Ortaea is a jewelry brand launched in 2016 by Mita Vohra. A sleek, hot, and very contemporary line of fine jewelry that is probably very different from what you have seen before. Ortaea is is the realization of the contemporary view of how a jewelry brand should communicate with the consumer of today.
An intriguing name; Ortaea. It combines the Latin word Ortus which means origin, rising and new beginnings and Gaea, the Greek Mythological Goddess of Earth and Creation. And Mita is no less intriguing: Mita has spent 14 years in the jewelry business before launching her own line but did you know that she also is a director of Sarova Hotels Kenya, sits on the boards of various property development companies and is a Trustee of the Sandy Vohra Foundation?
To be very honest with you, I discovered Mita Vohra’s jewelry brand through her PR lady, Sally Keeble. She brought the brand and the person to my attention and as soon as I saw the images of the jewelry and read the story behind it, I was intrigued and requested an interview.
Esther: Where did you grow up and what can you tell us about your younger years?
Mita: Born in Kenya to a family in hospitality, I had a truly magical childhood growing up amidst many cultures, adventuring on safaris and experiencing the wonders of nature. Kenya is the place where my heart feels at home. There is something grounding and special about it.
When you gaze at a starry night’s endless sky with full sight of the milky way, witness the laws of the natural world unfolding in front of you as you travel through a national park/reserve or dive into the gardens of the oceans and coral reefs – you feel elation and awe. You know at this moment that you are part of something so vast that it is almost unfathomable.
Ultimately we are all made of the same matter and we are so interconnected, as are all our ecosystems and I grew up in a family believing in the greater good. One door you help open, one child you educate one tree you plant, becomes part of a greater whole.
Esther: What was in your eyes, the moment you decided that your future was in jewelry?
Mita: Jewelry did not have its one moment as such for me but instead grew into my life in a deep and organic way, like it was meant for me. The passion began with beauty and adornment and grew into awe for the elemental nature of gold and gems as gifts from the earth. I am a curious person and I am deeply fascinated by nature and the interconnectivity of ecosystems. I believe creativity is boundless when you are curious and jewelry is an abounding form of expression.
With Ortaea I had that moment where a decision was made to launch my own brand. It was in Iceland in full view of the symphony of the Northern Lights where I knew that my passion for nature would be at the core of its inspiration and that the environment and also the sheer awe of nature would be part of my communication. It was a clarity that combined passion and purpose.
Esther: what was the scariest thing you had to overcome in order to create the jewelry you make today?
Mita: Launching a new brand in a crowded space of fine jewelry was definitely scary although I had a vision of the style of pieces and the voice that I wanted Ortaea to have. Sleepless nights! Many! I think it comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur, but so does faith and passion. In a way, I believe that there is less risk in fine jewelry as it holds an intrinsic value that cannot be lost and over time it appreciates. I have learned to manage sleep deprivation and run on adrenaline when it’s needed and allow the learning and transformation to flow and not resist it.
My experiences have taught me that there will always be challenges and many of them have pushed me to surpass limitations and to see a truth I could not see or break a boundary I didn’t believe I could. I do not as such belief in mistakes or failure but instead in experiences that you learn and grow from and the risks that sometimes surprise you.
I will say that the most stressful and unknown time for me was when I was about to launch Ortaea. The pressure of only 90 days to launch my brand in the Fine Jewellery Room at Harvey Nichols when we had not yet finalized the brand name and not a single piece was ready-made this period one of the most challenging, nerve-racking, sleepless and yet exciting times of my life. I have learned that there is ALWAYS a way. I have also learned that everything is a process and there is no perfection and that our fear can sometimes overpower our agile ability within, to rise to the occasion.
Esther: What is the best way to find and engage with consumers today, in your opinion?
Mita: On one hand, the marketing space online has allowed a brand’s visibility that at one time was unimaginable and I think that this is a very powerful space to create awareness and understand the audience. Data is more accessible than ever and can guide all our market and marketing moves. It’s about having the focus, creativity, and patience to market to and reach the people who truly connect to your brand. The importance of being dynamic, open and in constant learning is an important part of this and I know this because I have at times been surprised by who our core audience is for specific collections.
On the other hand, every space in fine jewelry has become more crowded than ever and it is important to distinguish ourselves and truly understand the client. From my experience, I believe that design, craft, and stories find their audience. I also believe that people connect to people and personalized service, experiences and engagement is key as a differentiating factor.
Esther: What can you share about your passion for nature and the well-being of the people and the planet? Are you concerned about the specific problems we face today, such as geopolitical powerplay, denial by certain world leaders of an existing climate crisis, and the mindless handling of so many of our -limited- natural resources?
Mita: My passion for nature is entrenched in me. When I am in nature I feel alive in every cell of my body. It is my space of curiosity, creativity, awe, and wonder. If we can just imagine how each ecosystem works within our environment and then the interconnectivity of all ecosystems to provide us with all our sustenance. Nature is everything.
Ortaea’s soul of inspiration lies in Nature. We also revel in the idea that the source of each gem is from the core of the earth and has a unique vibration, special hue, and reflection of light. We seek to work on projects that can contribute towards both the environment and empowerment. As Ortaea we build awareness through messaging that is part of the story of each collection. Our Koral collections speak to the significance of coral reefs within the ocean ecosystems, Maji is primarily about the magic and flow of water and the ocean whilst Imperium is about the Birch Tree as a symbol of Nature as Imperium. In 2018 we raised € 150,000 at the Monaco Gala for the Ocean presided by HSH Prince Albert of Monaco and this year we have raised €200,000. We also participated in AMFAR’s 2019 gala in Milan over fashion week to support AIDS research and have in the past donated pieces to Build Africa and Farms not Factories in London. Ortaea also contributes to the Sandy Vohra foundation which is focused on the environment, education/skill and health. We are currently participating in supporting and rebuilding a school of 300 children in one of Nairobi’s slums.
Ultimately even those who deny climate change recognize that oceans and education are key to our future as a society. This path is a process. It will take each person, each politician and combined resources but each step we each make also matters. We now see youth engaging in the environment on another level and we may see technology find a new and powerful way to reverse carbon footprint.
Esther: Best education tips for anyone interested in jewelry?
Mita: If it’s for you only buy what you absolutely love! If it’s an investment or heirloom either buy for iconic design and craft or for the intrinsic value and possible incremental values in the gems in a piece.
Esther: Of which, achievement, personal or professional are you the proudest?
Mita: I would say both personally and professionally Ortaea is what I am proudest of. I believe that as we build we will become a greater voice for the environment and empowerment and with it, we will increasingly have projects that invest in people and the environment.
Esther: What book(s) did you give away most and why, or what 3 books did have the most impact on your life? (and how or why?)
Esther: Your favorite gemstone?
Mita: To wear regularly I love diamonds. They represent Venus and are so amenable to highly designed and textured pieces and forms. They are also colorless and so translate with most of what one wears and they take you from day to evening. As a special piece, I would love a minor oil Columbian emerald because they speak to me and something in me is entranced when I look at such gems. Emerald is the color of nature, abundance and heart center, and healing so the resonance is also deep with me.
Esther: Something completely different: your favorite app?
Apple Music and Shazam because I love music from classical and opera to reggaetón and house it enlivens me.
Esther: What have you bought under 250 euro that you really loved, recently?
Mita: SK2 Serum.
Esther: What is your own favorite jewel and why?
Mita: I don’t have a favorite jewel. I love hoops earrings in all shapes and sizes and it’s a signature in every Ortaea collection even if the shapes are very abstract. I also love statement cuffs. As a creator, they provide so much design space and scope and they represent some of my most creative pieces. As a wearer, it is a piece that I enjoy the most because you can enjoy and appreciate it all the while you wear it.
Esther: Inspiration, it can come in many forms, nature is yours, what does nature mean to you? What does the animal kingdom mean to you? Your Amazonian collection is coming up. Can we expect animal jewelry? Or can you share more about this collection?
Amazon is a very exciting collection that we will be launching next year. The first series will be very focused on the trees and the waterfalls of the forest however we will have one of a kind and limited edition pieces representing key iconic birds/insects/animals of the forests. The collections are still in early development and we are planning to collaborate with a documentary filmmaker who is making an incredible awareness and hope story so that we can create awareness together. We also plan a line as part of this to raise funds for reforestation however we are yet to find the right medium for this.
We believe in the power of stories. We believe that all jewelry either has a story or will become part of the story of the owner. What is your take on storytelling in jewelry
We very much believe in telling stories through jewels. Each collection has a story behind it and each piece has a detail that expounds that story. Many of our coral and Waterflow pieces are derived from the forms and created around an important asset of an ecosystem to highlight its beauty and its importance. Our Armor collection speaks to the power within and it is the collection that connects us to the empowerment of children and youth through education but also a reminder to every woman every day that that power is within her.
Here is a brand that has everything sorted out. If you look at the consumer of today and tomorrow, Ortaea is the kind of brand that they seek. There is a strong sense of responsibility for people and the Earth, there are dreams and stories to tell. There is a strong coherent collection, which isn't burdened by past collections but is complete ''NOW". Obviously, Ortaea is a fine jewelry brand and prices are not found on the website, which normally indicates that they are on the higher side, but there is a large group of women who'll love to purchase this kind of jewelry. Mita told me that 75-80% of her clientele are self-purchasing women of all age groups. Women who are confident and have achieved goals in their life. Sure; reading her story may leave me and you a little blown away. How much can a person achieve! But I hope that through all that, you'll see that brands like Ortaea are what jewelry should be about in the future. A core value, a relatable story, relevant and yes; absolutely gorgeous jewelry!
London SW1X 7RJ