Strength and Courage through the eyes and lens of Lune Kuipers

Inspired by The Leone Medallion, one of the first pieces founder, Rosh Mahtani, made for herself as a secret reminder to be strong in moments of self-doubt, The Leone Series documents strength and courage through the eyes and lens of people who inspire us.

Here, stylist and set designer, Lune Kuipers, talks to Rosh about career crossroads, relocating to Paris and the power of collaboration.

RM: I founded Alighieri when I was in a really dark time in my life - I looked to Dante Alighieri’s journey through the selva oscura for comfort and found so much strength in his story. The Leone Medallion was one of the first pieces I made, for myself, as a secret reminder to be strong in moments of self-doubt. How do you remind yourself to be strong in moments of self doubt? 

LK: I’m someone who always tries to see the positive but in this job, where many elements are out of your control, I definitely have moments of self-doubt.  Whenever this happens I try to take a moment to look back at recent projects I’m proud of, and try to be appreciative of the pleasant little things of daily life. Visiting an interesting exhibition or long walk also always helps me to clear my head. 

RM: At Alighieri, we create talismanic jewellery as armour for your everyday adventures - the ritual of arming yourself for the day is at the heart of what we love. Do you have any sentimental pieces in your jewellery box that bring you strength in your life? 

LK: I sadly lost one of my most precious pieces - a pair of earrings from the Indonesian side of my family which I always wore. I never really took them out, but unfortunately lost them when I went surfing, so they are now somewhere at the bottom of the ocean. The other piece that was passed down to me and that I really cherish is the wedding ring of my great-grandmother. Right after I was born my mom dreamt that her grandmother changed into me. When, years later, I received her ring I noticed in the inscription that her wedding day was on the same day as my birthday. It also features a moonstone - my name means moon - and so this made my mom’s dream even more meaningful.

RM: After studying Dante’s Divine Comedy at university, I felt lost and didn’t know what path to take next. I began to play with wax and began creating a piece of jewellery inspired by each one of his poems - it was through this love of playing and sense of curiosity that Alighieri was created. What was your own personal journey to where you are now? Was your path always linear?

LK: I knew from a young age that I wanted to become a stylist, but it definitely hasn’t been a smooth ride. Many times I've wondered why I choose this path full of ups and downs, instead of a more regular life back home. Then when things had finally settled down a bit I started to explore set design. I’m currently trying to find a balance between styling and set design. 

RM: Dante Alighieri’s journey was not linear, he had so many ups and downs as he travelled through Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. Alighieri celebrates the beauty of human imperfection, and part of our mission is to acknowledge that life can sometimes be difficult - bringing people together through shared stories of vulnerability. Are there any particular challenges you’re facing in your life at the moment? 

LK: At the moment I’m feeling very fortunate. Right after the first lockdown I moved from London to Paris. Settling into a new city during the pandemic, with work being slow and all the lockdowns and curfews making it difficult to meet new people (or even seeing the people I already knew there), was hard. Having been there now for two years it feels like things have really started to fall into place - both with work and in my personal life.

RM: Alighieri is all about objects rooted in stories - each piece has a story and invites the wearer to unlock their own. What’s the most personal and powerful story you’ve told through your work?

LK: Together with some of my friends I once collaborated on a project for Primary Paper which became an exploration of our friendship and the female body. We all met the year before during a hike for charity in the Atlas Mountains and instantly connected. We collectively worked on the idea, the two photographers of our friend group shot simultaneously, some of us modelled and one of the girls wrote a beautiful essay inspired by the imagery. I loved that everyone's role was equally important, which isn't always the case in my work.

RM: If you offer anybody in the world (past or present) strength and courage in the form of a Leone Medallion, who would it be? 

LK: My dear friend Alice. She’s a very talented writer, who is currently at a crossroads in her career - that difficult moment where you have to try to figure out whether or not to give up your full time job, and the security that comes with it, to fully focus on something you love.

Photography by Lune Kuipers