With Archana Jain
When I first started as a magazine journalist, attending fashion events was part of the job – a store launch, a preview, a new exhibition or restaurant opening. While some were hot ticket events, most elicited grumbles from the team, with one unlucky person usually being delegated the task of attending. But we always knew there was one rule. When Archana Jain invites you for something, you go.
A veteran in the luxury and lifestyle PR industry, Archana founded her agency PR Pundit in 1999. This was just when international brands were beginning to enter the country and as India’s affluent consumer base grew, so did her client portfolio. Her team of 100+ now handles the who’s who of labels, including fashion and beauty brands like Christian Louboutin, Michael Kors, Estée Lauder, Ritu Kumar, Jo Malone and L'Occitane en Provence amongst others. They come to Archana because she knows the importance of a story, and of bringing them together with the right people.
Even from a distance Archana immediately makes an impression. Starting with the curly grey hair that she hasn’t dyed in years, a pair of dark-rimmed glasses and a string of pearls around her neck. Whether she’s in a Bodice dress, a Uniqlo T-shirt or a brocade sari, her wardrobe is minimal, polished, and reflects a keen eye for good design.
Butool Jamal: So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
Archana Jain: I worked about seven and a half years for someone else – to learn the ropes of PR – before starting out on my own in 1999. At that time everyone was doing corporate PR, no one was doing consumer PR. Actually there weren’t even too many ways to talk to consumers then. There were a few business newspapers and limited magazines or television media. When I was reading about PR campaigns around the globe I was interested in how they were trying to engage customers; they were trying to win their hearts rather than fill their carts you could say. I also had a really encouraging family and eventually my team became an anchor for growth.
BJ: You've spoken about how PR is, “telling a good story to the right people”. What are the ingredients of a good story?
AJ: To start with it’s got to be contextual. But also backed by insight, there has to be data or some trend point which lends it authenticity. How relevant is what you’re talking about? Brands come to us to help them with a narrative. We help them believe that they are relevant and how to articulate that.
BJ: We've always loved your personal style, how would you describe it?
AJ: It was a gradual journey to discover my style. I was always keen to look smart; clean with a few lines, never trend forward or busy. Smart to me meant dressing a little more maturely than my age. As a young entrepreneur I felt I needed to look the part – the pearls were there very early on, the saris too. I embraced my curls and grey hair. Although honestly I didn’t have the time to go to the salon to keep getting it straightened. Lenses didn’t work for me so I decided statement eyewear would be my thing. Right now I’m wearing Dolce & Gabbana, but I also love Tom Ford, Prada and of course Ray Ban.
When I buy something I have to feel like I’m going to get more than one wear out of it. The last time I bought a piece to wear just once was when I got married, this was 35 years ago. It was a gold Benarasi sari and I actually took it out again recently.
I’ve always been very practical and I think the way I was brought up probably lent to that. We had to live within our means, we weren’t going to get fancy cars or buy big brands. That also meant I had to have an independent view of things and style what I had in my own way.
BJ: Tell us about your jewellery collection.
AJ: Pearls make up a big part of my collection. At the start of my career I worked at the Hyatt as their PR manager and I would wear a sari everyday. Pearls were the perfect little accessory to pair with them. Either as earrings or a necklace, since then I’ve kept adding to what I have. I love the bit of maturity they bring.
BJ: What is the most valuable piece of jewellery you own?
AJ: During COVID I picked up something by the artist Anjum Singh who passed away of cancer recently. Her friend Aaradhana Jhunjhunwala had created a jewellery line with her for charity. It’s a beautiful brooch, slightly more artistic than what I wear, made of rose gold-plated silver with semi-precious red beads but I think it’s truly special.
Another treasured pick is a pair of Art deco-style ruby and black diamond earrings that I bought early on in my career. They’re also a bit more dramatic than my usual pieces but I love them.
BJ: What are the boxes that a piece of jewellery should tick for you?
AJ: It needs to be simple yet artistic. When I buy something I have to feel like I’m going to get more than one wear out of it. For example there’s a ring I have from a collaboration between artist Anish Kapoor and Bulgari (2010). It’s got a white metal body and a bronze edge, it’s a statement piece that’s also very minimal.
I do like a bit of drama but bigger pieces or styles that are too elaborate don’t really suit my personality. For example, I love the Serpenti collection by Bulgari but I know it’s not for me. I’m very clear on certain things. It’s not got anything to do with how traditional or contemporary a piece is, it’s more to do with how busy or fussed it feels.
BJ: Is there a piece of jewellery that you wear constantly or keeping going back to?
AJ: That’s where I shop with The Line actually because you’ve got simple pieces that I can wear everyday. I have a medallion with my zodiac sign from you which I always wear. And also earrings; a pair of emeralds and another one with blue sapphires. Of course one with pearls too that I keep going back to.
A friend of mine recently gifted me a pair of earrings with mother of pearl and garnet. These are the kinds of things that I can carry with me when I’m travelling. I also have a few statement costume pieces but not as many.
By Butool Jamal
Photography Kirti Virmani