Indian born, Veronica Tharmalingam, grew up in a culture where women were and are limited in their ability to simply be. Tharmalingam possesses a certain quality that allows her the freedom to move beyond those constraints and create a body of art that reflects her culture with the hope of tomorrow. Her gorgeous tapestry and beaded handbags and jewelry are a direct reflection of her lineage as it harmonizes with the modernity that reflects today’s shapes and fine craftsmanship we have grown to admire.
Let’s jump in with Veronica and find out what she’s been up to.
How long have you been designing jewelry and handbags and do you have any formal training?
It has been almost 6 years in the making. No I do not have formal training. I have both a handbag and a jewelry line at the moment. The name of the handbag line is the Rani Collection, which means queen in Tamil, while the jewelry collection is named Maheswary after my late mother. The handbags and jewelry are handmade in a 5-person workshop in the outskirts of Mumbai, where thousands of years of traditional savoir-faire are used to craft every fabric, every thread, every pearl, and every seam, each bag is created as a unique and exclusive piece of art.
Your designs are contemporary yet traditional. How do you blend the two together so seamlessly?
Encompassing my rich cultural and familial roots into my work – I am hoping that I am bring an empowering flavor to the fashion industry. Drawing inspiration not only from my time in Chennai but as well as in Paris, I credit my ancestors and my mother for shaping my love for unique color combinations and an overall passion for creating this unique work. Do you have or would you like to have a collaboration with another designer? I’d love to collaborate with other designers in the future of course.
I read your mission statement and it got me. Fifteen percent of your profits abolish child abuse and child labor. Ten percent contributes to a better quality of life for Indian artisans and sharing quality food, shelter and education for them and their families. Five percent of sales go towards a medical mission for Sri Lanka and India to help provide better health treatments in rural areas. You’re “putting your money where your mouth is”, so to speak. Where did this desire come from and how have you been able to measure a difference?
Thank you! I know it is ambitious to say 30% of my profits go to charities that are dear to my heart. Every time I say this my well-wishers are shocked and say it’s not profitable for the brand/business to do this. I understand what they mean but I’m not here to hoard money, I want to be make money so I can help as many people as possible in my lifetime. I was born this way I guess. I’ve always helped the needy as much as I can, be it here in LA, France or in India. My mother has a welfare association for women and children. And I grew up watching her help people get back on their feet and provide guidance and education to children. So its right to say I’m just mimicking her too.
What is in store for us in the future? Lots of exciting things to come.
We are currently preparing our men’s line and are working on the next collection to be out very soon and some pop ups around LA.
Are there any references in your jewelry to your culture or namesake? If so, can you please have our readers understand your symbolism.
Of course!! I’m a blend of Indian and French and now a little LA has gotten into the mix. So all our collections and each piece of the collection are symbolic to all that. The Rani collection that is our first and current collection means Queen in Tamil. The Maheswary collection which is our jewelry collection is named after my mother. My bags and jewelry are a symbol for women to find and nurture the graceful authority and the regal elegance that exists within themselves. To own a Veronica Tharmalingam™ handbag and jewelry is to dare to express this inner warrior queen everyday with class, authenticity, confidence and style. This is tied into the names of each model, which take inspiration from unique women from the past and present.
The Rani Collection has six statement handbags that were initially designed for evening wear but evolved to daywear. I see these as show stoppers with bright colors and intricate details to make that statement even with a pair of jeans. All the handbags except for one are made of raw silk and are lined with the royal blue VT brand color inside. I am also a practical person and I do not like heavy handbags, so I made it a point to make my bags as light as possible. Even with the intricate art work you will see on them we picked very light and high-end materials. Another thing I wanted to ensure was that these bags were versatile. By changing the way the straps hook onto the bags you can achieve multiple looks.
The Maheswary Collection is my jewelry collection. It started off as my own private collection that I hand picked from skilled artisans around India. I had not initially planned to bring these to market, but the positive feedback I got whenever I would wear these led me to start thinking about incorporating them as part of my brand. I developed a deeper relationship with the artisans and they are now part of the team and work on statement jewelry pieces – there are literally only one or two of each model. The new collection we are currently working on will have upto 5 pieces for some of the earrings and rings.
I wanted the brand to be affordable to a lot of people who wants to have a designer piece without breaking the bank. So, I made sure we had some pieces that are under $ 200 in our jewelry collection and under $500 for some handbags. I was that young student wanting to have a cute luxury item but couldn’t afford it. Veronica Tharmalingam™ is also a sustainable fashion movement. As a brand, we are working to make our carbon footprint as small as possible by only sourcing materials already available locally in the market and producing limited batches to avoid excess products.
Your jewelry is so ornate and tells its own story. Have you ever considered pairing down for a more minimal approach?
My brand is all about statement pieces, each handbag and jewelry are handmade by skilled artisans in India and thus are unique in every way. For me each piece is like a piece of art that you wear. And my brand is all about how to jazz up a simple outfit (example: jeans and t shirt or a simple LBD) with classy and refined accessories. And to celebrate each day to its fullest. We should wear the nicest things that makes us have that extra bounce in our walk every single day because life is a celebration.
Your Aelia bag and the Shobana necklace with the pink tulip pendant really stood out for me. What went into those pieces and what’s their unique story?
You have impeccable taste ☺. Aelia Clutch is our iconic piece. It takes about 1-2 weeks for my artisans to do just the artwork in the front. Once the artwork is done then we start to assemble the clutch. My favorite part of the making of the Aelia clutch is watching my artisans do the artwork. It’s mesmerizing to watch (You cans see some bts in our IG page you’ll know what I am talking about). I had a lot of fun working on it. I wanted a clutch that would be a show stopper and also practical. Another problem I wanted to solve was to have actual space inside the clutch for example. I’ve always heard my girlfriends complain about their clutch or evening bags not having space to put basic essential things inside them. Aelia my smallest clutch can fit a phone, lip gloss, car key and 1-2 credit cards (YES!! For real).
Shobana: when I look at a piece of jewelry it needs to be harmonious when you look at it. When you achieve that harmony in jewelry they captivate the attention and become an obsession. I used the champagne pearls as my base then added the grey beads tassel. To bring in the wow factor, I added the pink and white tulip. Discreate, elegant and a perfect balance of colors and sizes. My amazing necklace artisan understands perfectly my vision and brings it to life.
I am so lucky to have an incredible team of artisans.