TRENDS: Bright in shining armour

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The vogue for hand chains and jewels that drape over the body.

A host of brands and designers are escaping the comfort zone of traditional jewellery In favour of extravagant ear cuffs, bejewelled boleros and decadent neckpieces that decorate those areas of skin so often overlooked. Sarah Louise Jordan examines the trend for body adornment that’s not for the faint-hearted.

There is a sense of history and fashion intertwining when it comes to discussing body adornment and decoration in 2014.

From Ancient Egyptian collars to Alexander McQueen’s contemporary headpieces, the trend for wrapping and encasing the body in precious metals, gemstones and crystals isn’t one that’s popped-up over night. However, a new wave of brands and designers are beginning to find a balance between spectacle and wearability when it comes to creating body jewels.

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For LeiVanKash designer Leila Kashanipour, this balance comes in the form of her signature hand cuffs — a collection of bangles designed to be worn on the palm below the knuckles. Kashanipour explains: “The idea of my hand cuffs – also known as palm bracelets – was inspired by the tradition of Indian henna tattoos adorning the top of the hands.”

The success of her initial range of Haya cuffs in yellow gold, rose gold and silver set with turquoise, rose quartz and opalite, has led the designer to introduce further palm bracelets to her offering. She continues: “I decided that this often ignored part of the hand was, in fact, a naked canvas waiting to be decorated. They really embellish the hand and we offer quite a few styles in different colourways to suit different customers.”

Also focusing on the hand is New York–based jewellery brand Jacob & Co., which showed off its diamond mesh glove at BaselWorld 2014. The fingerless white gold and diamond glove, originally created as a one-size-fits-most piece with the ability to be produced for a wider customer base, is part of a larger collection of bespoke items named Rare Touch. But the brand hasn’t stopped there. Its offering for 2014 also features a handmade bolero jacket composed of 12 carats of diamonds and approximately 225 grams of 18ct white, yellow or rose gold. The piece is specially made to order over six weeks and can be customised to the wearers exact specifications.

While Jacob & Co.’s bolero may be more suited to a customer with classic (if expensive) taste, brands like Gina Melosi and Bjørg are tapping into more fashion-forward spheres with their outside-the-box pieces. Texan-born designer Melosi has crafted a range of body pieces designed to be worn around the back and shoulders, while Bjørg’s White Knight earpieces push the boundaries of size and shape with 18ct rose gold plated bronze and horsehair. Also adorning the outer ear is emerging designer Stephanie Chloe Bila, who toned down her sculptural Central St. Martins degree project designs in favour of 18ct gold-plated brass pieces. Her Swarovski-encrusted ear cuff resembles an architectural skyscraper, perfectly moulded to toe the line between ear piece and hair piece.

British designer Rachel Galley created her stand-out Enaki Sun neckpiece to complement a whole collection of golden-hued designs. The made-to-order collar features draped chains that snake down the back and interlinked latticework discs that sit on the shoulder and décolletage. Speaking of the design, Galley admits: “I want the piece to be not only a showstopper, but to be completely wearable. How do you put it on and take it off, how does it hang, how does it sit in different positions, and is it practical? These are all questions I had to ask myself during the creative process. You don’t want [body] pieces slipping off the shoulders or twisting around, so you have to think about more in order to make these pieces realistic but stunning.”

Despite securing commissions for variations of her Enaki Sun showstopper, Galley is resigned to the fact that statement pieces aren’t destined for sale on a grand scale. “I think there is always a trend for larger, wow-factor pieces, but these are generally for special occasions, movie premieres and photoshoots.” Undeterred, Galley is planning on making another neckpiece for her soon-to-be-launched Entrapped range, made from 18ct gold and pearls.

Also focusing on pearls is luxury brand Mikimoto that presented its draped Angelic body piece at BaselWorld. As one of its four VIP pieces, the Angelic was born from a desire for one’s “entire body to be clad in the radiance of pearls”, according to the brand. The chain of akoya pearls, diamonds and 18ct gold wraps around the neck before sweeping past the arms and collecting around the ankles in a bodyline-flattering cape effect. This one-of-a-kind piece won’t be on the radar of all retailers, but it does show how a statement piece can garner the right kind of attention.

Another brand that created a similarly unique piece is Shaun Leane. Its collaboration with heiress and artist Daphne Guinness to create the Contra Mundum bespoke armoured evening glove is an example of body adornment from the most extravagant end of the spectrum. Designer Shaun Leane explains: “The project began at a party five years ago when Daphne asked me to create a silver glove. We both realised we were speaking the same language. The relationship was very organic, our vision just naturally came together. We began to produce the glove in silver but this was too soft a metal to withstand the construction of amour so we both decided to create the glove in a harder material. In the end we crafted the piece in 18ct white gold. As the piece began to grow, so did our ideas — we realised that this piece was pushing the traditional notions of jewellery; bringing decorative armour to the 21st century.”

From a retail perspective, the trend for body embellishment offers an array of price points and plenty of in-store visual marketing options. Simple hand chains and ear cuffs can tap into the seasonal festival market, with consumers looking for boho-inspired pieces at muddy field-appropriate prices. On the other hand, more extravagant pieces similar to those designed by Rachel Galley and Mikimoto, can provide the basis for creative window-displays and in-store showcases – potentially drawing the customers’ attention to similarly-themed pieces with an array of RRPs.

As jewellery designers continue to explore unadorned areas of the body for their collections, retailers can use these pieces to attract tricky-to-reach, fashion-forward customers who have quickly embraced established trends (for example midi-rings and head-chains, inspired by traditional Indian shingar patti), without sacrificing their more traditionally-minded customer base.


To view a gallery of the body jewellery featured in this Trends article, click here.

This Trends feature was taken from the June issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To read the issue in full online, click here.
 

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