Image courtesy of Neulandherzer | In collaboration with Lufthansa
Growing up in Kathmandu, little did Arpana know that even the smallest nuances of her life would one day influence her craft as an accessory designer. The memories of her mother, the winding roads and busy markets of Nepal where she wandered collecting beads and trinkets, have quietly informed her practice. Whimsical and eclectic, Arpana’s jewellery highlights her idiosyncratic style. But it wasn’t until she moved to New York to study at the Cooper Union School of Art, that she really dug deep into her life and the memories of home to find who she really is. Every neck piece and earring is hand-strung by her, combining beads with pencil erasers, miniature skulls and synthetic neon hair from wigs that remind her of the ones in her mother’s wardrobe. Tucked away somewhere amidst each of her pieces, is a whisper of a memory, a token of her past. Since launching her own label, she has designed for a Victoria’s Secret show, and appeared in a short film series commissioned by Lufthansa titled Colours of Home – that explores the concept of ‘heimeh’ and Arpana’s relationship with her home, Nepal.
When she traces back her romance with fashion, at the begging of it all, she finds her mother. ‘It all started with my mother. One of my earliest memories is of seeing her dress and put on make-up and jewellery. She was an actress and had a huge collection of wigs, extensions and crazy costumes. Everything I am today, and everything I do, started with her.’ But when it comes to her craft, Arpana doesn’t consider herself to be a designer. ‘I find myself somewhere between art and fashion, not adhering to the standards of either but trying to find a place in both.’
Kathmandu and Nepal have always silently inspired her. The colours, the smell, the sounds and the chaos she left behind somehow filter into her work. But it was New York city that helped her become more of herself and less of who she thinks she needs to be. ‘I think that fact that I happen to be doing art in NYC at a very transformative time in my life as I'm getting older and more comfortable with myself also has a lot to do with influencing my aesthetic.’
This year will see Arpana working on a series of jewels using Japanese go yens, which tells a story of the queen of Ancient Japan and the queen of Ancient Nepal, who share these necklaces as a bond that lasts for eons. Work is also underway for her first ever all metal series, in collaboration with her partner and tattoo artist, Bruno Levy.
Take a look at her work here.
Text Ritupriya Basu