I'll never forget the first time it happened right here in my hometown of Madrid. I was returning home from a particular frustrating workout at the gym when I walked past her. I was so surprised that I froze in my tracks and had to retrace my footsteps to take another look. She was young, stylish - and wearing one of my jewelry pieces, to great effect.
The most extraordinary thing was that she was here in Madrid wearing a necklace which I had designed exclusively for Henri Bendel in New York. Although the piece was made 200 meters from where we were, it had traveled all the way to New York only to be bought by someone who lived back in Madrid. I was so surprised and honored that I wanted to go up to her and introduce myself. Luckily, I remembered my sweaty sports attire I thought the better of it. Instead I walked home with a spring in my step, feeling elated. For a designer, there can be no greater compliment!
When I first began making jewelry, I always imagined my pieces being worn by impossibly glamorous and beautiful women to impossibly glamorous events. In my vivid imagination, I could see the flash of the paparazzi's bulbs reflected in the facets of the jewels. Perhaps I would imagine a ring sparkling on its wearer's hand as she reached for another glass of champagne. I visualized the earrings reflecting light on the wearer's elegant features as she (perhaps) holidayed in St Tropez or entertained on her private island (a man can dream).
Over the years, my imagination proved to be not to have been so wild as many glamorous celebrities have been photographed wearing my jewelry to impossibly glamorous events. However, for me it feels so much more touching to see someone wearing one of my pieces on the street. It is the sight of a real woman wearing my jewelry that brings it to life for me.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in New York to make a designer appearance at Henri Bendel, where I have a shop within the shop. Twice a year, the store dedicates a window display to my newest collection and I love to be there to soak up the atmosphere and meet the women who actually wear my creations. It never ceases to thrill me to meet the people who are loving, buying and wearing my jewelry pieces. I find it invaluable to know who I am creating for.
I was 22 years old the first time I visited New York and I fell instantly and absolutely in love the energy of the city. Having grown up in the middle of a desert in South Africa, I'd never seen anything like it. The buzz, the crazy noises, eccentric people and the visual impressions add up to the most intense experience. New York has an energy and a charisma unmatched by anywhere else I have ever been. It still has that same electric effect on me today.
On that first trip, I hadn't imagined I'd be returning frequently to promote my eponymous brand. What I have realized in attending the Henri Bendel events is that every woman who wears my jewelry makes it her own. A pair of earrings could have the power to make a woman feel like a model or a film star. A necklace could give her that extra bit of self-confidence that she needs for an important meeting. Or it could just be as simple as a pendant bringing sparkle to an otherwise ordinary day.
A piece of jewelry is something real and tangible. It has the power to make you feel beautiful and good about yourself, to boost your self-confidence and make you feel special. It is forgiving enough not to require you to lose weight to wear it. It can be transformative. It could be just the thing to lift an outfit, to make you stand out. Jewelry often has an emotive quality to it may have been received as a gift from a loved one, or bought to be worn on a special occasion. That is powerful in itself.
After meeting so many wonderful, enthusiastic women who wear my jewelry, I returned to my studio in Madrid feeling greatly inspired for the next season. It is these real women who inspire me to continue creating for them. And hoping I'll get to see them wearing it...
"Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear."
- Oscar Wilde