How Pop Art and emojis are injecting a sense of humour into jewellery.
A new breed of Pop Art-inspired jewels, emoji-style stacking rings and smiley-faced charms are injecting a dose of humour into the world of jewellery. Sarah Louise Jordan uncovers the trends for all things bright and bold, impacting fashion and fine jewellery in the lead up to the winter season.
As the autumn chill approaches and the winter freeze looms closer, heavy grey knits are preparing to transform the wardrobes of women into something altogether drearier.
Seemingly in reaction to this sense of wintry foreboding is the plethora of Pop Art and emoji-inspired jewellery collections that have made their way onto the market for AW14, championed by brands such as Tatty Devine, Delfina Delettrez and Maria Francesca Pepe, which already cater for the more daring end of the market.
Although Pop Art influences and text message-inspired emojis may seem incongruous in jewellery, both forms – from peace signs and smiley faces, to caricature winking eyes and popcorn bucket pendants – evoke a sense of escapism from the jewellery norm.
At the more reserved but arguably more wearable end of the spectrum is the WendyB emoji collection by American designer Wendy Brandes. This range of 18ct yellow gold and sterling silver rings, stud earrings and pendants are designed for the social media aficionado who wants to wear the tell-tale symbols she sends in her text messages on a daily basis. Collection highlights include a Star Trek -inspired ‘Live Long and Prosper’ hand sign stud earring and a pair of Screw You studs, with one a literal screw shape and the other a simple letter U. Aimed at a tech-savvy and feisty customer base, Brandes supports the rebellious streak of her consumers by selling her stud earrings separately, encouraging a mix-and-match approach.
Brandes says of her designs: “My jewellery designs have always been about story-telling and messages, and emojis are the quintessential form of modern messaging.” Describing her pieces as “humorous, of-the-moment and strong”, Brandes continues: “One of the first emoji designs I did was a middle finger. The fact that it didn’t actually exist on the emoji keyboard didn’t stop me. I created my own design because that seemed like the most important emoji of all.” This sense of rebellion appeals to women who are 40-plus, admits Brandes, who have the financial means to afford her fine jewellery pieces and the life experience to “stop feeling constrained by other people’s expectations”.
For Missoma creative director Marisa Hordern, the brand’s new AW14 Funny Face collection is directly inspired by the world of emoticons and social media. Hordern explains: “We had been looking to do something a bit tongue-in-cheek for a while and I realised that I use so many different emoticons in my daily emails and social media posts – I thought what could be more relevant right now? I like a concept that people can identify with.”
The Funny Face range, which features four bracelets dubbed Sunny, Funny, Cheeky and Smiley, will sit alongside Missoma’s best-selling beaded Trinket collection as a way of enticing the customer to purchase designs at a higher price point. Crafted in 18ct gold-plated silver and pavé-set with white and black diamonds, the Funny Face capsule collection, which is also available in necklace form, will lead Missoma’s charge into “affordable fine jewellery with a sense of humour”. It is also its first core range without coloured gemstones. “It is great to be able to show that Missoma is not just a gemstone brand,” says Hordern. “It is part of our evolution.”
The importance of presenting jewellery with a sense of humour is echoed by Ruifier designer Rachel Shaw. The brand’s Galaxy and Visage collections of 18ct rose gold stacking rings studded with rubies, pink sapphires and blue topaz gems, can be arranged so they form smiley (or sad) faces on the finger.
Shaw comments: “Fun and quirky jewellery is very ‘of the moment’. Customers tend to look for jewellery that has an emotional connection, and styles right now evoke positivity and happiness, which is a beautiful quality.”
Shaw believes Ruifier’s fine jewellery pieces will appeal to women who are looking to express their personalities through accessories, especially by stacking pieces in interesting ways to reflect their moods. Shaw explains: “The Visage stacking ring collection was designed to encourage our customers to create their own looks and express themselves through jewellery. The collection is about bringing joy to jewellery [with] pieces that make people smile.”
Whereas WendyB, Ruifier and Missoma offer jewellery with just a streak of humour and a hint of the experimental, Tatty Devine provide pieces for the truly adventurous consumer on a mission to stand out from the crowd.
Tatty Devine co-founder and designer Rosie Wolfenden explains to Professional Jeweller: “We make jewellery for strong, independent women with their own style and individuality, and hope that our jewellery instils all of these characteristics, along with a sprinkling of playfulness.”
The brand’s recognisable Perspex designs are influenced by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Pop Art culture in general. Wolfenden continues: “Harriet [Vine, Tatty Devine co-founder] and I love to reference all areas of culture, but having studied at art school we are always inspired by Pop Art. This can be seen in the collection we have created to celebrate our 15th birthday, which includes the Banana necklace we made in 2011 and the Fuzzy Felt charm bracelet from 2002, which dates back to when we fell in love with Perspex for all of its fun and bright qualities.”
For Italian designers Maria Francesca Pepe and Delfina Delettrez, their quirky designs are actualised without a hint of Perspex, instead focusing on Swarovski crystals, enamel and 9ct gold. Based in London but made in Italy, Maria Francesca Pepe’s designs are inspired by British avant-garde and have more than a hint of East London cool, with splashes of graffiti thrown in for good measure. New season lines feature gold-plated and Swarovski crystal encrusted rock’n’roll hands and hoop earrings in the shape of fingers, with bright red enamelled nails.
Described as having a “pop, post-modern aesthetic”, Maria Francesca Pepe is like the darker twin-sister of Tatty Devine, using sub-cultures rather than popular culture to direct its jewellery design. Equally quirky is fellow Italian designer Delfina Delettrez, who has no doubt been inspired by her mother, who is creative director for accessories at Fendi. Delettrez’s fine jewellery has an abstract, Picasso-inspired edge. Crafted in 9ct yellow gold, with pearls and bright enamel, and speckled with pavé-set gemstones, her deconstructed face drop earrings and eye rings – complete with eyelashes – make a chic statement, and have won the hearts and lobes of a global coterie of fashionistas.
Tatty Devine’s Rosie Wolfenden believes women are embracing a more adventurous approach to accessories in 2014. “I think in general there is definitely a move to people being more experimental with how they look, striving to look original and not like everyone else. This is certainly an attitude that works well with our jewellery.”
This shift in perceptions is supported by the AW14 fashion catwalks, with brands such as Moschino and Anya Hindmarch showcasing brightly-coloured accessories and outlandish Pop Art references, as if having been lifted directly from a Tom Wesselmann artwork. As Wendy Brandes remarks: “I can’t believe it was just a couple of years ago when women were told that discreet diamond studs and plain pearl strands topped the list of must-have jewellery designs. I always thought we were entitled to have more fun than that.”
Marisa Hordern of Missoma is also in agreement that Pop Art and emoji designs have tapped into the mood du jour. “Maybe it’s in the zeitgeist or just in the social media sphere, but we all know what [emoticons] mean – they express our emotions in the digital age.”
This new breed of Pop Art and emoji-style jewels; from small stacking rings, to outlandish lobster necklaces courtesy of Tatty Devine, offer women the opportunity to present their rebellious and adventurous sides without needing to adopt a Moschino-style McDonalds outfit. As Wolfenden remarks: “People will always be attracted by bright, fun and graphic imagery,” and this desire for fun is undoubtedly even more essential as the winter chills approach.
This TRENDS feature was taken from the September issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.