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Either if you’re a savvy jewellery individual or if you just appreciate a piece so unique that only one picture on Instagram catches your eye, you probably need to know this brand. Aligheri makes those kind of pieces that you feel you must have, wear, and touch. Not just because they are beautiful and original, but also because they are particularly magic and unique. Established in 2014 by the talented designer Rosh Mahtani, Alighieri was conceived by the love for literature – more specially, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy – and, as the founder herself says, as a “happy accident”. We met the designer to find out a little more about her story.
Tell us about Aligheri, how did it start?
It all happened very organically. I always knew I wanted to do something creative, but I also knew from quite a young age that I wanted to have my own business. I started making jewellery after graduating because I was really lost and unsure about my life. It was a happy accident. I studied French and Italian at Oxford and I became a little bit obsessed with Dante’s Divine Comedy. I wanted to translate this epic poem into objects and photography, and create one piece of jewellery for each one of the poems.
What’s your secret fascination with Dante Alighieri’s work?
I think my immediate fascination began because it’s such a visual and universal story. It opens with Dante lost in a dark wood (‘la selva oscura’), without hope and absolutely terrified. The Divine Comedy charts his journey whilst also commenting on the political climate of Italy in the 14th century. It’s such a rich text, and the very first to have been written in Italian. My professors were so inspiring, and it’s such a core part of Italian history and culture that I was immediately taken – and still very much am.
How do you translate the poems into designs?
Sometimes I want to translate a word into a specific object, other times I make something in wax and it becomes clear to me which poem it belongs to. I like allowing myself to go with any idea and see where it ends up. I’ve found that happy mistakes are often the best pieces.

How would you describe the essence of the brand?
It’s rooted in literature and travel. Each piece is based on one of the poems, and indeed on how that poem resonated with my life. Alighieri is a brand that is all about finding beauty in imperfection, in mistakes and in adventure. This is palpable through the pieces and the imagery. It’s a brand that everybody can wear and experience in his or her own way.
How do you approach a new collection? What's your design philosophy?
Every few months I become particularly obsessed with a canto or even a word or image from the Commedia, and that becomes the starting point. I like to go on a trip and get out of my natural environment, experience nature and travel solo with my camera. I find that being relaxed is the best way for a collection to come together (which is difficult to do on a daily basis whilst running a brand). I like it when things happen spontaneously; I’m not a planner or a sketcher. I work very much on instinct. 
You explore with different textures, yet the majority of your pieces are yellow gold-plated. Can you tell us if there’s a reason behind it?
In the beginning, I was just making pieces that I wanted to wear, ‘modern heirlooms’ – I was always a gold person, and I love the way that gold feels like an antique. Having said that, I’ve started exploring different materials this season, which I’m really excited about.

“I like allowing myself to go with any idea and see where it ends up. I’ve found that happy mistakes are often the best pieces.”
Over the last few years you received much attention, and your peers and retailers consider the line as one of the most creative and well-made products out there. How that recognition make you feel?
Very overwhelmed! The brand is very personal and has really been a way for me to express my emotions, and the fact that people have related to the pieces and their stories is unbelievably special to me. I’m incredibly grateful.
Tell us a about the concept of your latest collection, The Lost Dreamer. What’s the idea and concept behind it?
The Lost Dreamer collection explores the role of dreaming in times when realities seem like surreal nightmares. Dante looks at art, music and storytelling as a means of escapism. He writes himself into the poem, waking up in a dark wood, faced with terrifying beasts and writes himself out of it, when he climbs up the Mountain of Purgatory towards a stellar landscape. Sometimes these reveries are magical, and at other times haunting. The constant tension between light and dark, real and imaginary, is the context for Alighieri’s The Lost Dreamer, which embraces the magical ambiguity of sometimes not quite knowing which is which.
What’s Alighieri’s most iconic piece?
Probably the Leone Medallion – it’s the piece that I sell the most of. It marks the moment when Dante encounters a lion in the first canto. The lion is so terrifying that the very “air trembles in fear of it.” Dante tries to turn back, he loses hope, at which point his guide – Virgil – appears and offers him guidance. Fear turns into courage and the medallion is to be worn as a reminder to be strong.

What has been your biggest challenge until now?
Trying to find time to switch off and calm down. Everything has been so exciting that I sometimes forget to relax!
What inspires you?
So many things! Dante, of course. Music – Fleetwood Mac, always. Photography, travelling on trains, sometimes even little things like people-watching on the tube. I’ve currently been really inspired by an amazing director called Reed Morano – she’s got a beautiful way of telling stories and her images and screen shots have been really moving for me.
What comes next?
I’m currently working on the next collection, which will launch now in September, and I’ve got a few really exciting collaborations on the go. There are lots on the horizon, and I’d love to continue telling stories through Alighieri, be it through jewellery or other objects.

Words
Alejandra Rodríguez Menzer
Photos
Rosh Mahtani

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