ILA: Embracing Heritage through Jewelry

There’s something unique about the character of ILA jewelry that draws in those who wear it.  It is simple, yet it appears ornate.  It is delicate, yet it makes a statement.  Part of the magic of ILA, lies in the story behind its creators, and the passion with which they design their jewelry.

Ila Draksharam and her brother, Vikas Sodhani, started the popular jewelry line out of their shared desire to return to their family’s roots. Draksharam had worked closely with her mother, who had graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T), from a young age.

Ila and Vikas
Ila Draksharam and Vikas Sodhani, founders of the jewelry line ILA.

Throughout her childhood she was exposed to textiles and jewelry, and in her adulthood she spent eight years designing high-end diamond jewelry with her mother and father.  Sodhani followed a much different path.  After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T), he pursued a career in engineering.  However, he always had a fascination with design and shortly after graduating he left engineering and went to India, home of his family’s ancestors.  Here, he spent a year training in Indian design houses and hand fabrication shops.  Draksharam later met up with him in hopes of developing a shared vision to embrace their family’s heritage.

This heritage traces to Rajasthan, geographically the largest state in India, which houses the vast Thar desert.  Rajasthan has a long history from ancient civilizations to medieval tribes to modern empires.  The area comprises of astonishing architecture, known as Maru-Gurjara architecture, that is highlighted in large temples and palaces.  Umaid Bhawan Palace, in the city of Jodhpur, is one of the largest palaces in the world.  Its structure and design exemplifies the intricate and handcrafted nature of the Maru-Gurhara architecture that inspires ILA.

Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, Rasjasthan, India
Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, Rasjasthan.

“Growing up, our family would travel back to Rajasthan to visit our ancestral residence, known as a ‘Haveli,'” the design team explains,  “It has stood for over 200 hundred years and seen the birthing of our father, his father and the rest of our paternal ancestors.  The Haveli has stood through a number of different rulers and eras, and captures the rich history and cultural traditions of India.  It is a place enchanted by history, mysticism and beauty.”

ILA Devin earrings in 14 kt gold, turquoise and labradorite
ILA Devin earrings in 14 karat gold, turquoise and labradorite, available at the Squash Blossom.

In addition to the structural designs of Rajasthan, designers would paint ornate frescoes onto walls of buildings.  Often, they would depict scenes from mythology in bright colors and stones.

Draksharam and Sodhani described the paintings found in their own ancestral Haveli: “Most stunning were the frescoes that lined the open-air courtyard in the center of the grand house.  As children, our grandfather would recount tales of ancient Indian mythology that were painted in the frescoes dotting the meticulously detailed archways that connected one edifice to another.

A fresco painted for a Haveli in Rajasthan. The shapes, colors, and inlaid stones gave the ILA designers inspiration for their jewelry.
A fresco in a Haveli in Rajasthan. The shapes, colors, and inlaid stones inspired ILA’s designers.

Each edifice was carved with the most skilled hand to tell stories of long ago.  The carvings were adorned with inlaid stones, and it seemed the jewelers truly did the detailing in the building.”

In creating ILA, Draksharam and Sodhani aimed to put as much careful thought and meaning into their jewelry as the jewelers did in the Havelis in Rajasthan.  However, in order to enable modern people from all over the world to wear their jewelry daily, they simplify their designs.  While retaining the impact of Indian artistry, their jewelry expounds on the simple beauty of one design detail.

Noemi sapphire necklace by ILA, available at the Squash Blossom
ILA Noemi sapphire necklace in 14 karat gold and sapphire, available at the Squash Blossom.

“Those trips to India created a foundation of appreciation for minute details, beautiful stones, handwork and curved lines. We learned that together those elements told a story in themselves,” they remarked.  “Some 15 years later, after a long trip through India, we came together from opposite ends of the country to create ILA in hopes of capturing a part of our family’s heritage that we saw and imagined together.”



ILA jewelry is available at the Squash Blossom.  Visit our collection here.

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