A s Editorial Director of Moda Operandi and an ex-Vogue editor, Tatiana Hambro knows better than most how to match stunning jewels with the perfect outfit. Here she discusses her own jewelry collection and English versus American style, as well as picking her highlights from New York Fine Jewels and London Fine Jewels.
Tell us about your route to where you are right now, and about any career highlights along the way.
I studied literature at university and always hoped I’d be writing for a living. After interning for several years during my school holidays, I got my first proper job at British Vogue, where I stayed for four years, working my way up to become the Retail Editor. Then I moved to New York to Moda Operandi where I now work as Editorial Director. It’s an incredible platform with a unique model that allows for unparalleled fashion discovery. My job is to help tell the stories behind all the brands and products we carry, from the new talent at Lagos Fashion Week to the latest collection from Bottega Veneta, as well as home and fine jewelry.
Along the way I’ve learned that fashion is hyper fluid and dynamic: there are few hard and fast rules, and no “right” answers—just ones that are right in that time and space. And having a strong worth ethic—not just for yourself but in supporting your colleagues as well—is one of the most important and valuable things.
You met your husband in New York and you said he described as 'very English'. What do think are the fundamental differences between the two countries, in terms of style, attitude and relationships to fashion?
Well, I’ve actually asked him about that and he says I had “that funky English thing going on.” I think he was referring to me being somewhat less polished than my New York counterparts. I don’t, for instance, ever blow dry my hair. I enjoy painting my nails wacky colors.
I don’t subscribe to indulging stereotypes, but if I had to make a clear distinction at this point I’d say the English generally take a more laissez faire approach that’s inherently quite romantic because it’s about unrestrained self-expression: if the French excel in the art of being “undone” the English are quite good at the offbeat. In the States, in New York especially, everything is a bit more considered and curated (even if the desired effect is to look anything but). Americans are extremely good at imitating and assembling and in doing so reinventing, to create something new which sends very clear and powerful signals about identity and culture. Ralph Lauren is, I guess, the ultimate case study.
What is your relationship to jewelry? Do you wear it everyday?
I’m the type who sleeps and showers in jewelry. I’m forever trying to untangle a mass of chains around my neck. There are the pieces I wear everyday (I’ll gravitate to the same pieces for a few weeks, wearing them on repeat until I’m ready for a shift), and then there are the really special statement pieces which I bring out for a party or event, or just when I need something a bit more impactful.
The point is, I wear all my jewelry. Nothing makes me more depressed than to think of a beautiful piece of jewelry sitting unworn for years on end. What are you saving it for? Enjoy it! One of the best things about jewelry is that when you enjoy it, others around you can too.
What is the first piece of jewelry that kicked off your collection?
A brooch that my grandmother left me. I was too young wear or receive it at the time, but it was the imagined idea of the heirloom—something with emotion and history attached to it that could and should be passed down through generations—that really struck a chord and got me thinking about jewelry in a new way, even at a young age.
Has the last year of lockdowns and working from home affected your style?
I’m currently battling with the idea of investing in luxury sweatpants from brands like Wardrobe NYC, Les Tiens, or The Frankie Shop—something I never thought I’d say. When we emerge from this, I’m intrigued by the idea of bringing them into a formal setting, as a kind of acknowledgment of what we’ve been through this year. I could see myself wearing sweatpants to the office with a combat boot or hiker and tailored coat. The world will never be the same again, and neither will our wardrobes.
Which person do think has the most inspirational style (historical or from the present day) whose wardrobe you would love to plunder?
My Yiayia (grandmother) is a constant source of inspiration to me, as is my own mother. I am lucky to be allowed to plunder both their wardrobes frequently! When it comes to styling fine jewelry in particular, I adore the way Zoe Kravitz dresses. She can do no wrong on the red carpet. She puts together old and new, edgy and classic, in such a fresh way. She really knows what she’s doing.
What is the next piece you would like to add to your collection?
I’m in the market for a really perfect tennis bracelet – the definition of timeless. No woman needs one, but we all deserve one.
Aside from jewelry, what else do you collect?
Shoes and clothing! My husband is an art dealer so I've learnt quite a lot about collecting through his eyes. In particular that regardless of what it is your collecting, it is always better to focus on fewer objects of higher quality.
Can you tell us about any exciting future projects you are currently working on? With Moda Operandi or otherwise…
The Pre-Fall ‘21 season is launching on site. It’s been extremely rewarding to work with brands who have demonstrated such creativity and resilience during what has been an extremely challenging year: all these collections have been designed and produced during lockdown. Just look at Brandon Maxwell’s new collection: it’s a beautiful reminder there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Personally, I’m renovating our house which has been a really fun project to sink my teeth into. I’m constantly shopping the auctions for furniture under my husband’s mantra: buy fewer but better.
Tatiana's Picks from New York Fine Jewels
In the New York sale, I think the coolest thing may be the gold and sapphire Cartier eyeglasses – exactly how I plan on elevating my next Zoom meeting: diamond spectacles and a buttermilk yellow sweat suit from The Frankie Shop. The Aldo Cipullo for Cartier ring is what I call a conversation-starter. I love the quirky button design – it’s just the thing to add intrigue and some personality to all-black or navy tailoring. And for me, it doesn’t get much more fabulous than Tony Duquette. I’d clip this stunning sunburst aquamarine brooch onto a silk Marina Moscone cape and wear as a top for at-home holiday festivities this year.
I would gift the Bulgari ancient coin cufflinks to my history-loving husband for Christmas…if I managed to resist converting them into earrings. I would love to start a collection of Bulgari’s ancient coin 'Monete' pieces; the necklace in this sale is also a treasure. As far as jewelry trends go, chunky gold chains aren’t going anywhere—in part perhaps because they’re so wearable. I’d pair with everything from a white T-shirt to a decolletage-framing Khaite bodysuit to a blazer (worn with nothing underneath but the necklace) and even a classic Eres maillot—what's more glamorous than jewelry on the beach? I also like to twist and layer chunky necklaces together. It’s a trick I learned from my grandmother. So I’d maybe contrast it with something really irreverent and sparkly.
Tatiana's Picks from London Fine Jewels
And in the London sale, I feel a personal calling to the Vesco pink poal, amythesy and diamond cocktail ring – purple is my favorite color and opal is my birthstone. When it comes to cocktail dressing, one of the best pieces of advice I learned came from celebrity stylist Kate Young. She said, “Never match the jewelry to the dress.” Instead, aim for a palette that pops. Miu Miu’s buttermilk gown would look amazing against the deep amethyst and soft pink stones. And for the dream cool-girl festive look, I'd pair the exquisite diamond drop earrings with the high lacy neckline of this Paco Rabanne matching top and skirt, conspicuous lingerie and a red lip.
I’ve always loved heart-cut diamonds and for me, it really doesn’t get more romantic than receiving a diamond love heart from your beloved. Add to that the intrigue of this foiled, old mine stone and you have something unique and really quite special. I’d convert it into a ring. Even the box is precious. For an alternative romantic gift I'd go for the perfect pairing of these two diamond necklaces: give her one for Valentine’s day, and the other on your anniversary. Lastly, sautoirs carry nostalgic glamour. There’s no visible clasp on this diamond necklace, so I might wear it back to front, so it trails down my spine, with a backless gown to a formal winter wedding. In the meantime, one could always throw on a cashmere cardigan backwards.