Mawi Keivom is an Indian-born accessories designer and a three-time recipient of the London Fashion Week New Generation Award. Trained in womenswear, she worked at Isaac Mizrahi until 2003, the year she launched, Mawi, her namesake line of contemporary costume jewelry.
What is the meaning of your name, Mawi, and how does it relate to your brand?
I’m from the hill tribes of North East India. My full name is Thang-Mawi and it’s my given tribal name. It means beautiful fame. It’s hard to give a literal exact translation but that’s pretty much what it stands for. Mawi on its own means beauty. I guess I was destined to create beautiful things.
You recently opened a stand alone shop in London. How did this come about?
This year the Mawi brand will be celebrating its 10th anniversary therefore opening the store this year was a natural progression. It’s been a long-term goal and it was something we have always wanted to do. It gives us the creative freedom to control our own retail environment, merchandizing and branding. It also gives us the chance to understand our customer better. It’s a great moment for us and it feels like the perfect time for this new venture.
We have been in East London for 10 years so it seemed like the perfect launch pad. It’s been our home as well a place where Mawi first set its roots. The creative buzz, the environment and the mix of cultures have all helped shape and define the brand. It made sense to open out first flagship store in the neighbourhood that’s embraced us and allowed us to flourish.
Do you see potential for Mawi shops around the world?
The brand is going from strength to strength. Celebrating ten years is a huge milestone and a testament of our hard work and perseverance. This is our first foray into retail. It’s a huge challenge and it’s a learning curve. We have been successfully selling on line for the past few years and have seen web sales increase ten fold. I’m confident we can do the same with the new store. In the next five years we want to expand and open MAWI stores internationally and expand our product lines. It’s a natural progression but we are not in a rush and want to take baby steps. Once we get the formula right we will be in a position to roll them out.
Is their any one city you’ve spent time in throughout your life that you draw the most inspiration from?
I love travelling and discovering new places. It brings on new vigor, enthusiasm and new ideas. I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunity to travel so much. I’ve grown up across diverse cultures and love different countries for different reasons. I’m not sure if I can choose just one city as I find inspiration and excitement in all destinations in my travels. But India is a constant inspiration for me; I travel there every December and it never fails to surprise and inspire me.
Having started out working with Isaac Mizrachi on RTW in NY what inspired you to design jewelry? Why did you leave NY
It was quite organic and I just embraced it. I studied Womenswear and fate led me up the trinket path and I have not looked back since. It’s been like a roller coaster ride. I have always made objects out of old things and vintage finds and mixing them with my own heirloom pieces. I think it’s destiny.
You’ve had the opportunity to live all over the world…any place you’d really like to spend more time in?
I would love to spend more time in India. Although I was born there, we left when I was quite young and I never had the opportunity to discover the country. India is vast and incredibly diverse and it is one of the most amazing places in the world. I will be travelling to Kerela and Goa at the end of this year and I am looking forward to seeing more of the country.
Each season you design two collections: one consists of more modern bold pieces and another, appropriately titled Heirloom, is more feminine and vintage inspired. Do you find it challenging to keep the balance between the two? Do you prefer one more than the other?
We call what we do “Fine Costume” jewelry and I think it’s befitting. We approach what we do from a fine jewellery perspective and use fine jewelry techniques and labour-intensive methods to achieve the results. Our aim is to deliver quality, design integrity and longevity so our designs will still be relevant in years to come.
Regarding a preference, I can’t say I can choose one over the other. I love them both and they serve different purposes. It depends on my mood and what I’m wearing. I have a hidden punk vein running through my blood so regardless of what I wear, I always try to mix and grunge it up with my own signature style. Designing the two collections comes very naturally to me. It complements my design philosophy, which is to always keep things exciting, diverse and interesting.