You know where to get your go-to statement neckpiece or your diamond studs from, but do you really give a thought to who made them, where were they sourced from and at what cost to the artisans who made them? Fair trade is all about making sure the makers and producers have got a fair deal, and happily, the jewelry world is embracing this concept. Priyanka Sarkar, Founder, Biori is one such Jeweler who can answer those questions, and crafts gorgeous, ethically sourced pieces.
What is Biori?
- Biori was developed on 3 principles- giving, earning and sustaining. Biori means Be Original. ‘Bi’ is the phonetic transcription of ‘Be’. BIORI stands for sustainable, handmade, unique designs created by artisans for contemporary women who know to appreciate and adorn design led craftsmanship.
How did you decide on making jewelry, and ethical/Fairtrade/sustainable jewelry at that?
I come from a lineage of Art Historians, artists, and academicians who have spent their lives working with culture and people. With my maternal roots firmly placed in Shantiniketan, there has been a close connection with art and artisans from early childhood days. Being a part of NIFT Gandhinagar Alumni, further strengthened the bond and the urge to design around sustainability. Jewelry has been a point of fascination from an early stage in my life. It is so versatile, it is like the exclamation point of one’s personality. Combining the two elements was the most obvious choice!!
What do you mean when you say, ‘upcycled materials’, ‘premium mixed media’, ‘no unfairly paid workers’? Does it mean that Biori is a fair-trade jewelry brand?
- Upcycled is a creative process of transforming waste or unwanted materials into new and desirable products e.g. we create jewelry out of waste or scrap wood, our fit outs are made of scrap wood.
- Premium mixed media is a combination of various natural and premium quality materials like metal, beads, wood, fabric, glass etc on designs to create unique pieces.
- We are a fair-trade jewelry brand where we work directly with the artisans minus any middle men. All transactions involve only two people – Us and the artisans.
How far can ethical and sustainable jewelry business contribute to the long-term sustainable future for the biosphere, and the environment?
- Metal mining is one of the top toxic pollutants for the environment today, especially in the developing and impoverished nations. Labor exploitations, ravage environments are some of the key concerns with artisanal mining. Fair trade fashion jewelers can help reduce the impact of toxic footprints by a strong usage of sustainable, recycled and natural eco-friendly materials in their designs and create unique pieces.
Tell us about the artisans you work with? Has there been any improvement in their lives with Biori?
- BIORI is a year old brand retailing through curated platforms. We directly work with the artisans primarily from Asian (minus China) and African communities. Also a few from Poland. There are no middle men, communication is direct with the artisan, transparent supply chain, lean inventories with each design not exceeding more than 3 pcs. And our pricing is water tight.
How do you ensure that high standards are maintained?
- I have been very fortunate to get the opportunity of working with some of the best companies and mentors in Fashion in India and GCC. Attention to design, detailing and quality has been an integral part of my 15-year-old journey in fashion. Each design in Biori in not made more than three pieces so the focus stays end to end from concept to the final product. And since each piece is handmade, quality check points become a part of the overall development process.
How do you see the future of fair-trade, ethical jewelry unfolding?
- Fair trade and going ethical has to be the future bail out measure given a number of toxins that surround us today. And jewelry surely plays a very responsible part in it. The commitment to sustainable sources from brands dealing with jewelry can lead to responsible mining and supply chain transparency which will have a direct impact on people’s lives, culture, and mother Earth.
What does ethical and fair trade mean to you personally? At what point did these practices become important for you?
- Personally, staying true to one’s roots and bringing people together is what is ethical and fair trade means to me. With my roots in art and design, the association with craft and its people have been an extremely satisfying and learning experience so far. Every design that one sees in BIORI has a story linked to its material and origin which is fascinating. To be able to design and create jewelry with natural, eco-friendly, sustainable materials without any alterations to their shape, texture or color gives me the most incredible fulfillment and purpose.
Can you sense a shift in the mind-set of customers when it comes to the ethics of jewelry?
- While the average shopper may not be aware of all the details behind a product, mind sets are beginning to shift. On one hand, people want a good deal on the investment they make in terms of quality, design, look and feel. On the other hand, they also want to have an assurance that the same is not being done at the cost of trashing the environment or affecting someone’s life. Be it in fine jewelry or fashion, shoppers have become more discerning, appreciating design, craftsmanship, and uniqueness rather than an ostentatious display to demonstrate status.
From the drawing board to actualization, what is the process at Biori?
- True custom is hard to come by these days. Many jewelers tout custom jewelry-but their reality is actually “customized” jewelry. Well, not in BIORI. Our jewelry is the real hero, badass and true to its metal and materials created by the experts who adorn years of experience and expertise. Simply popping a stone on a pre made metal setting made somewhere in China misses the point of making a personal connection with the wearer.
- There are three principal segments in our collections –
–Heritage- inspired by the Indian Heirloom designs, materials, and workmanship. This collection is essentially made in India by the artisans who have been associated with Royalty for generations so the quality and finish coming out is impeccable. The base metal is Brass or Silver with 18 carat gold electroplating.
–Contemporary- inspired by the shape, texture, and color of the natural stones and materials, designs have an organic and earthy feel. Here the material is the hero and design rotates around the same. Since there is no cookie cutting and everything is handmade, each piece has its own novelty and one chooses them with their subtle nuances as part of the design element which makes them unique and differentiated. Selection of material and form is trend led. These are essentially mixed media.
– Statement- designs that help the women step up and present herself as unique, confident passionate and interesting. These are very high on trend and design but subtle in terms of material mixes and usually, surrounds around one of a kind metal.
Each segment has its own unique journey on Design and Development with a common objective of staying true to its roots yet in line with the global trends and local preferences. The average time that goes in building a collection across 3 segments is almost 3 months.
How do you define success in life and in business?
- Our life mantra is very simple- when life gives you lemons, grab a bubbly and a few shot glasses!! I tend to keep things simple and not over think or build assumptions. Our measure of success in life and business will be to see the people we love are happy and close to us. Also in this process of building and creating together, if we can make a positive difference or bring in a change for good, it will be awesome!
- The core values of BIORI are Integrity, Passion, Respect, Forward Thinking and Team Work. We are greatly influenced by the concept of “Omniprenuership” by His Excellency Amr Al Dabbagh ( Chairman Al Dabbagh Group)
What is a typical day in your life like?
- My days are ever changing…I am constantly researching, reading, scribbling, communicating be it with my artisans, customers or on any new possibility, there are mad days, crazy schedules, redo times and peaceful endings but there is never a dull moment in BIORI. We are a very high on energy, self-motivated, passionate couple focusing on the right and left part of the brain of BIORI at day to day level. Yes, my hubby is my partner in crime! He focusses on everything the left brain stands for in BIORI.
What would you like to tell the world through Biori?
Stay glocal. Buy handmade and fair-trade. Support artisans. Embrace nature.
By: Viki Shah
You get a chance to win these beautifully crafted pieces of jewelry for yourself! Visit www.yogalife-online.com to know more.