Women’s Series: Munpreet Virdy

Women drive demand for more than 90% of the world’s jewelry. The Women’s interview series project aims to celebrate and amplify women’s voices in all facets and levels of the industry

According to most estimates, women drive demand for more than 90 percent of the world’s jewelry. Their tastes and preferences shape the jewelry market and influence decisions at every step of the supply chain. The Women’s interview series by journalist Isabella Yan, is a monthly column that aims to celebrate and amplify women’s voices in all facets and levels of the industry. The first Women's Series is with jewelry designer Munpreet. Now based in Thailand, Munpreet Virdy was born and raised in Zambia. In 2000 she began studying art & design at the University of Indianapolis and then moved to New York City for three years, before returning to Zambia to work for a local jeweler. Soon afterwards, she earned her Graduate Gemologist (GG) from GIA in Bangkok and launched her eponymous brand Munpreet in 2019. Munpreet's work aims to preserve the legacy of Sikh cultural heritage, showcasing the unwavering strength and resilience of Its people. Munpreet’s first collection “Ahimsa” is a symbol of spiritual power, mental resilience and equality embodied as a Kirpan, a ceremonial sword that’s traditionally held by Sikh warriors. Each piece reveals an engraving in Sikh alphabet translated to “Without fear, Without hate.”

Can you give us some background into your journey before launching your eponymous brand ? 
I’m of Sikh heritage, born and raised in Africa and educated in Europe and the US. Once returned home to Zambia I began to work for a local jeweler and as my fascination for gemstones grew, I eventually became manager of the boutique. After 4 years I decided to pursue my GG (Graduate Gemologist) in Bangkok. I eventually decided to combine my knowledge of gemstones and my background in art to create jewelry that would share relevant stories about myself and others. I met my business partner Veronica Favoroso in Bangkok. She has shared my vision and has been instrumental in the branding and creation of Munpreet.

How would you describe your brand and aesthetic?
Distinctive and statement making, edgy and elegant.

What are the origins of your brand?
I wanted to combine my knowledge and skills to be able to tell a story of significance. With very few Sikh jewellery designers out there creating pieces that hold meaning for us and our heritage, I felt this was a story I really wanted to tell through my designs.

What is the significance of the sword in your work?
To be raised without fear and without hate (only in defence, for protection and in the fight for justice always), the sword is a visible sign of an intense intuition and a fierce discipline. A symbol of spiritual power, mental resilience and equality. The swords presented in my first collection aspire to arouse a personal revolution, a reminder to the wearer that all conquests, whether mental or physical, are only overcome when faith of the self is amplified. While I had a lot of compliments on this collection, I did receive some critique saying it was too “aggressive” and that perhaps I should “tone it down” for the next collection. In trying to do so, I realized I was stifling my voice. I choose to remain resolute and undeterred.

What is women’s empowerment to you?
From a young age, it's been instilled in me that women are equal to men in every sense. We are entitled to the same rights and privileges whether it’s education, independence or simply having our own opinion. To me women's empowerment means trusting, using and staying firm in our own voice, without doubt. A voice that comes from our own experiences and knowledge and not one that simply pretends to conform to a man. I feel that every time we do this for ourselves, we also do it for the woman next to us.

What do you want women to feel when they wear your pieces? Decisive, unpredictable, and bold.

What is your favourite jewel you’ve designed?
Sword pendant in tsavorite and yellow gold, with black rhodium, which was also my first piece. 

Can you tell us about the women who inspire you the most and why?
This list is growing everyday but I’ll share the one that inspired my first collection. Throughout history while managing their families and bearing children, Sikh women have ruled, taught, guided communities, and even led revolts. Mai Bhago (1700s) was taught household skills by her mother, as was common in those times in India. However, by her father, she was taught hand-to-hand combat, swordsmanship and horsemanship. She is known to have led soldiers into battle against the invading Mughal army, and was the only survivor of that battle. The physical strength and exceptional skills required in battle: tactical moves, strategic attacks, invincible defenses, are one thing, but the courage, perseverance and mental power that could only have come from within, are incredible. To think, we all have access to this power, but how often do we connect to it? While reading up on female warriors in history I came across other women, from different cultures with similarly incredible strength and spirit, and realised while we each have similar stories from our own cultures, there is a common theme of bravery, justice and resilience.  These are themes I try to represent through my pieces and hope others can relate to them, to share their own personal stories of courage, no matter their background. 

By Isabella Yan
Art meets Jewellery: Women's Series.
Sponsored by Jewelry Trade Center (JTC), Bangkok

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