By Reya Mehrotra
American model Bella Hadid made headlines, and heads turn, at last month’s Cannes Film Festival. Wearing a black deep-cut Schiaparelli gown, she sported a huge chunky chain-link necklace that branched out covering her bare breasts. In July, singer and actor Lady Gaga, too, was seen pairing a belly chain-link design with a bikini. If one is a fan of model Hailey Bieber, her gold chains couldn’t have gone unnoticed. Be it a bikini, tank top, pyjamas or dress, the model never leaves her gold chains behind. Most recently, singer Dua Lipa wore a chain-link anklet and posed for Instagram.
It was in the year 2019 that the design started to emerge prominently. Several celebrities were seen sporting chain-link necklaces, bracelets, etc. The year, in fact, saw spring runways adorned with chain-link designs. From Bottega Veneta to Zimmermann and Brandon Maxwell, every fashion house sent models sporting the look down the runway. But then came the pandemic, which confined the world indoors, resulting in a temporary halt to the trend. As the world slowly opens up again, the trend is out and everywhere now. From Gigi Hadid, Jennifer Aniston and Emily Ratajkowski to Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, everyone has embraced it. American model Ashley Graham, who is all about embracing body types and sizes, is a regular with chain-link necklaces on her Instagram feed. In one of her posts, she can be seen sporting the necklace with the initial ‘J’ for her husband, director and cinematographer Justin Ervin.
It’s clear that the chain-link design in jewellery has become a must-have for fashionistas around the world. From actors and models to working professionals and even the common man, everyone is sporting the design, be it in the form of a multilayered gold chain or a plain chain-link accessory. The reason is simple: the design is trendy, bohemian and cool.
The chunk is real
In the 1983 film Scarface, the character of Tony Montana, portrayed by actor Al Pacino, became a cultural icon. What made Montana stand out, though, was his personal style—gold chains, buttoned-down shirt, etc. Since then, dons on celluloid have often sported gold chains. The look, in fact, has become a staple for the bad boys onscreen. But today, it is no longer just the gangster’s accessory, as the chain-link style that Pacino sported in the film to add to the carefree and cool look of his character is being worn by everyone.
One of the first major designers to experiment with the design was Alexander Wang, who designed his debut jewellery line in 2015. His collection had only a few pieces, but it defined the trend in its entirety. It was inspired by industrial chains and consisted of chain earrings in both rhodium and rose-gold plating, chain-lock necklace and a lock cuff. The designs also featured in Wang’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection. The design, as per Wang, was “rooted in a sense of individuality, self-expressiveness and immediacy, with a DIY sensibility.”
In India, too, there’s increased interest in such pieces and so many jewellery brands are coming out with stylish offerings for consumers. Watch brand Titan Raga, for one, has included chain-link straps in its collection. In 2020, the brand came up with its Moments of Joy collection featuring the design. The collection is an amalgamation of beauty and elegance, and connects with the woman of today, offers Bengaluru-based Kalpana Rangamani, chief marketing officer, watches and wearables, Titan Company Limited.
Jaipur-based Rishita Sharma, co-founder of fashion jewellery label Soraya Jaipur, shares that there has been an increased demand for chunky jewellery and accessories since two years. These are both affordable and trendy, and can be styled with different accessories on a day-to-day basis, says Sharma. The design also goes well with double or multilayered chains or even Cartier bracelets. Mumbai-based celebrity stylist Shaleena Nathani, who can be seen wearing the chain-link design herself, endorses it, too, for her high-profile celebrity clients actor Deepika Padukone.
“Chains are popular since ancient times and were sported by royalty. Even then, people wore thick chains that were inspired from ropes and looped rings,” says Kolkata-based Suvankar Sen, CEO, Senco Gold and Diamonds, a jewellery retail chain. “Such handmade and machine-made chains are one of the highest-selling categories now. We have the chain collection for men under our Aham collection and for women under the Everlite collection. There are traditional handmade chains (and these can) also be worn with saris.”
Mia by Tanishq is another major Indian jewellery brand that has adopted the trend. There was a period of minimalism during the lockdown, but now maximalism is trending as the world unlocks, wherein flaunting is the word of the hour, offers Shyamala Ramanan, business head, Mia. “After staying in and dressing down for so long, the want for dressing up has triggered an obsession with everyday chains and bracelets paired with watches or bangles to brighten up the day, or help one feel dressed up for any last-minute virtual calls or quick outings. With chains, flexibility is the key word-they are light, comfortable, (can be) long or short, (one can) wear just one or add more, mix and match. One can layer already existing neck chains or bracelets, which one might have had for years, with new ones to put together a curated look that tells your story through jewellery,” says Ramanan, adding that Mia by Tanishq will be launching new chain collections for their Diwali edit later this year.
Not very long ago, men embraced pearls and diamond jewellery. Harry Styles, for instance, is a regular with pearls. In India, Ranveer Singh has embraced both diamonds and pearls. But while not many men might like the idea of diamonds or pearls, the chain-link design is one that caters to everyone’s taste irrespective of gender.
Louis Vuitton’s jewellery collection, for one, has chain designs for both men and women. The same goes for designers Pascale Monvoisin and Matthew Williams. Other international brands that have launched chain-link looks include Swarovski, Paco Rabanne, Jool by Martha Calvo, Pomellato, David Webb, Walters Faith, Shay, Spinelli Kilcollin, Bauble Bar, All Blues and J Hannah. Italian designer Ilaria Icardi, who launched her jewellery collection last year, focused primarily on the chain design. Actor Robert Pattinson was also spotted wearing jewellery brand Alighieri’s chained design. American jewellery designer Ippolita Rostagno’s 18-carat gold necklace in chain-link style is priced at $4,995, while Tiffany & Co’s 18-carat gold earrings in chain-link design are priced at $5,200.
In India, jewellery brands like Legend Amrapali, Kesya, Zariin Jewellery, Valliyan, Outhouse Jewellery, Misho, The Olio Stories, Jaipur-based Tanzire, The Slow Studio Jewellery, etc, have launched chain-link collections in bracelets, necklaces, rings and earrings.
“Chains have always been a staple of men’s fashion and jewellery, and we have a truly unique, intricate and bold cycle-chain design neckpiece,” shares Delhi-based Armaan Narang, founder, AMYR, a fine jewellery brand for men. “The inspiration for this was the bicycle, which revolutionised transportation and paved the way for the advancement of society and industry alike after it was invented in the 19th century. We paid a tribute to this marvel with a thick, bold neck chain, finished with intricate details and designed to mimic the chain used in bicycles.” Narang says that thick chains and minimalist contemporary pendants are the talk of the town for men’s jewellery this season, with the two often being stacked together to complete a bold yet understated look.
Mihir Jain, brand development director, Shivin Jewellers, Jaipur, says that gold accessories are also becoming popular in tri-colours—white, yellow and rose—and are especially in trend among the office-going crowd and millennials. “The great deal here is that these are unisexual designs and can be sported by men and women both. They are chic and classy, and can be styled with both formal and casual looks,” says Jain.