Originally published in
Rodeo
,
December 2004
As fashion continues its quest for the shock of the new while curiously persisting to look to the past for inspiration each season, the field of jewellery design is where true innovation is flourishing. Less tied to mandatory trends, new jewellery makers are creating a breeding ground for change. Here we showcase six emerging European jewellery designers, each one from a different country, a different background and with very different ideas about what is making accessories tick right now.
When you make something to be put on the body you are both covering it and revealing it at the same time

HUSAM EL ODEH

German born Husam El Odeh studied fine art at Hochschule der Kuenste in Berlin before relocating to London in 1999. Becoming frustrated with the medium through which he expressed his body conscious aesthetic, he swapped the canvas for jewellery. “My art played on its proximity to the body and was based on traces of the physical form so it seemed like a natural progression, almost a physical urge, to make the move,” he explains. “I like the fact that when you make something to be put on the body you are both covering it and revealing it at the same time.”

His jewellery exudes a sensitivity to the mood evoked by how materials compliment each other. From making a soft ribbon into a highly structured corset-fastened choker to a tailor made eye mask that zips up completely while conforming exactly to the contours of its wearer’s head, there’s both a distance and closeness to each piece. “I tend to make quite stern, masculine jewellery - my ethos is very German in that respect - but it can be flattering for a woman as well. By putting it on a female body it creates an interesting visual tension.”

Other pieces are not meant to be worn at all. For his latest collection, he’s covered items such a set of keys with fur and soft leather, turning the ordinary into the mythical. “That’s my baby right now, you’re expecting something cold and metalic and you get something soft. It doesn’t need to be worn, it’s about and how you feel when you hold it.”

Form never conquers over function however. The 27-year-old is yet to finish his BA at Middlesex University but already boasts stockists in both London and Tokyo and is currently designing a line for Marios Schwab, so he also understands how to turn his artistic bent into desirable consumables. “As long as I can change someone’s way of perceiving an object and survive while continuing to do interesting work, I don’t see why I have to compromise.”

SCOTT STEPHEN

To look at Scott Stephen’s jewellery, you’d never guess he hailed from the chilly Scottish city of Dundee. Equal parts exotica, frivolity and Bohemian chic, his luxury gems are more high fashion than highlands yet it was his homeland’s rich textile history that originally launched him on his current path. He graduated from the Printed Textiles BA at Duncan of Jordonstone College of Art in Dundee in 2000 and immediately found himself in Milan designing couture fabrics for the likes of Gaultier and Dior. Then frustration set in. “I adored it initially but whereas before I’d been allowed to be very expressive with my work, now it was very restrictive in terms of personal input.” Searching for an outlet for his creativity, he’d take home remnants of Chanel tweeds and boucles and began to construct new shapes and forms. “I gave them away to friends and family and got a great response so I moved back to London, showed them to Liberty and they bought the first collection.”

Despite having no formal jewellery training, by Autumn/Winter 2002, Scott had an impressive list of buyers for his first full cohesive collection. Making butterflies from feathers and flowers from fabric, he began to include found objects, Swarvovski crystals and cameos into his romantic and melodramatic looks. He has since made room for collaborations with FrostFrench and Collette Dinnigan on his CV and for Spring/Summer 05, he’s turned to Japanese kabuki theatre and the art deco painter Erte for fresh inspiration. Each trinket is hand crafted by Scott himself in a huge variety of materials including netting, glass, wood and leather as well as traditional Scottish Harris tweeds in a riot of colour, shape and scale. “I gather materials and push them beyond their conventional characteristics and I’m rarely happy with each component unless I’ve spent hours creating it.”

The result is a labour of love that turns the ordinary into the cherished and gives the inanimate a come hither quality. “Jewellery is about ornamenting yourself. It has to be beautiful to wear but also incredibly tactile, something you want to touch and explore,” he concludes. “For me it’s important not to follow trends but to explore my own vision.”
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ANNA OSMER ANDERSEN

Anna Osmer Andersen’s outsized body adornments look like they’ve been steeped in one of Alice In Wonderland’s ‘Drink Me’ potions. The Danish designer originally experimented with “nice jewellery people could wear” but by the time she finished her degree at London’s Guildhall University in 2001, her ideas had roamed into far more experimental territory. “At first I fumbled around with metal jewellery but I found it hard to be original,” she recalls. “Then I tried leather, which lead me onto antique fabrics and that changed my whole approach.”

Andersen continued to hone her style during her MA at the Royal College of Art, which culminated in the recent graduate collection Poor But Posh. “Living in East London, I would walk through these concrete estates that looked poor from the outside but inside they would be over the top in a very English way with net curtains and porcelain horses everywhere. It was trying to look posh but wasn’t really.” She working with old curtains and scarves she bought from jumble sales and made big pom poms that sit comfortingly on shoulders and hips. “The idea was that they’d create support for the old people I imagined lived in these flats.”

Anna’s most recent work takes the form of traditional repeat shape chains in a variety of magnified scales and realised in padded patchwork. Infused with a sense of 3D humour, these aren’t pieces you’d wear to pop down to the supermarket. “I want to make things that can be seen, not something small, crafty and conservative but next I’m working towards pieces that are a little bit more wearable.” Considering Anna already counts Björk among her customers, you can bet she’ll be stretching the term ‘wearable’ more than most.

WILLIAM CHESHIRE

William Cheshire gave mens’ jewellery a much-needed wake up call upon his arrival on the scene back in 2001. He originally studied furniture at Leeds University and worked as a painter and decorator before winning an apprenticeship at a London jewellery shop in 1992. Learning the ropes while working on commissions for the likes of Paul Smith, he noticed a gap in the gents market. “Having so many men come in asking for jewellery, I decided to respond to their needs and throw myself in at the deep end. I wanted to take the jingle jangle car dealer image out of it and make jewellery that was more refined and elegant and challenged men to wear it.”

His early pieces were simple silver but he soon turned to pop culture and incorporate more graphic and contemporary allusions into successive collections. His first hit was a necklace inspired by the backlights of a Chrysler car and it still sells well to this day alongside more recent collections. “Petrol Head is based on the wings and badges of vintage cars. Another collection about the word Truth. Truth has got me through a lot of ups and down so I’ve emblemised it in black sapphires on rings to make it even more important. And the Whatever collection is inspired by the way that word has come into slang as a really disposable put down so by turning it into a piece of jewellery it becomes more prized. It also makes people laugh.”

William’s accessible, understated style has lead to ongoing working relationships with A Bathing Ape, bespoke tailor Mark Powell and Silas and Maria and his music celebrity clientele is second to none with Michael Stipe, Dido, Ash and Manic Street Preachers all knocking on his door. Still not impressed? Whatever.

FLORIAN LADSTÄTTER

Is it jewellery or is it art? Don’t get Florian Ladstätter started. The Vienna-based designer isn’t that easily pigeon-holed. He has university degrees in both Metal Design and Philosophy and has dabbled in lighting, furniture, video installation and sculpture in his 37 years. He’s been making jewellery since he was a teenager and views the art form as far more than mere accessory. “My main interest is exploring new materials, their relation to human bodies and the techniques of shaping them to create a spontaneous holistic aesthetic experience and thus liberation and happiness,” he decrees. “I love playing with concepts but avoid a conceptual content that people have to work at intellectually instead of simply enjoying the design.”

Formalising his work into official collections for the last two seasons, he presents several stories in tandem. The Russian Glamour line was inspired by a trip to St Petersburg and ranges from opulent one-off pieces in precious metals and gemstones to simple wooden beaded necklaces. “I loved the elegance of the Czar’s capital, the monumental Soviet splendour and walking through a forest over green moss and red soil. I don’t care that the resulting designs are more about my fantasies of Russia than the reality.”

The Bubble collection compromises of acrylic bubbles on lightweight mock metallic beads chains. “Far from pretending to be precious, the necklaces unfold their energy through the airy look of the bubbles that also evoke connotations of vanity. Somehow bubbles are the most wonderful form of nothing yet are finally the thing we like the most.”

Joyellery are objects of desire that interface with the body in a directly sexual way while his famous face pendants fool around with our conception of heroes. Ladstätter makes ironic tributes to Lady Diana, Colonel Kadafi, Michael Jackson, Michael Moore and Mother Teresa, each one immortalised in plastic and playing with Florian’s interest in Derrida’s deconstructivist concepts. So is absent or present? Is it jewellery or is it art? Well neither. “I prefer the way Ted Polhemus refers to different forms of manipulating and enhancing human appearance instead. In Germany they say ‘schmuck’. I also like the Dutch ‘sieren’.”

BÉNÉDICTE

Bénédicte Mouret has been obsessed with jewellery ever since she raided her grandmother’s drawers as a little girl. “I found all sorts of old jewellery, medals and engagement rings and studied these amazing treasures, deciphering the engraved names. My grandmother told me that no woman should part with her jewellery, even broken, because of its sentimental value. I have been interested ever since in the feelings invested in an object and the history it holds.” Born in Marseille, she studied at London’s Central Saint Martins before moving to Paris to set up her workshop in 2001. Her work since then has been inspired by a nostalgia for the early 20 th century ideal of the sexually ambiguous, elegantly provocative woman.

Her first collection Tenue de Soirée referenced mens’ clothing symbols such as collars and bowties in a discrete, playful and ultimately feminine fashion. Successive lines such as Couture, Tuxedo and Mademoiselle extended Bénédicte’s philosophy with lace-effect silver cuffs, ribbon collars and button stud earrings referencing the polar symbolic values of lingerie and masculine tailoring. Yet it’s her work for Spring/Summer 05 that is by far her most fetishist and delicate yet. Taking the needle as a motif for woman’s expression, silver sequins stitch together with silk thread and satin bows, all seen through the eye of the needle in Aiguille. “It’s both a couture tool and phallic object. It has a powerful, sharp form yet used in a positive way it creates a link. I’m trying to tell a story so I design for a fictional heroine, an abstract character every woman can want to be.”

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