Friday, July 23, 2010

Elizabeth Gage, Jeweller Extraordinaire

the very English, black panelled traditional facade of the Elizabeth Gage shop, 18 Albemarle Street London

Elizabeth Gage has designed magnificent jewellery for 4 decades. Her exceptionally beautiful jewellery designs evoke the past and are highly original. They are unlike the offerings of any other design house. Each piece has a distinctive style, mood, or personality. They aren’t just stones and precious metal assembled for the sake of looking rich. They are pieces of art and sculpture in themselves, but ones that are elegant and flattering to wear. If one considers the designs of Ms. Gage of past years, nothing looks dated, and they remain very appealing. The beauty, taste, quality, originality, and craftsmanship would put her in the company of Jean Schlumberger, Verdura, and Donald Claflin. Ms. Gage adores colour, and it is a pleasure to view her vivid, joyful jewels.

I was happy to have the opportunity to discuss design, adornment, and jewels with Elizabeth Gage of London.

We live in more casual, less formal times. In what way are your designs are appropriate for today? They are very wearable, both during the day and at night. People treasure my designs and want to wear them all the time, for each person they make their own individual statement.

Which of your designs are you most proud of? They are all my children and I love them all.

How has antiquity influenced your designs? Very much so, when I was a young girl I went to many museums and at an unconscious level I absorbed everything I saw and now it appears in my designs.

What historic era or style of jewellery most appeals to your sense of the aesthetic? There are many eras that appeal. The Greek and Egyptian was an early love, then came the Medieval and Renaissance with their bold setting and intricate designs. Catherine the Great was also very inspirational.

The Kiss pin – cabochon Mandarin garnet, cabochon yellow beryl, diamonds, pearls and tangerine enamelThe Mary Tudor pin - a Mary 1st silver coin, 1554, 2 brown tourmalines one checkerboard cut and the other faceted, rubies, diamonds and semi baroque pearls; with a magnificent, very rare chocolate coloured checkerboard cut tourmaline (54.9cts)

Which of your designs are the most popular? Would you say that you have a signature piece?
There are several pieces that are both popular and signature pieces, for example my Kiss Pins, my Templar Rings and my whimsical parrots.

The Terrible Twins – earrings with peridot parrot heads, coral beaks, gold leaf design with enamel; motifs exhibit left and right orientation

Can you give some examples of jewellery or materials that are flattering, and enhancing complexion? Chalcedony looks wonderful against the skin and naturally pearls are always complimentary.

Please tell me a bit about your use of hammered finishes. Having studied as a Goldsmith originally the finishing of the gold work on my pieces is very important to me, the texture of the gold is an integral part of every design.

Your jewellery seems to be in predominantly a classic, rich, high carat gold colour. What is your opinion of the soft, faded, barely yellow gold that some designers of today use? It is not for me however I believe it is more interesting and important that designers do things differently and follow their own path.

Who are some jewellery designers you have admired? Jean Schlumberger, Verdura, early David Webb, Boivin, some early Marina B and of course Claflin.

What is your opinion of the designs of Robert Goossens? When I was younger I bought some of his pieces because I loved them.

Who are fashion designers whose work you admire? Early YSL, especially his use of colour and I loved his Russian collection. Balenciaga for the way his clothes hung and Valentino.

On the web pages for your designs, there is a photo of you wearing clear, bright lipstick and brilliant turquoise jewellery, and the effect is lovely. Why do you think many women are so afraid of colour? I have often wondered why, I like colour with my clothes, my home, and my jewels.

What are some mistakes women make in the way they wear their jewellery? Sometimes too afraid of colour and size. Sometimes women need to break the habit of always being safe.

Elizabeth Gage wearing her bold, gold jewellery

Do you think that different pieces being worn should in some way relate to each other? Yes, but it does not need to be a matched set, variety to me is more interesting.

What are 3 pieces of jewellery that you consider indispensable? Earrings, rings and everything else!!

What type or pieces of jewellery would you recommend for a woman on a limited budget? Begin with a ring, and that will set the tone for the rest, which will quickly follow!

How does your point of view transfer to other aspects of your life and your design choices, such as your china, silverware, stationary, clothing, interior décor of your home? I only buy what I love and you can be sure it is full of colour.

How do you feel about the loss of old British crafts such as those of the silver, textile, and ceramics industries? Very sad, however I think in this mass produced world people are now seeing the value of craftsmanship and I see a Renaissance on the horizon.

Your designs are only available from your shop in London or at a few showings abroad. How important do you think exclusivity or limited production is in maintaining prestige? I do not do it for prestige, I do it this way to maintain quality. I see all my pieces before they go on sale, and often several times during the making process. This would become impossible if I was to mass produce.

Would you ever consider a short term run, limited edition, mass produced item for a company such as Target, or tiny, solid perfume container for a prestige company, so that a wider range of the public and perhaps young women or students could experience your designs in the way that Karl Lagerfeld designed for H & M? Maybe, this could be fun.

Elizabeth, thank you for sharing your inspirations and ideas about jewellery and design. It was a delight!

interior of the London salon, design by Elizabeth Gage; family heirlooms include pieces of furniture, the 18th century French lantern, and oil paintings by her mother and grandmother, airy white Brighton Pavilion chairs add garden freshness to the room , additional pieces of antique furniture and mirrors were selected by Elizabeth; she wanted the interior to feel comfortable and welcoming like her private drawing room rather than a store and indeed it does when compared with the slick showrooms of Cartier that conform to a uniform, corporate style around the world

Elizabeth selected the soft, sage green wallpaper with an over scale William Morris-like cornflower or carnation motif

Images and jewellery designs are copyright of Elizabeth Gage.

Many thanks to Zoë Simpson, Chief Executive, Elizabeth Gage Ltd. for arranging this interview and supplying extra information

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bastille Day 2010, from Chanel

a charming crocheted cardigan and skirt with appliqued flowers of very fine gauge crochet; shoes with wooden heels and insteps embellished with pinwheel ribbon flowers

Bastille Day, the national holiday of France is celebrated on July 14. The French are very patriotic, and tricouleur flags and bunting are never in short supply on le quatorze juillet .

In the spring/ summer Chanel 2010 which had a rustic, country theme, Lagerfeld had a mini collection within the collection, consisting of four pieces with a Bastille Day theme. The most popular look was a beautiful off white silk/ linen crocheted cardigan and matching skirt that were appliquéd with very finely crocheted red poppies and cornflowers that evoke a summery meadow in Europe, as well as the colours of the French flag. It was carried in many of the Chanel boutiques, and it was widely photographed for fashion magazines because it was so wearable, fresh, and delightful.

Matching shoes and handbags, embellished with brilliant summer poppies, co-ordinated with the outfit. Tricouleur outfits are not new to Chanel nor to other designers. During the war, in subtle defiance of the Nazis, Chanel and other designers did muted tricouleur, powder blue and white. After the liberation and the end of the war, several Paris designers did tricouleur outfits in celebration of peace and victory.

The use of wheat with red poppies and blue cornflowers is a classic European summer look is notable in the folkloric costume of middle Europe and one that surfaces in the collections of current fashion designers from time to time. Yves Saint-Laurent was well known for revisiting this theme in his charming summer boutique and couture collections. The look is very easy to adapt. Take a simple, light, off white cotton sweater and embellish with red and blue flowers. Not only is it very pretty, it is easy to wear, appropriate for many occasions, and it is classic and will never look dated. What more could you ask of a summer outfit? Chanel spring/summer 2010 crocheted bag with appliqued poppies and cornflowers; these flowers are the same as those on the cardigan above; note the muted, pale gold metallic closure

Above, a tricouleur dress of off white crochet, over midnight blue silk, appliqued with pinwheel style ribbon flowers (also on instep on the faux bois shoes). Chanel is known to use Mokuba ribbon, though this look is labour intensive and expensive, it could be interpreted by a person with the most basic sewing and craft skills. The draped stole of nylon tulle is also easy to make. Tulle is never hemmed, just cut. The stole consists of purchasing the length of fabric desired, then draping it artfully. Here Lagerfeld gave interest by combining white and darkest midnight blue tulle.

detail of one of the hand crocheted cornflowers that were applied to sweaters and handbags; here the textural interest of the knit sweater and the crocheted flowers is evident in a way that it is not when viewed on quickly moving models on the runway presentation

front of silk/linen pullover, made in Italy from the Chanel "Bastille" country look collection; image courtesy of "darmardan"
Chanel pullover with applied crocheted poppies and cornflowers; pale gold buttons at the hip; photo courtesy of "darmardan" who has this top currently listed on eBay

a beautifully executed, hand-crocheted poppy

a charming swallow, emblem of luck and happiness, decorates a filigree button on the Chanel "Bastille" sweater