Being inspired by Prada and meenakari to create opulent collections.
Somewhere in Jaipur in Northwest India is the unofficial 101st inductee to our Hot 100. He’s a lone craftsman drawing on generations of passed-down skill to bring Alice Cicolini’s expertly drafted designs to enchanting life.
She recruited his skills while she was – somewhat impressively – retained as head of the British Arts Council in India, a job she had embarked on after working as an author, teacher, producer and curator.
Between them, Alice and her craftsman – an expert in meenakari, the art of intricately ornamenting metals with colour – create a deeply enchanting range, which has captivated buyers from fashion boutique Matches to London landmark Fortnum & Mason in the UK, and the likes of Bungalow 8 in Mumbai and Luisa Via Roma in Italy. And while she champions traditional handmade techniques, Alice’s designs are about more than manufacture.
Both creative and deeply intellectual, Alice’s presence on this list truly ratchets up the average IQ of this Hot 100 and she brings a sculptural and cultural resonance to bear on designs from smoothly carved black ebony stupa-like domes to colourful patterned rings that could have been excavated from the ancient passes of the Silk Road; and the pared down simplicity of Krishna’s lotus.
The list – of course – goes on, but the themes are the same: India, the trade routes, timeless beauty. But do her customers get all that? And does she care if they do? “Some get it, and in truth I don’t mind either way but there is a real range of ways that customers respond to it.”
She recognises that there is tension between its commercial side and the creative. “I like the way Miuccia Prada approaches her practice. She is seriously thoughtful about whatever she designs but she also says that if you don’t sell you are nothing. She’s got it right, I think. I like to sell too.”
Alice has a decision to make about that in the coming year. At the moment she describes herself as a discreet handcrafted brand. “There’s a limit to that. To keep the quality, I can’t really expand without compromising the quality of the work. So there may have to be more industrial processes brought in.”
And as well as the deeply clever stuff, Alice brings a charming warmth to this Hot 100 and it is with flippant honesty that she reveals her favourite thing about her designs. “Wearing it,” she chuckles.