Shoma Nath Interview
Storytelling through Jewelry: How Family History Inspires Nath's Designs
Shoma Nath is the founder of Nath, a jewelry company that celebrates the South Asian diaspora

MK:          For those who don’t know, I’d love to start by asking a bit about your background?

SN:          Hi Mon! My name is Shoma and I’m the founder of Nath, a jewelry brand inspired by the South Asian diaspora. I’m Bengali and a native New Yorker, so I was lucky to grow up surrounded by diverse and interesting people with stories to tell. Living in Queens, New York, the most diverse neighborhood in the world, shaped my understanding of cultural richness and exposed me to a side of New York that not many people talk about. To me, what makes New York special is not the skyscrapers or Times Square, but places like Queens where you truly see the American Dream and New York hustle through real people.

I never had one dream job growing up, but I knew my purpose was in my community in Queens. I went to Columbia where I studied Economics and History, and was the first to graduate college in my family. A lot of the research I did was related to Bengali immigrants in New York, and I became passionate about personal histories, including my own, and that was the start of Nath.

MK:          What’s the story behind Nath and why did you decide to start your own jewelry company?

SN:          Gold is such an integral part of South Asian history, especially for women, who have passed down gold jewelry for generations. This tradition is so resilient that even when the British colonized India and made it illegal for women to own anything, women caused an uprising to keep their gold. I love the idea of keeping this tradition alive, so I knew I wanted to make jewelry.

The inspiration behind the brand has always been my family. My mom’s side immigrated to the United States in the 90’s, and had to sell everything, including the jewelry that was passed down to my grandmother, to be able to afford to immigrate. I’ve always been a disgustingly sentimental person, even as a kid, so I definitely missed out on the experience of receiving heirlooms from my family. Thinking about all of this left me wondering what I’d pass down as my heirlooms to my children. Immigrants and children of immigrants are in a unique position where there is the influence of more than one culture in your life, and with Nath I wanted to create a true diaspora brand that could be cultural heirlooms to people who resonate with more than one background.

MK:          I think this idea of ‘everyday heirlooms’ is really interesting, can you speak a little bit about that?

SN:          A really defining moment in starting Nath was when I finally saw my family’s entire jewelry collection. The baby bangles that my dad bought the day I was born, the earrings that my mother wore on her wedding day, the Bengali pearl pendant that belonged to my great-grandmother who died during the Bangladesh Liberation War, and so many more pieces that told my family’s history. It felt like a waste that these incredibly beautiful and deeply meaningful pieces were kept at the bank instead of being cherished and worn everyday. I hadn’t even seen most of it until I was 25.

Shoma's mom wearing all of the family jewelry on her wedding day, December 1996

What my mother and grandmother wore everyday instead was the fast fashion American jewelry they accumulated over the years, which is not nearly as sentimental, but beautiful in its own way. I wanted to bridge the gap between fast fashion and too valuable to wear. The idea of everyday heirlooms is that everyday jewelry can be personal too.

MK:          How did your time working in fashion and at Bode and Coach help shape your taste and creative thinking?

SN:          I was really lucky to have both my experiences in fashion be with brands that really emphasized storytelling.

Everything Emily Bode did was intentional: the vintage fabrics she sourced, the silhouettes she created, the marketing campaigns and models she used. She draws inspiration for her collections from her own personal stories, and blends vintage and modern so innovatively. Exposure to Bode so early in my career definitely shaped how I use my story and experiences as a part of my creative process, authentically.

Coach is such a timeless American heritage brand and is known for its simple, made to last pieces. I learned a lot about the beauty of good craftsmanship and the creative process involved in making something that would survive trends, which was super valuable since I wanted to avoid being another fast fashion company.

MK:          How do you go about designing the jewelry pieces in the collection? What’s your creative process like?

SN:          South Asian culture is so rich and maximalist that there are constantly new sources of inspiration. At the beginning of my creative process I usually turn to family photo albums, ancient Indian jewelry books, and the gold shops in Queens to gather design styles, silhouettes, and materials that I’d want to use. I use a lot of the traditional jewelry silhouettes I find and design more functional, paired back versions that make sense for everyday.

I have no training as a jewelry designer, so my process is also a lot of trial and error too. I make rough sketches, CAD models, and then physical samples, and usually will make design changes as I test and wear the pieces.

MK:          What’s your favorite piece in the Nath jewelry collection right now?

I’m most proud of my Nur necklace, it’s definitely the most different piece in the whole collection. Enamel work is really prominent in a lot of South Asian jewelry, especially work originating in the Mughal Empire, and this was my first go at it.

The Mughal Era is such a decadent era for design and culture in South Asia and I wanted to capture a bit of that in a minimalist way. The necklace is inspired by Nur Jahan, the empress of the Mughal Empire in the 1600’s who the Taj Mahal was built for. The floral design on the necklace is similar to the floral motifs seen on the Taj Mahal. Also, she really loved pearls.

MK:          You just got a new kitten, Opie, what’s the most unexpected thing about being a new cat mom?

He eats the craziest things. So far he’s eaten rubber bands, tissues, toothpaste, and an entire loaf of bread.

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