Maalicious: Jewellery Empowering Female Artisans in India

ShopCurious is proud to be featuring a collection by Maalicious, an inspirational jewellery brand and social enterprise established by visionary New Yorker, Poonam Thimmaiah. Set up to empower the female artisans creating its uniquely arty earrings, each of the company's pieces is dipped in 24k gold, and handmade from sustainable materials, such as clay and wood. Every item of jewellery also has its own story, as does the brand itself.  

Poonam's journey into jewellery started as an escape from the heartbreak caused by a near full term pregnancy that ended in stillbirth. On quitting her New York based job in finance, Poonam returned to India for a few months, visiting Mysore - where she had previously studied for her undergraduate degree in engineering. With no background in jewellery design, she eventually found a class for mixed ability students, with whom she worked to create her original designs. Just a year after her personal tragedy, she had set up her new business, and given birth to a healthy baby boy. 

Maalicious is named after the Indian word for jewellery, ‘maal’, and a playful take on the word ‘malicious’.  The founder’s heritage has been a major source of inspiration: Poonam belongs to a tribe called Kodavas in Southern India, whose distinctive culture is rapidly disappearing. The idea behind her designs is to pay homage to vanishing, traditional art forms and cultures. Each of the brand’s pieces tells a story from India’s “glorious past,” with the aim of “repurposing traditional art by giving it a modern twist.” 

For instance, the brand’s Kingsmen earrings are inspired by brightly painted wooden dolls, which have a longstanding tradition in India. These are made from different materials, depending on where they originate from. Maalicious’s pieces are a curiously colourful combination of wood, Lambani mirror work and tassels. The Lambanis are a nomadic tribe, moving around India with their belongings and cattle. The women are known for their vibrant clothes and jewellery. Their unique embroidery, mirror and appliqué craft has been passed on for generations.

Maalicious's core values are centred upon the empowerment of women, as well as honouring the traditional handicraft of skilled artisans. According to the United Nations, over the past 30 years, the number of artisans in India has decreased by 30%. Whilst art abounds in India, very few people see it as a potential vocation. Thanks to the work of entrepreneurs like Poonam, this is starting to change, and a platform is provided whereby female artisans can economically empower themselves, whilst perpetuating arts and crafts that have been passed from one generation to the next.

One of Maalicious’s artisans, Soniya, had been struggling with regular anxiety attacks until she started watching video tutorials to create miniature works in clay. Entirely self-taught, she now has a company called Soniya’s Art Lounge, and her newfound independence has given her greater confidence, courage and a sense of authority.  Some of her beautifully handcrafted pieces, such as Dropka and Rani are now available on our website. 

Slow style means a lot to Poonam. “Now, more than ever there is a need for us to reflect and reimagine the fashion industry,” she says. “Slow style is simple living, utilizing the traditional and natural materials around us. Art should be created by hand, with attention to minute detail, but with unavoidable imperfections.” 

We hope you will purchase some of the unique accessories created by women like Soniya and her colleagues, Shruti and Nirmitee. Best of all, more than 40% of the profits go directly back to the makers, helping to empower female artisans in India. Will you?