By Francesca Fearon in London
Fine jewellery is, as a rule, presented on suede cushions in brightly lit vitrines to be appreciated and admired, but giving the onlooker little sense of how it might appear when worn. However, the growing fanfare around the catwalk collections is offering jewellers a fresh way of connecting with the public. Such is the immediacy of the internet that we can watch catwalk shows live online and, within minutes, are able to zoom in on the details whether it be a shoe, a necklace or an earring. This gives us an instant picture of how a jewel might be worn.
Not surprisingly this has led to a growing number of collaborations between fashion and jewellery designers. This month (February) the fine gold mesh pendants, coin necklaces and architectural rings Matthew Williamson designed with Egyptian jeweller Azza Fahmy go on sale, along with his spring fashion collection. "(It) captures our mutual appreciation of nature," says Azza Fahmy of their quirky collaboration. For Matthew Williamson, meanwhile, it was exploring new territory. "It has been a really interesting process collaborating with Azza Fahmy and adding some of my design DNA into this collection." A second collection has just been unveiled at London Fashion Week.
Elsewhere on the catwalk, fur, the iconic symbol of Fendi, was combined with jeweller Delfina Delettrez Fendi's signature motif, the eye, for a fluffy, playful group of jewels she designed to accompany Karl Lagerfeld's spring catwalk collection for the brand. Delfina Delletrez is the daughter of Silvia Venturini Fendi (the handbag brains behind the iconic Italian fur and leather goods brand), but this is the first time she has collaborated with the family firm.
Modelling expensive jewellery with fashion presents its own problems for reasons of practicality and security. Behind closed doors, at private salons in Paris, a couturier might present with a jewellery house for a few select clients. Cartier and Harry Winston are amongst those who have provided jewels. Nevertheless, Dolce & Gabbana have designed and commissioned collections of precious jewellery every bit as lavish as their exclusive Alta Moda fashion. The covetable jewellery is sold with the couture clothes, but items not sold were recently offered at a private sale at Christie's.
In an interview in the Daily Telegraph, Stefano Gabbana explained how he and Domenico Dolce would "sketch the jewellery as we contemplated the clothes. The approach we take is to mix the antique with the modern. With the jewellery we had to think about the uniqueness of each piece, as we did with the clothes."
Catwalk collaborations also encompass designs by jewellers commissioned to create pieces specifically for a show. Luigi Scialunga has worked with Giambattista Valli since the beginning, designing boldly sculpted chokers and bracelets to be worn with Valli's glamorous ready-to-wear and haute couture dresses, although Scialunga does also design pieces for Valli's boutique and special clients. "Luigi is unconventional in his way of working (sculptures), very intellectual," says Valli. "He likes the sculptures and the fact that there is a lot of conversation between them in the creation process."
Not all creative initiatives are in fine jewellery. Tom Binns, the LA-based jeweller known for his luxe-punk style, designed delicate safety pin and chain pieces in a one-off excursion for Jason Wu in 2012. And for the past three seasons, Manish Arora has teamed up with Amrapali to create headdresses, earrings and neon-bright bracelets. Arora plunders the Amrapali archive and then gives it his own spin using crystal enamel and gold plate with stunning results. "This gives added exposure to Amrapali and is a great link up with a shared Indian heritage," says Sameer Liliani, Amrapali's UK director. So the benefits are felt both by the jeweller and the fashion designer, while the consumer gets a new showcase to admire these delectable jewels.