Handcrafted sleek and modern designs in 18k gold are the perfect match for the new-age woman. Minimal, modern, immensely wearable, and always accessible pieces of jewellery find their audience among the masses, even when they’re designed in opulent gold. And the founder The Line Natasha Khurana knows this all too well.
In conversation with TC46, she talks about taking gold jewellery mainstream and making it relevant for everyday wear, her career before The Line, the idea behind her business, and the importance of hiring the right artists for the job.
1. What’s your educational & professional background?
I read English Literature and rounded that off with a Masters in Communication. Growing up, my favourite thing to do was to go buy a monthly stash of magazines, and Elle was the only Indian fashion magazine back then. It was my dream to work there in some capacity. Somehow, right out of university, I started interning for Elle India where I ended up staying for 6 years, completing my term as Fashion Features Editor.
2. What prompted the idea for ‘The Line’?
I had quit my writing job, and I was helping set up a new space for the family jewellery business. That’s the first time I was able to look beyond the overwhelming over-the-top style of Indian jewellery that had repelled me all this while. I had access to all manner of amazing loose gemstones and finally understood why women love jewellery the way they do.
And always, when you go deeper, as I did in understanding the actual facts of natural creation of gemstones – their extraction from the earth, the laborious process of their cutting and polishing, and the skills required for their setting – that’s when the penny dropped. It blew my mind quietly. And I wanted to share that with people, that gemstones and beauty have all this natural beauty, and they don’t need noisy enhancements to display their wonder. That we can access this wonder in our daily lives, and not a few times a year when we open our lockers to take our polki neckpieces to weddings.
I knew there was an audience for this – women like me. Women who valued simplicity and wearability, and pieces that could stand the test of time, but were also slightly trendy. Jewellery is a slow process, you take time to find the right gemstones, to encase them in the perfect setting, to get their proportions and balance right. That time we take to arrive at this painstaking perfection, that is luxury. By the very nature of my product, we were able to define straight off that we were going to do one collection a year, a movement we now call Slow Fashion.
3. Did you always know you wanted to work in this space?
I would’ve laughed at this outlandish thought if you’d told me I’d be designing jewellery even a year ago. I had this whole professional snobbery against businesspeople. And of course, the excesses of Indian jewellery repelled me. The general narrative around jewellery in India where you wear jewellery as a marker of familial wealth and where women are supposed to be trotted out to events wearing the entire contents of your locker, that stuff really weighed me down. I projected that dislike of the narrative onto jewellery. And then I realised that beauty actually sets us free and that we should reclaim it.
4. What are your tips for an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to enter this space?
My tips for aspiring entrepreneurs would be:
- Start small
- Go slow
- Keep your head to the ground
- Find your people
5. What were the 3 best business decisions you made?
I think one of the best decisions was to stay small. My boss at Elle and longtime mentor, Nonita Kalra, trained us to be entirely self-sufficient. We were our own writers, and stylists, and runners, and party planners – we hated that then but it has really stood me in good stead. And the benefits of having a tiny team with low overheads have been immense during this hard year that is 2020.
Secondly, I started out consciously retailing via third-party sellers like Ogaan, Le Mill & Amethyst. I wanted to establish The Line as a design-led label, where jewellery isn’t just something you bought according to grammage or caratage. So that helped us speak to the right audience from the beginning.
Lastly, I realised that relying on third-party retailers, was also partly motivated by my reluctance for the selling part of a business. I hate to think I’m lazy when it comes to my work, so I designed our website last year, with the aim for me to make up for all the lost sales. Being connected to the selling, I’m hoping, will also make us better makers.
6. How long did it take you to monetise your venture?
It took about two years to monetise after paying off my loan. Jewellery is a capital-intensive product, so I started with my personal savings as well as a small loan.
7. Who are the key employees/vendors you need to secure to work in this space?
Firstly, obviously, my karigars, without whom The Line would be nothing but some vague impressions in my head. Then there’s my assistant/runner who does all the groundwork for coordinating and sending out or receiving stuff. And of course, all the vendors we buy our raw materials like gemstones from. All these relationships are super-important and rely heavily on trust. Anyone looking to enter this space will do well to ensure these key relationships are maintained and strengthened over time.
8. How do you intend to scale up your business in the next 5 years?
The immediate goal right now is to work on our online experience. We’ve spent all our energies on it in the last 6 months, and there’s still a lot more to be done. For the next steps, we want to start international shipping, which is logistically near impossible but I’m sure we’ll find a way.
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