Well, the manuscript for Jewellery for Gentlemen is finished and at the last count we have about 500 pictures in the files; many of them shot especially for the book by Andy Barnham. I’ve gone cross-eyed checking thousands of Academy Award, Met Gala, BAFTA and Emmy red carpet shots looking for decent photographs of handsome men in high jewellery. I’ve trawled museum collections, art galleries and archives for fabulous examples of jewellery for gents.
We had a summit meeting at Thames & Hudson this morning to redesign the Frankfurt Book Fair presentation for Jewellery for Gents now we’ve got such embarrassing visual riches. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a volume of pictures to work on with Pete ‘Grade Design’ Dawson. For me this is the fun stage after the solitary confinement of writing the text.
My cultural horizons have been considerably broadened by Jewellery for Gents. There have been some very unexpected stars to emerge from the picture research. I’d never really heard of actor Alexander Skarsgard but he is certainly going to make the book look a whole lot prettier. I adore the way he wears jewellery; inspired perhaps by girlfriend the stylist Alexa Chung. For the Met Ball in New York he wore a Cartier Juste un Clou 18ct yellow gold nail pin in the lapel of his dinner jacket.
I’ll tell you who I think wears fine men’s jewellery beautifully and that’s Lewis Hamilton. Will Smith opened the door to one carat diamond earrings becoming totally mainstream but what I love about Lewis is his refined taste in bracelets. Cartier’s Juste un Clou is such a classic bisexual piece of jewellery that a whole new generation has adopted. Lewis Hamilton took it further by championing the pavé set white diamond Juste un Clou.
What I was looking for in the Jewellery for Gentlemen style icons was relevance to a new generation of men. I also wanted the guys to look like masculine, credible role models who have moved on from Hip-Hop and Rock & Roll bling. So there isn’t any Chrome Hearts in the book and neither do we see Karl Lagerfeld or Sir Elton John. Both have exquisite taste in antique jewellery but, being extremists, dare to wear jewels that would be a code red for most chaps.
There is a huge amount of antique jewellery originally set for women but worn by men in the book and I found a ground rule while considering what makes a jewel masculine. Rule number one is that floral brooches set with precious stones make perfect sense as an alternative buttonhole. There’s very little off-limits to men in black tie or cocktail suits though one does have to pay attention to scale and make sure the piece of jewellery doesn’t look out of proportion.
The more feminine the jewel, the more rough and ready the clothing needs to be. I love to see a guy in jeans and tee wearing a slim white diamond line bracelet or a black diamond pendant in a totally chilled fashion. I also like the bravery of a man such as Marc Jacobs rocking a 60s Futurist Andrew Grima pendant. It takes a fashion genius to understand the Picasso of 20th century jewellery.
When styling a lapel pin on black tie or a cocktail suit, it was surprising to see that Edwardian white diamond hair and corsage jewellery – starbursts, crescent moons, butterflies, dragonflies – look absolutely stunning on men’s tailoring. Similarly, Art Deco bar brooches can migrate successfully to the breast pocket of an evening suit and look totally appropriate.
It has been a privilege to handle pieces by Fabergé, Boucheron, Cartier, Van Cleef, Belperron, Verdura and Flato who are, to me, the grand masters of jewellery design. It was equally marvellous to style pieces by the London Leopards Stephen Webster, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Theo Fennell and Shaun Leane. Taking historic jewellery and making it relevant to a contemporary man has been gratifying as has being taught a lesson or two by the modern masters.
Jewellery for Gentlemen isn’t going to land until well into 2018 giving time to sell foreign language editions. But once the product is there we can work it and have a long lead time to plan launch parties and cross-pollinating projects. It has only taken forty-five years to work out that the books are actually a bloody good investment and act as calling cards to bring in new work. Good to know.
Books are labour intensive – particularly lavishly illustrated ones hoping to bring something new to an overcrowded market – but only a fool would say ‘they don’t make money’. They do if they are used to inspire exhibitions, shopping concepts, television and other commercial activities. It has also taken me forty-five years to work out that if what you do makes other people money, they will pay you to keep doing it.
The lesson for me this year is that we do tend to narrow our sphere of interest when actually it pays in this day and age to be as inquisitive and flexible as possible. Warhol might have said ‘repetition equals reputation’ but repetition for me is death. One you’ve said all you’ve got to say on a subject, to continue is to either bore yourself or bore others.