The Florentine is publishing this series of interviews on the occasion of Vogue Fashion’s Night Out on September 17, 2015.
Rosh Mahtani is a London-based designer who founded Alighieri, a jewelry collection inspired by Florence’s own Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Her collection represents each of the 100 canti with a particular jewel. Mahtani studied French and Italian at Oxford University and, after graduating in 2012, she decided to create modern heirlooms from the literature she had closely studied. With no formal training but a strong interest in the ideas of melancholy and imperfection in literature, Alighieri was officially launched in 2014. Just like Dante’s canti, each piece of Mahtani’s jewelry tells the story of whirlwind adventures, battered creatures, scraggy landscapes and passionate mistakes. I met with Mahtani to discover more about her poetic jewelry and to learn more about her personal story.
Taylore Shea: How has your education helped you to become a better designer?
Rosh Mahtani: I studied French and Italian at Oxford University and my education has definitely influenced my designs because my whole brand is based on literature. When I studied Dante I was inspired by his odyssey, and I imagined the characters of the Divine Comedy in gold, wrapped around my neck, and weaving their way through my fingers, as I read.
TS: Why did you choose a career in design?
RM: I never knew what I wanted to do when I was young and I didn’t figure it out at university either, but I knew I was very creative and also strategic, so I wanted to do something along those lines. I love jewelry and my brand is an extension of both my creativity and my education. I wanted a brand firmly rooted in literature and travel.
TS: What stood out from Dante Alighieri’s literature that inspired you to make this jewelry brand over other writer’s literature?
RM: I had a great professor at Oxford, so we studied Alighieri’s literature in depth and I was consumed by it. The Divine Comedy was the first literary text ever written in Italian and perhaps the most important ever penned. It speaks about a man’s journey through the realms of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, with so many emotions and characters of good, evil and treachery. Dante’s writings definitely stand out over all the other literature I have read.
TS: Can you describe one of the pieces you’re wearing right now and how it connects to Dante?
RM: I’m wearing the La Selva Oscura rings set. They represent the moment when Dante enters the ‘Dark Wood’ and he becomes physically and metaphorically lost. The word ‘oscura’ means both dark and confused. When he enters the forest he sees that the trees are weathered and the rocks are craggy and imperfect. Not only in this design but in all of my designs, each piece is different and has a battered texture like the imperfections of Dante’s subjects.
TS: What can we see in your upcoming line or in the future?
RM: My next collection will be ready soon, so you will just have to wait and see, but since my brand is specific I can tell you that you will see the same imperfect style designs—but all in completely different materials.
TS: Given your passion with Dante and your recent visit to Pitti Uomo, do you consider Florence a capital of fashion? What is your relationship with the city?
RM: No, actually, I don’t think so. I see Florence more as a capital of art, especially traditional art. My designs are connected to Florence through Dante. After university I lived here for a year and it was the best year of my life. I felt so free and I had ridiculously crazy experiences. I get nostalgic thinking back on them, but this is where I was inspired and that’s the relationship that has given my brand a name.
About Fashion in Florence
In May-June 2015 ISI (International Studies Institute of Florence) offered an innovative class in Fashion Communication for non-specialized students in design. Emphasis was on analysis of leading fashion media critics, commentators, bloggers and influencers. Students had the opportunity to visit one day of Pitti Uomo #88 at the Fortezza da Basso and write their reports and blogs including one-on-one interviews with leading young figures in Fashion in Florence. Professor Emeritus Mark Bernheim headed the team, which included fashion commentator and assistant Alessandro Masetti, and his colleagues. The Institute plans to offer this course again in 2016.