with other women, and building her business through India. She went back to Jaipur, India at the age of 35 (around the same age as her parents were when they immigrated to America) to touch base with her roots. It was here that she found her passion for creating sustainable jewelry that is affordable, beautiful and gives back to her home community.

Monshar Cuff and Earrings | Shana Gulati Jewelry

Her team now consists of artisans and friends that have become part of her foundation and family. Lady Kismet became Shana Gulati Jewelry, and what began as a love for accessories turned into a successful tribute to her culture of India and New York City, creative storytelling, and an outlet for connecting to like-minded women from all around the world. Each piece is handmade in Jaipur, set in silver, and tested to be cadmium-free, nickel-free, and hypoallergenic. Each diamond piece is also made of authentic up-cycled diamonds. 

Shana Gulati Jewelry has a partnership with Commit 2 Change (C2C), an organization dedicated to empowering and educating young women around the world. They are also now sold in 70 locations including Sundance, Uncommon Goods, Free People, Rent the Runway, and has been featured at SAKS. Fans of the brand include Laura Linney, Hilary Duff and Jessica Alba – among many others.

We spoke with Shana about her unique journey, her jewelry collection, and how storytelling, travel and adventure helped her find her true calling.

Hapur Hoops | Shana Gulati Jewelry

First, can you share about your upbringing, being born in India and eventually making your way to the United States?

I was born in Sikkim, India (as that’s where my father happened to be stationed for the Indian army) and we lived in a small town called Balco near Raipur where my father was an engineer and mother transitioned from being a teacher to an artist for a while, before we were lucky enough to get our visas for the U.S. I was just shy of my 8th birthday, so my memory is a bit spotty to be super honest. My mom’s sister was in New York, and she basically sponsored all of her siblings and that was that.

I don’t think my parents deliberated for more than a minute on whether to make the move. They wanted to give their children the chance at an opportunity or many opportunities that they never had or could fathom. Funny enough my brother named his fund the Urdu word for opportunity. So here we are 30 plus year later. 

Your career didn’t begin in jewelry design. Tell us more about starting out as a lawyer and how you found your way in into the jewelry business:

Even to this day, medicine, engineering, and law are the three choices insinuated as career paths for almost every child of Indian parents. Honestly, I have no regrets. I studied and pursued a career in law out of respect for what my parents had done for me. I wasn’t forced into it and did it of my own volition. But I left because being a lawyer was never my true path. It was one of those moments where you have to choose what’s the path for you and if that path doesn’t exist, you need to envision and create it.

You have to pave that road for yourself. That’s what I did, and it was a very hard one but one that was all my own. Lots of wrong decisions, lots of tears, self-doubt, wrong twists and turns, and lots of mistakes! But again, all my own. But then there were those few right decisions that lead you to laying a foundation and building from it, instilling this inner voice that will always be there, both as a friendly one and one that voices constructive criticism. I’m still doing that. It’s a constant journey and I love it. 

Jodhpur Necklace | Shana Gulati Jewelry

Finding your true calling has been described as an “Eat, Pray, Love” moment, which also helped you reconnect with your heritage and parents’ journey. Can you tell us more about this moment in your life? 

When I decided I was going to start this business or more like when the universe decided for me, the one thing I knew was that it needed to involve India in some way. It was a super conflicting moment as that’s not what I had studied or worked towards in terms of a career path. I was essentially starting from scratch. It’s both scary but exciting because you get to build something, and not something that’s been built and you are a participant. 

I actually started this business at the same age as when my parents decided to uproot their whole lives and move to a country they knew nothing about nor spoke the language, I suppose it’s come full circle. I get to go “home” and the whole notion of eat, pray, love for me are all wrapped up in what your home is. I love being able to go back to India a couple times a year (on hold for the last two years unfortunately), especially being in Jaipur. The whole experience is magical even on the worst day of all days. Anyone that’s been to India surely knows what I’m saying…. I always think of India along the lines of the first sentence of A tale of two cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”  That is India to me. It’s everything all the time….. 

What drew you to storytelling, travel and adventure?

I think it’s just something that may have been innately in me and perhaps nurtured by having parents that were super open and gave me freedom to travel and explore. So I think in essence it was planted in me when I came into the world and my parents helped to grow it and allow it to flourish. 

Tell us about Shana Gulati Jewelry and some of your favorite pieces. What do they mean to you?

The jewelry is beautifully imperfect, yet still perfect in its own way as we all are. It is never identical to another piece as the nature of how it’s made can’t allow for that. There will always be a slight difference whether or not visible to the naked eye. It’s subtle yet it isn’t. The sparkle dances around when in motion.

It’s all handmade and it may sound odd to say this, but you can feel that in each piece. Each piece goes beyond just the physical aspect, they lend themselves to having one feel a certain way when wearing them. I truly believe that this is because they come from a place of a wonderful little family that was formed while creating this company and they are all a part of making each piece. 

One of my favorite pieces is the Riffa Pendant SM. All my collections have a story behind them. This comes from the collection called Quila. Strong and unwavering, quila means fort or fortress and each piece in this collection is named after one of these enduring structures. Resolute in its simple but imperative purpose, the Quila Collection makes you feel strong, empowered, and courageous. Riffa is a fort in Bahrain. 

Your brand is also focused on sustainability, as well as being hand-made. Who are your ideal customers and clients?

That’s a million-dollar question and one that we are still figuring out. I think it’s someone who not only is okay with having a piece of jewelry that wasn’t made on an assembly line and isn’t a fleeting trend, it is someone that appreciates the value in being unique and different, even when that isn’t complete perfection. It’s someone who wants a piece of jewelry that isn’t just about how it looks; it’s about how it makes them feel. It’s someone who knows they don’t want to be part of the masses and have an inclination to carve out their own style and aesthetic. 

Where do you draw inspiration from for your pieces?

Inspiration comes from all over. One collection was inspired while I was in Greece, so it’s called Nissi (Greek word for Island) and all the pieces are named after various Greek Islands. The collection has an archipelago feel to it. There’s one collection called Watq (meaning time in Urdu) and all the pieces are named after the word time in different languages. This collection’s vibe is an ombre feel, so nothing is clearcut and one thing flows to the next, like how time did the last year or so with the pandemic. Not knowing how the day began or ended. One of my favorite pieces in this collection is the Nin Hoops. (time in Maltese) All the collections have stories!

We love seeing businesses and brands being founded by women, and especially women of color. What does it mean to you to be part of this wave we are seeing?

Honestly, I don’t think about it. I just think about the day and what’s ahead. I think growing up in a family that pushed and nurtured us (my brother and myself) with equal parts everything has sort of made me not think about gender when it comes to this aspect of my life.

Follow the Shana Gulati journey on Instagram and Facebook, and pick out your favorite piece from the website!

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