Aysha Bilgrami's designs celebrate the legacy of our world's diversity through cultural fusions, reclaiming roots, sharing knowledge and blending ethnic with modern and contemporary designs, giving new value and meaning to the crafts of the world.
All of her jewelry is made from 925 sterling silver and some pieces are 24k gold plated. The silver used in all of her collections is recycled and refined from x-rays and other medical and electronics industry waste.
Aysha Bilgrami was born from a Colombian mother and a Pakistani father and calls herself Pakilombian. Her origins evoke the union of these two cultures and are the starting point and reason for her to fuse cultural stories in each of her collections.
Shop Aysha Bilgrami's products here.
Tell us about your creative process, from conception to final product.
Research is my favorite part. When I travel, I am always looking out for inspiration: it can be a book, a painting, people, a place. This will mark the starting point for my research. I will then go on to find similar themes in different cultures that I will then fuse all together.
For example, I went to a conference about sustainability in fashion. There was a member of the Inga community from the Putumayo region of Colombia. He spoke about how the women in his community weave their everyday thoughts into a Chumbe belt. This belt is wrapped around their stomachs and protects this area, which is the center of life for them. I found this very interesting, so I bought his book which illustrated the symbols used to tell their stories. I was attracted to the fertility and family creation symbols. I then researched other fertility and creativity symbols in other cultures—and so Collection no.7 was created.
Once the research and path is clear, I then start to draw. It is sometimes overwhelming fusing all of the themes together in a respectful way. I normally draw half of the collection and then develop it in silver. The other half is born in the workshop as the drawings take form.
How does your company create social impact?
We give the correct recognition, fair payment and dignified treatment to all our workers, from our sales manager and jewellers to the cleaning lady. Every single position is valued and celebrated. We started working with a family in Pasto, Colombia, creating a capsule collection to give greater visibility to their craft and community. Also, we started creating a positive environmental impact by using recycled silver from x-rays and other waste from the medical and electronics industry.
Tell us about an innovator or social enterprise in Colombia that you want others to know about.
There are many companies that are showcasing or giving back to different communities. Laura Laurens worked with a transgender community from the Embera Chami indigenous community to create all of the beading work from her latest collection. Paloma & Angostura's business model is based on the idea of generating job opportunities for ex-guerrillas and victims of violence. There are many companies helping to preserve equitable artisans’ payment, including Manuela Alvarez, Makua Jewelry, Mola Sasa, Palma Canaria, SOY Diego y Maria Luisa.
Who or what inspired you to start your company?
I worked in different areas of the fashion industry for six years and I loved it but wanted to build something of my own. I found in jewelry the possibility of reflecting my ideas and identity and felt it was a better medium to tell stories than clothing.
Who or what inspires your aesthetic?
I have an eclectic style and aesthetic. Ethnicities, cultures and 80s and 90s nostalgia inspire me.
A friend is taking a weekend trip to Colombia. What should they do in 48 hours?
First they have to decide on an area or town to visit. Colombia is big!
I am from Bogotá, so lets start here. They could have breakfast at Misia, they serve typical food from the Colombian Caribbean coast—arepa de huevo and carimañolas are a must. Then they should head downtown, visit the Gold Museum and check out the exhibitions at Espacio Odeon. Lunch should be at la Puerta Falsa, an ajiaco restaurant! All the food here is typical from the region and can be quite heavy, so if you want something light, it can be quick crepes and light salads at Crepes and Waffles, Madre for a pizza or Miss Pulpo for a ceviche. After lunch, walk around the colourful colonial Candelaria neighbourhood and then grab a cab to the cable car that will take you up to Monserrate to watch the sunset. This is the highest point of the city and 3.2m above sea level, so be sure to dress warm. Bogotá is cold, but the weather is quite neurotic. All four seasons can happen in one day, so accommodate this first day’s schedule around the weather.
Finish the day at Tábula, a Colombian contemporary restaurant, located in the Macarena neighbourhood. They reinterpret local ingredients into amazing tasty family style dishes. If after this you still have energy, walk downhill to El Bembe for some salsa dancing.
For the second day, I would leave the city to go to Zipaquirá, where a majestic cathedral is located inside a salt mine. It is an hour and a half drive or bus ride from Bogotá. Then head to Andrés Carne de Res for lunch, it is a very unique place where you can have meat and Colombian specialties in a magical ambiance full of color and Latin music. Head back to Bogotá before traffic picks up and walk around the Calle de los Anticuarios (The street of antiques), where you can not only find antique stores but lots of up and coming and established Colombian designers. St. Dom, Julieta Suarez, Casa Santamaría, Pepa Pombo and Hechizo are some must boutiques on this street, and one street south is my studio shop, as well as a multi-brand Colombian design store called Precis.
If you get hungry, go over to Bandido Bistro, an excellent ambience with live music just at the end of La Calle de Los Anticuarios. Or head to the Chapinero area to my favourite restaurant, El Chato, with an adventurous menu of Colombian ingredients transformed by elaborate cooking techniques. My favourites: chicken hearts, fried eggplant and plantain, black crab with corn chips, chata madurada and chontaduro soup.
What is your most treasured accessory?
I can't pick one! A little hand bag made of silver from India gifted by my grandmother Api, some toe rings I took from my grandmother Bia, some pink sunglasses I stole from my mother, a reboso I bought in Puebla, an Iraqi head piece I bought in Turkey, a Moschino flower suit bought at a flea market in Italy and the list goes on…
What are your interests outside of fashion?
Eating, cooking, traveling.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Patience, Rome wasn’t built in a day.