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An Embodiment of Art, Aesthetic and Spirit in the
Face of Challenge and Growth.
If one is to consult the dictionary definition of the word “bangle”– the now widely popular, ancient accessory holds a vast cross-cultural significance dating back nearly 5000 years. They would find it commonly characterized as a circular and rigid ornamental bracelet, slipped or clasped on, fashioned out of materials ranging from shells and clay to various metals, glass and precious stones. A historically intact, nondescript enough concept, right?
Well, rigid couldn’t be any less accurate in describing how things are done at Banglez, the Toronto-based jewelry brand borne out of South Asian influence. Their business philosophy and signature style embodies an entirely imaginative, modern and bold approach to this term. Partners in life and business, founders Malinda and Hardip Chohan seek to recreate enduring cultural accessories by weaving old ways with new. The inventive pair accomplishes this meaning fully by infusing their personalities and timely, socially-conscious trends into the collective and customized experience of their jewelry-wearers.
I had the good fortune of discovering Banglez 9 years ago, while it was in its nascent stages, and the couple was still working out of their basement at home. It was a mere two days before my wedding, on a hot, sunny July afternoon, and I was frantic that I had not found any bridal jewelry that I deemed swoon-worthy before my big day. Imagine my utter surprise when I pulled up to the Chohan residence. I was greeted at the door and led downstairs to a dizzying display of THE most eye-catching bespoke, colour-coordinated rows of bangles, necklaces, tikkas and nose-rings that I had ever seen. Plentifully bestrewn with glittering stones and lustrous metals, multi-hued threads and ornate patterns- their work was arresting in effect. From the basement to boutique, I have witnessed the ascension of Banglez from a vendor in the South Asian wedding industry to a global disciple of higher art and fashion form. Almost a decade later, I still marvel at how they took such a simple concept and moulded it into something so completely and extraordinarily their own.
All great movers and shakers have a few things in common- an original vision, the courage to take a few risks and tenacity in the face of challenge. The goal at Banglez has always been creative self-expression, deeply rooted in authenticity and inclusivity. Conceived in 2006, the inspiration behind Banglez pre-dated Malinda’s very own bridal experience. Yet, she was still well enough acquainted with the fact that there were minimal accessory options available to South Asian brides at the time. Passionate about the art of make-up and jewelry throughout her life, Malinda was inspired to design a brand of bridal jewelry that would be as accessible as it was customizable. Not quite knowing where to begin on this new journey of theirs, the couple decided to take their talents and foraging skills to India, travelling around the country to places like Delhi, Mumbai, Punjab and Rajasthan in search of raw materials, manufacturers and suppliers with whom they could work.
As the shipments arrived from India to Toronto, Hardip’s involvement in the repairing and swapping stones in pieces to better accommodate their clients’ needs allowed him to grow more comfortable and confident working with jewelry. He soon learned how to use various stones to create and manipulate new patterns and styles. Instead of simply being importers of it, their blossoming into designers of jewelry marked an unexpected and exciting turn for the company. The Banglez approach evolved into combining loose stones and diverse materials with artisanal methods to hand-craft their collections entirely in-house. Clients found the idea of creating their jewelry appealing and were enthusiastic about not having to wait on or worry about how long it would take to ship from India.
Over the years, as Banglez continued to thrive along this artistic trajectory, Malinda and Hardip began to unearth their love for jewelry making. Their work grew more intricate and unique, and as their fascination with crystals and semi-precious stones deepened, they learned more about their benefits and found ways to incorporate them into their pieces. In 2019, there were personal challenges that the couple faced, including the loss of Malinda’s mother. This lead to the reconnection of the couple’s faith and spirituality; in a Reiki session, Malinda experienced the effect of crystals being used on each of her chakras. This was not a mere coincidence for the couple but a fateful reminder of these stones’ power and raw beauty and the transformative quality they possess.
It was at this moment that the couple’s work together metamorphosed once more from superficial to experiential. They decided that it was high time to share these benefits with others through their jewelry. They debuted the Sage collection, which paid homage to each of the chakras and went in-depth about the stone choices and benefits. This line inspired them to experiment with designing simpler pieces, made for everyday wear that would appeal to a broader audience. As it was very different from what Banglez was known to carry, they decided to test out the designs on Etsy. While the jewelry was well-received, the global health crisis that followed months later placed a halt on the line’s promotion. The formidable push by people worldwide to return to nature for answers- was one that Malinda and Hardip understood and genuinely connected to. Like so many others, practicing “social distance” became a time to focus on the mind, body and spirit as a family. From their extensive work with precious crystals and gemstones, Malinda recalled that crystals were a natural diffuser for oils. Alongside their children, they would place oils on their crystals as part of their morning routine.
The couple soon realized that this practice could be integrated into their work as designers. By carefully pairing their jewelry with oils, others could experience the jewelry they wear through an emphasis on natural elements; energy healing aromas and crystals. The organic shift in focus felt as necessary to Malinda and Hardip, as it was natural. During a period of immense challenge, Malinda and Hardip felt as if they were being given a chance to persevere and grow once again. With the determination of the human spirit and its ability to overcome, the couple were profoundly moved and inspired to launch the brand Tenasãti. (pronounced: tenacity/ tuh-na-suh-tee).
While Banglez continues to create bridal and South Asian inspired pieces designed for more grand occasions, Tenasãti adds a unique natural touch of luxe to everyday wear and allows one to feel both pampered and even further, connected. I selected my necklace through their website and picked it as a gift set with many dazzling crystal and design options. Recently, burning sage in my home has become a practice that found its place among the daily rituals that are important to me. Upon the arrival of my new tenasati piece, I felt that much more confident about embracing this new aspect of my lifestyle. From packaging to product, I was utterly satisfied! I was able to read about the benefits of the crystals and apply the oil that comes perfectly packed in a matching crystal-filled roller bottle; this unexpected experience was one I immediately wanted to share with those around me.
Tenasãti’s refinement of a distinct style of beauty, quality, and spirituality is inspired by real-life and the idea that our aesthetic sense is not just material. We can grow with a deeper understanding of the inherent relationship between us and the natural world. This beautifying union of one’s self-image and environment redefines how we approach jewelry and is an experience that is not to be missed.