With every trend, there are leaders and followers; Valery Demure has squarely invested in the former, amassing some of the independent jewelry world’s most noted creators, including Ed Griffiths, Florian Ladstaetter, and Natalia Brilli. Speaking candidly about the jewelry industry, Demure talks to Mary Fellowes of British Vogue about why she started her agency, the dearth of true creators in the field, and her overall vision of the jewelry landscape.
JCR: Tell us how your agency corrals such diverse and hard-hitting talents?
VD: I decided to start my agency out of frustration. I had been a buyer for a small, well-known jewelry gallery in London and realized that jewelry designers were not promoted like fashion designers. I so appreciated the craftsmanship and humility of people such as Scott Wilson, Naomi Filmer, and Shaun Leane. I could not understand why such talents were not promoted more and celebrated in magazines. Then things kind of changed, and also a new generation of [jewelry] designers were appearing with a little press budget and a little structure as well, and I decided to do press and to sell these “new” designers. I wanted to help them with their image, by choosing the right press and the right stores for them. I wanted to stay elitist for them. I want them to stay special.
JCR: What unites all the artists/designers in your stable? How do you decide if a designer is right for you to represent?
VD: All the designers I represent have a link to fashion. They are all “out there,” and they also have a strong identity. I would not take on someone who is copying someone else. It actually happened recently, and I refused to represent that designer as I did not find his work original, and I could see which other designer he had been influenced by. I can also take someone who is a bit commercial; I like diversity, that must be from my buyer’s background. I can also see the significance of a designer such as Florian Ladstaetter. I do not draw comparisons between the designers I represent, I try to take them where they wish and need to go. However, my designers tend to sell in the same style of stores and attract the same kinds of publications. I do not wish to “go commercial,” I like to imagine my designers at their bench. I do not like cheap brands that pretend to be proper jewelry although they’re mass produced in Asia. I want to represent craftsmen with good ethos. I’m also not especially interested in precious stones: for me, they come to us with too much misery on their trail.
JCR: What does the rise of so many independent jewelry lines doing both inexpensive and super-luxe pieces mean for the jewelry behemoths?
VD: It is hard to tell. It’s possible that the big jewelry companies become more aware of fashion, image, and trends because of the emergence of independent jewelry labels and designers. Garrard, for example, appoints Jade Jagger as their creative director to rejuvenate their image. De Beers is using Iman as their face for advertising; Asprey appointed Hussein Chalayan as designer for their womenswear; Cartier offers consultancy to trendy Lara Bohinc; new fine jewelry boutique Wint & Kidd in London get their interior designed by Matthew Williamson. At the same time, these independent designers are no competition for the big ones, despite growing success for people such as Shaun Leane and Stephen Webster — who work with precious metals and stones. In jewelry, like in fashion, you have different markets: high street, fashion independent; craft-based art; and fine, luxury jewelry.
JCR: The role of accessories in the fashion industry has always been very significant, but especially recently, bigger designer houses are pushing and expanding their lines more and more — do you think there will be a backlash in the next five years, and how might designers such as yours respond?
VD: No, I do not think there will be a backlash. I think accessories are here to stay, whether super-luxe or cheap. There are loads of reasons for jewelry to be more and more significant. Women and men are trying to define their identity, their style more with accessories than clothes, as clothes have become boring. The brands are now so copied by the high street, it is all the same. Each season is the same: ’60s revival, ’70s revival, bohemian, Edwardian, hippy chic, gypsy, ethnic, ’80s revival. I used to be a big fashion junkie; now I have grown bored of clothes, and the best way for me to express my style is to accessorize with a necklace, earrings, belt, handbag, or shoes. Also something I see a lot are people who are rejected by the fashion industry. Big people, for example, are real consumers of accessories. They do not find what they want in clothing stores, and these people spend big budgets on accessories. There is such a diversity of independent talents who have their vision, not dictated by marketing. They will stay if they get developed well.
JCR: These days, jewelry design seems more akin to art than fashion. Is this due to the greater sense of creative freedom in that area?
VD: Yes, I think jewelry design is not so dictated by fashion, by showing twice a year, by trends and colors and materials. In the jewelry world, there is such great freedom. I know jewelry designers using concrete, wood, ice, chocolate, sequins, textiles, ceramic, food, flowers, feathers, fur, and rubber. Also, jewelery designers tend to have skills, a certain craftsmanship. A few designers also have fantastic vision and poetry; they are the Chalayans, the McQueens, the Gallianos of jewelry.
JCR: How is jewelry design currently influencing other disciplines?
VD: I think jewelry designers are more and more ready to collaborate with fashion designers, shoe designers, interior designers. Some of my designers are really considering creating interior designs and objects; some of them are collaborating with filmmakers (Ed Griffiths with The Da Vinci Code film); theater companies (Natalia Brilli a set designer with Brussels theatre in the past, as well as Sonja Bischur); dance companies (Agathe Saint-Giron with Philippe Decouflé); Florian Ladstaetter with shoe maker Adele Clarke; Naomi Filmer creating beautiful cocktail glasses for Chivas Revolve. I could well imagine someone like Scott Wilson creating amazing lampshades, objects made of Perspex. These designers have real skills, and a big majority of fashion designers do not manage to get out of their discipline because they do not have the craftsmanship required. I feel there are more and more designers and less and less makers. And everything gets made in Vietnam, China, and Hong Kong! You can still see someone like Shaun Leane working at his bench and having great pleasure doing so.
Photos: Scott Wilson Perspex headpiece
Husam El Odeh leather glove
Husam El Odeh with Borba Margo multi-centric belts
Florian Ladstaetter necklace-dress-coat sculpture
Florian Ladstaetter’s window installation at B Store “Beads”
Natalia Brilli handmade necklace
Naomi Filmer ice ring
Scott Stephen handmade necklace