When asked, Waris Ahluwalia describes his occupation as “Explorer”, and, as his star rises and rises, asked he is - increasingly often. This sense of exploration, of the quest for territories unknown, has led Waris to destinations that have surprised even the man himself. The story of the inception of the House of Waris, his jewelry design house and international boutique, is a perfect illustration of his quietly intrepid exploration of the creative world.
After a meandering career of creative experimentation and having moved to Los Angeles to escape the harsh winter of his native New York, Waris was in Maxfield’s - the super exclusive Hollywood jeweler - when the diamond rings he was wearing were noticed by the owners. On learning that Waris had designed the one-off pieces himself, the store immediately ordered a consignment and the House of Waris was born.
That what has become one of the most sought after and innovative names in jewelry design should hail from a chance encounter ought not to be surprising considering the sublime world Waris inhabits. He now divides his time and business affairs amongst his home in New York, Rome and Jaipur in India - where his exquisite jewelry is handcrafted by artisans using traditional artisanal techniques.
Waris insists on giving only the most refined materials to his craftsmen, and as owner and designer at House of Waris, is fastidious about gaining a detailed knowledge of both the people and the processes his designs involve. The resulting collections have garnered such critical acclaim and commercial success that his work is sold in, aside from Maxfield’s, a careful selection of some of the most trend-setting high-end stores in the world; such as Colette in Paris, Liberty of London and Barney’s in New York. His unique vision mixes eclectic influences interpreted through refined and original design and presents itself with an effortless class that bestows a sense of intimate exclusivity on his customers - chiming perfectly with the Concept Store ambience.
Having pursued been fascinated with and drawn to the nightlife of iconic New York clubs such as the Limelight since his teenage years growing up in Brooklyn, Waris is enmeshed in a circle of friends of incredible influence in the creative world. A fixture in the coolest bars, nightspots and restaurants in New York, the turban and abstinence that come from his Sikh background creating a sense of calm intrigue around him, this Punjab-born citizen of the world counts Paul Sevigny and André Saraiva as close personal friends.
His legendary dedication as a partygoer regularly sees him snapped in chic New York hang outs and restaurants like the Beatrice Inn or the Boom Boom Room in the society and nightlife pages of almost every important newspaper, website and magazine. His circle of friends is constantly expanding and taking him in unexpected creative directions, such as his rebirth as an actor.
Waris says that he first met Wes Anderson at a peace rally and after becoming friends, he was floored when the film director’s invited him to feature in his acclaimed movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou without even auditioning for the role. This new direction has led to a flowering collaborative relationship with Anderson - for whom he also worked on The Darjeeling Limited, notable work with Spike Lee on The Inside Man, and work with an increasingly eclectic list of up and coming independent movie makers.
Being known as a jewelry designer and actor does not seem in any way sufficient for Waris, as can be seen in one of his latest ventures, which saw the House of Waris open a pop-up Tea Room under the New York City High Line - a disused elevated subway track that has been converted into an extraordinary floating park and garden space. That the Tea Room was only open for ten days somehow seems to illustrate Waris’ singularly casual but fiercely creative approach to business - he does not even have an agent for his acting work.
So, friendship and creativity are the twin forces that seem to drive Waris Ahluwalia forward, taking him in new and exciting directions, such as his 2010 collection from the House of Waris which is a series of pendants exquisitely depicting exotic birds in enamel. An original idea perhaps, but more so when you consider that the pieces themselves are re-imaginings of his friend photographer Andrew Zuckerman’s acclaimed stills of exotic birds in their natural habitats. Printed on a white backdrop from compelling angles and close-ups, the images often depict the birds in flight from behind, accentuating their extraordinary color and haunting muscularity. Waris’s pieces then ingeniously become a homage to his friend’s striking work, which itself captures an unexplored side of nature. The fascinating internal world this creates, of creative cross-referencing and a new perspective on history and its relationships, dangles expensively from some of the most renowned necks in society and allows us to understand Waris’s own place within it.
- Ben Stewart
House of Waris
Address: 111 East 14th Street, Number 418
New York, 10003
Waris Ahluwalia - House of Waris