Paris-based jewellery designer Annelise Michelson creates striking sculptural pieces for the empowered woman. Thinking about jewellery differently, her designs sit somewhere between sculptures and sensual objects, that seek to reflect a woman's strength and 'not simply decorate them'.
We caught up with Annelise to talk about her thoughts on her craft, her inspiration and the busy day-to-day routine of a designer in Paris.
What makes an object desirable?
A blend of emotions, shapes, colours and volumes that stage an object in a space.
Are there any objects in your life, other than jewellery, which you find empowering? Why?
Sculptures, because they are everything in my jewellery and they offer a similar blend of emotion, and in fashion, shoes – because I’m a shoe addict like so many other women!
What do you think the connection is between wearing jewellery and feeling empowered?
A very reassuring feeling of being strong, beautiful and protected.
Do you think we feel an emotional connection to the jewellery we wear? If so, why?
Purchasing a piece of jewellery is a very personal choice that depicts your personality and style, as well as the image you wish to project on to others. People get personally attached to their jewellery and keep it for extended periods, if not their entire life – then it becomes part of their body.
Talk us through a ‘typical’ day at the office.
Consulting and answering emails during breakfast, then a rush to my studio in the Marais to work on my prototypes and then finalise them with my model maker.
Trying to escape not too late to get to an exhibition in one of the many reputed art galleries in my neighbourhood, then an apéritif at Café de la Poste‘s terasse with my friends – they’re mostly designers that live in the Marais.
Do you have any heroes or icons who inspire you, past or present?
David Bowie, Grace Jones, Architect Riccardo Boffill, Tadao Ando, the furniture designer Nendo, and my friends who are original and creative and do not follow any rule of fashion or trends.
How do you approach designing a new collection? Where do you gather inspiration?
Everything around me may be a source of inspiration, ranging from natural, organic shapes to buildings and well-designed industrial objects...even the look of the people in the street. In a way it’s a very random process, very much a reflection of what I want to say at that moment of my life - what the voice of my present is.
Do you design your collections with anyone particular in mind?
I imagine a strong woman - an amazon of modern times! She has both very feminine and masculine attributes. She is sexy, driven and likes to play with looks and styles.
What is your process for creating a piece? For example, how do you choose materials, or shape the designs?
It has to become a living shape in my hands in a very organic process. I like to create with wax or paper. I sculpt and mold but I rarely draw. I have to really feel the shape and understand how it appeals to me. Then I cast it in bronze as it’s a more noble metal than brass, yet it’s not a precious material like gold or silver, making it perfect to make small pieces.
How did you come to jewellery design as a medium?
Previously I was interested in clothing - I studied fashion design studies at La Chambre Syndicale. My childhood dream was to create couture pieces, or more precisely glamorous and crazy clothes.
When I graduated I was 21, and couture was falling apart. I was very eager to work so I started in fashion houses like Hermes, and then smaller ones like Paul & Joe. It occurred to me that ready-to-wear was very far away from what I wanted my life to be like - it was too commercial for me and I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted.
I hadn’t thought about jewellery before, but a friend of mine contacted me out of the blue to design some pieces for a photo shoot involving an important fashion editor. When I made the pieces for the shoot I realised that not much costume jewellery actually existed. I wanted statement pieces, but couldn’t find any, something that wasn’t as literal as punk but was more edgy than the classic styles just didn’t exist. I think it was then that I felt I had something to say.
I set about designing affordable pieces that were desirable for the intricate design and craft that went in to making them – all my pieces are handcrafted in France - and that’s how I started!
What would you consider the most memorable moment of your career so far?
I guess when women I admire wear my pieces. For example, when Rihanna, Robin Right, FKA Twigs, and Bella Hadid wore my pieces I was very flattered - of course! But it also made me feel that everybody could see or feel what I’ve tried to express in my creation, no matter your background or your status - that the language of it was international and accessible.
Do you have a favourite piece of personal jewellery?
I think earrings are my favourite - I love wearing statement earrings, it made me feel chic, original and powerful. Also my multiple piercings allow me to mix colours and styles so the result is more personal and effortlessly stylish. No matter what you wear with statement earrings, you’ll feel dressed up and people are sure to remember you!
A selection of Annelise Michelson's striking jewellery pieces are available online and in-store at The Conran Shop now. Click here to view the collection.