Book Review: Fashion Jewellery – Catwalk & Couture by Maia Adams


(Laurence King) £24.95

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams

Maia Adams’ supremely elegant new book provides the first overview of the extraordinarily innovative designs and diverse creative practice that has transformed fashion jewellery over recent years and instigated its current renaissance.

Fashion jewellery has antecedents in the costume jewellery of the twentieth century, from Coco Chanel in the 1920s who, as Adams writes, “challenged the status quo that jewels were only for the very wealthy,” to the 1960s and the use of plastic, wood, and paper by designers such as Paco Rabane, to its apogee in the diamante studded 1980s, and the prevalence of the “supersized imitation jewels” of Butler and Wilson, and the rubber bangles and crucifixes designed by Maripol which Madonna made ubiquitous. But as Vicki Beamon, of Erickson Beamon, explains in Fashion Jewellery, “Costume is an antiquated term for jewellery that, on the whole, was designed to look real,” and as Adams elaborates, to define the theme of her book, “this new breed of designer fashion jewellery makes no such claims – its purpose is not to imitate but to innovate.”

Erickson Beamon AW08 jewellery ©Greg Kadel

Erickson Beamon AW08 jewellery ©Greg Kadel

Erickson Beamon are one of the 33 designers profiled in the book, and provide a key link from the 1980s to the present day, three decades during which their “jewels of fantasy,” as Hamish Bowles has written, have reflected the times “from the rollicking, coruscating, dangerous 80s, the sleek, spare, barely there 90s, and our eclectic new century.” Judy Blame equally provides a link to the 1980s and in both his pioneering use of found objects in his jewellery and multi-faceted career that has also included accessories design, styling, and photography,  he has equally become an iconic mentor and inspiration not only to a new generation of fashion designers such as Gareth Pugh, but also to the new fashion jewellery designers.

Judy Blame coin purse ©Judy Blame

Judy Blame coin purse ©Judy Blame

Many of whom, as Adams writes, “work simultaneously as stylists, photographers and fashion, costume, or product designers [which] means that they bring an eclectic arsenal of techniques and influences to bear on a body of work that runs the gamut from craft-based to technology-led; cerebral to silly; witty to whimsical.”

Amongst its line up of luminaries, Fashion Jewellery also features Scott Wilson, long time Hussein Chalayan collaborator, whose  sculptural headwear/jewellery hybrids have become renowned “spectacular catwalk statements” and whose earrings adorn the model on the book’s striking cover. In addition, Laurent Rivaud, to whom Vivienne Westwood went when she choose to launch her jewellery line in 1994, including the iconic orbs, and who now, under his own label R, creates minutely detailed jewellery, antique in appearance, drawing inspiration from a host of influences including Arthur Rackham, Fortunato Pio Castellani, Lord Leighton, and PJ Harvey. Whilst Natalia Brilli wraps an eclectic array of objects such as whistles, sea urchins, scarabs, and watches in leather to create her one-off jewellery pieces.

Natalia Brilli's gemstone bangles

Natalia Brilli's gemstone bangles ©Julien Classens & Thomas Deschamps

Fashion Jewellery is crammed with great photographs, including still lives, catwalk shots, and fashion editorial spreads, working drawings, and features exclusive interviews with many of the featured designers, and provides a fascinating, inspiring, and exciting exploration of an equally fascinating, inspiring, and exciting time in jewellery design.


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