Behind the Scenes - Jiya's Nicky Varakuta

Mother and daughter duo, Jean and Nicky Varakuta launched JIYA Jewellery with the aim to create bracelets and necklaces that could be worn from the beach to the boardroon. In bright fluro colours these hand-beaded and woven pieces are the perfect addition this Summer to add a pop of colour to any outfit. We caught up with Nicky Varakuta, co-founder of JIYA Jewellery and got an insight into the brand, her life and her style inspirations. To be in with a chance to win three JIYA Jewellery bracelets - read to the end of the blog.


DONNA IDA: Who is your Denim Icon?

NICKY: 'Definitely Brooke Shields from her Calvin Klein campaign in 1980, such an iconic image. And of course Jean Queen, Donna Ida as I practically live in her high-waisted IDA Mabel Crop Skinny!'

DONNA IDA: Where in the world are girls best dressed? What kind of style do you admire?

NICKY: 'I think Parisian girls always look effortlessly put together but as a whole Londoners have great style. I really like a slightly bohemian, relaxed look but with a ‘chic’ edge. I think girls in London are really good at throwing high-end and low-end pieces together.'

DONNA IDA: Where do you see the future of denim?

NICKY: 'Denim is one of those iconic items essential to every wardrobe. I think denim is so exciting now with all of the new graphic prints and washes that are being developed!'

DONNA IDA: Which style of jeans is your favourite?

NICKY: 'Definitely skinny but I’m currently lusting after a pair of flares for this summer.'

DONNA IDA: Where is your hometown?

NICKY: 'I grew up in Chelsea but recently moved five minutes up the road to Parsons Green which I have to say I am equally in love with. Great café’s, street style and an abundance of yoga studios with lots of open green spaces, so it’s a real oasis in central London.'

DONNA IDA: Where is your favourite place to unwind?

NICKY: 'Triyoga in Chelsea and The Power Yoga company in Parsons Green are two of my favourite places to unwind and relax. Not to mention they have great juice bars.'

DONNA IDA: What’s on your iPod at the moment?

NICKY: 'The Kygo remix of Ed Sheeran’s ‘I see Fire’ and ‘Fancy’ by Iggy Azalea have been on repeat at the office.'

DONNA IDA: What’s your favourite food/restaurant?

NICKY: 'Eight Over Eight in Chelsea is one of my absolute favourites (their dim sum is amazing). As we have lots of clients in Notting Hill, our lunches quite frequently take place at Granger & Co. and we always order their delicious ricotta hotcakes.'

Nicky Jiya Jewellery

DONNA IDA: Where do you like to shop?

NICKY: 'Being a London girl there are unlimited answers to this question, but to list just a few of my favourites at the moment: Reformation clothing for their amazing jumpers and black-tie dresses. Prices are reasonable and the way they cut is amazingly flattering for all body shapes. I plan to wear my recently acquired white Morelle jump suit all Summer long.  For these photos, I chose my IRO jacket which is a great staple. Love and Lemons, Top Shop and Zara have great stuff too, and not forgetting American Apparel for my fave for white T-shirts.'

DONNA IDA: Where’s your ultimate holiday destination?

NICKY: 'I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some gorgeous places. But I would have to say the week I was invited to St Barth’s with some of my best friends two years ago was one of my best trips ever.   On the whole anywhere hot and sunny is fine by me whether its Brighton or Malibu.'

DONNA IDA: How did you get started?

NICKY: 'Two years ago I co-founded JIYA with my Mum. As far back as I can remember she has been collecting handmade artisan jewellery on our travels, and not surprisingly I have inherited the same passion. Two Summers ago whilst on a road trip in California we decided to create our own brand, naming it JIYA, which means ‘a little piece of my heart’. We spent over two years sourcing, curating and designing the collection which is vibrantly colourful and handwoven with gold and silver beads, so no two pieces are identical. We approached buyers who immediately stocked us and JIYA was effectively born. This year we plan to expand our collection with necklaces and take JIYA to Paris and New York so it's all very exciting.'

DONNA IDA: What inspires you?

NICKY: 'JIYA’s known for its fabulously vibrant colours. For this I am constantly inspired by my visits to Moma in New York, the Saatchi Gallery and the wonderful designs from Missoni . My biggest inspiration is London, the city I consider to be the best in world for design and fashion. As a designer I constantly take photographs wherever I go and have created a huge scrapbook of images and looks which help me when I sit down to develop our new collections. The new colours in our St. Barths collection were actually inspired by the new Matisse cutouts exhibition at the Tate Modern!'

DONNA IDA: What is your business mantra?

NICKY: 'Collaboration, empathy and a lot of fun and laughter are the key to success.'

DONNA IDA: If you weren’t a designer/founder what would you do?

NICKY: 'Apart from going to University for my degree, I don’t think I can imagine doing anything else! If I hadn’t co-founded JIYA I would probably be pursuing my love of art and printmaking or be doing something else in fashion.'

DONNA IDA: Describe your style highs and lows?

NICKY: 'My style low would have to be a full-on camouflage ensemble I had when going through my tomboy phase aged ten, cargo pants with dragons are never making a comeback. I’m not sure if I’ve reached a style ‘high’ yet I’m still experimenting with clothes and fashion but I think the fun of it is making mistakes and learning from them at this age.'

DONNA IDA: What advice would you give to a younger you?

NICKY: 'Be brave in your decisions and also to enjoy the journey and be confident in your achievements!

DONNA IDA: What's next?

NICKY: 'We are off to Paris this Summer for some trade shows and we have just launched our new range of neon necklaces which are in Donna Ida stores. We will be travelling this Summer sourcing and creating new pieces for our collection, and hope to take JIYA to a new international level……….USA here we come!!'

Wildfox Comp

HOLIDAY COMPETITION - We have three JIYA Jewellery bracelets plus a Wildfox 'Vacation Forever' Tee in Small to give away to one lucky winner. To enter - follow @donnaidadenim @jiyajewellery & @WildfoxUK with the hashtag #holiday and RT #Competition #Win #holiday treats from @donnaidadenim with @jiyajewellery & @WildfoxUK tee.

Competition closes at midnight on 29th June 2014. Winner will be chosen at random and notified within 48 hours. Ts&Cs apply. No cash alternatives. Items cannot be exchanged.

Shop Jiya. Shop Designers.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published