You first studied to be an engineer. How did you make the leap to designing jewelry?
Anissa Kermiche: Growing up in Paris, my family encouraged me to take a scientific degree. Having spent a few years working for a consulting firm, I recognised an enduring passion for jewelry and the lack of creativity in my work made me feel quite unhappy. So I decided to cross the English channel and ended up studying at Central Saint Martin’s — staying six years in London. I started my business shortly after graduation. I was very naïve at the time to the realities of running a company and had limited experience in the jewelry trade. The first 2 years were incredibly intensive and each day presented new difficulties and challenges.
Your designs have been influenced by the work of artists such as Picasso, Alexander Calder and Francois Morellet. What is it about their art that speaks to you?
They all resonate in me at different frequencies and feed my imagination. Francois Morellet’s geometric forms really inspired my use of delicate lines and curves. The constructivism of his work inspires and guides a lot of my concepts.
Picasso wakes up the child in me. While I find much of Picasso’s work fascinating, what strikes me the most, and forms a large part of the Picasso Ceramics sale, is his ever-evolving rendering of the female body. His obsession with women is commensurate with mine, ignoring his licentiousness of course! He was known for borrowing from his contemporaries as well as appropriating primitive concepts. My work also has this referential aspect; my recent collection was heavily inspired by ancient Greek sculpture.
Calder has also been a huge inspiration to me as a designer. The suspense and ephemerality embodied by his Mobile works translates magnificently to jewelry, especially into earrings. Whilst most of my jewelry is static, I have explored kinetics in some of my recent collections.
Your jewelry has a very sculptural quality to it, where does this approach come from?
It results from the synthesis of two my two main interests: my love for fine arts, and my fascination with geometrical shapes, symmetry and order. I think the years studying CAD design, where I played around with cones, tubes and spheres influenced my approach to design. I learnt to conceive an object in 3 dimensions.
Some of the pieces you design have a playful element, but they are also extremely elegant. How do you marry the two together?
Like everyone else, I love a good pun and humour is absolutely vital for me. I love people who don’t take themselves too seriously and I must say I found my paradise in London, enjoying the famed British wit. The 'Rubies Boobies' necklace and the 'French for Goodnight' earring all come from this place.
My design process is also conducive to finding this equilibrium between irreverence and elegance. I enjoy styling jewelry almost as much as designing it so I always sketch several pieces of jewelry worn together, mixing precious, non-precious etc. I wear the quirky pieces as much as I wear the classical ones.
Who is the person that you have in your mind when you are designing a piece?
I start, somewhat indulgently, with myself. What would I like to wear? Why doesn’t this piece exist already? When you’re designing you have to constantly reassure yourself that you’re not alone. I try to embrace the tides of inspiration and have confidence in myself.
The circle seems to be a very important motif in your collections. Are there particular shapes and that you return to again and again in your work?
The circle is the symbol of femininity and I wanted my brand to represent Girl Power. After so many years spent in an industry that wasn’t made for me, my brand had to strictly channel womanhood. The pearl comes back a lot in my work, due to its voluptuousness. Its round shape allows many daring experiments and fits in to a diverse range of designs. Round lines are my signature.
Is there a figure from history — or the present day — that inspires you the most?
I particularly admire women who helped societies evolve at a difficult time of history.
That’s also the reason why my next collection is based on the French revolution and the women who stirred the March on Versailles. Gertrude Stein has always been a big inspiration to me. Born in America, she moved to Paris during the period called Les années folles or the "Crazy Years", that saw Paris re-established as a capital of art, music, literature and cinema. The artistic ferment and low prices attracted writers and artists from around the world, including Picasso, Hemingway, Dali, James Joyce and Josephine Baker. Stein had an exceptionally sharp eye and prescience.
She hosted a Paris salon, where the leading figures of modernism in literature and art, including Picasso and Matisse, would meet, which led to a long love and hate relationship between Picasso and Matisse who admired each other but were diametrically different. I think it is important to remember that behind the supposed genius of some of our most recognised artists, are the patrons, collectors and art lovers, who highly influenced the work of these artists by inspiring them, funding them, and introducing them. So, thank you Gertrude and all the other silent heroes!
Are you working on any exciting new projects you can share with us?
I am really interested in exploring multi-disciplinary design. Furniture and lighting design have always fascinated me and I would love to be able to make time for it. I am starting my own object line, launching this winter with two vases, continuing in my pun tradition, the collection will be replete with “love handles” and “jugs”.
I am also designing shoes with a well-known Italian brand for Net-a-Porter, which will be out in November.
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