Woman to Woman: Eugenie Niarchos and Charlotte Chesnais
Designing in watercolour
Eugenie Niarchos has a way with words, as well as with jewels. Her “Oseanyx” collection for her Venyx brand is all about the life aquatic – and this applies as much to the presentation as to the jewels themselves.
Pieces of coral in nature’s more outlandish colours, from sunset pink to flaming orange, are the backdrop to equally dramatic jewels. Both create an otherwordly impression.
“It’s an underwater collection, but I didn’t want it to be a ‘summer’ collection,” says Eugenie, who prepares just one show a year but makes a collection of great depth.
From the bottom of the ocean, the designer has dredged the distinctive tail of the parrot starfish with what Eugenie calls “a tribal look”. Yemanja, goddess of the sea and of moonlight, is the inspiration for gold pieces that undulate like waves. Originating in Nigeria, this ocean deity’s influence spread through Brazil, and the Yemanja pieces are set with sea-blue stones suggesting tropical waves.
Eugenie admits that her family background in Greece has also played its part and, in spite of the political turmoil, she plans to open a pop-up store in Mykonos this summer.
The significant thing about this Venyx jewellery line is that, although deep in its research and in its fascination with nature, the jewels themselves are light in production and in spirit. A lapis pendant seems to be drawn from the deep blue colour of the ocean depths; but a kaleidoscope of a tiger ray ring has all the magic of the sea’s surface-reflecting light.
“Nature is never-ending,” says Eugenie. “It’s a huge source of inspiration.”
Ahead of the curve
When Charlotte Chesnais won the accessories award of the French Andam prize, she was overjoyed that her small jewellery label, founded in 2014, could grow. Her idea was that silver and gold jewellery would be formed in the round, following a woman’s natural curves and the shape of her face.
Clearly designing with herself in mind, the jewellery is a series of interlocked circles as earrings, or chunkier bracelets reminiscent of chopped up pipes.
“I like that the designs are pure and charming, but at the same time round and not aggressive,” Charlotte says. “It’s super abstract.”
The effect is often of ever-turning spirals and loops fashioned into rings, earrings or more intriguing pieces. For example, there are rings that twine across several fingers or bracelets that twist into concentric circles. Charlotte points out that the jewellery may be “super simple” but that is made personal “by choosing to mix pieces together”.
Her current decision is whether to keep prices relatively inexpensive by using base metals, or to focus on creating a high jewellery collection. Maybe the mentoring offered to Andam winners will help her decide.
In fact, Charlotte has already spread her jewellery wings: after working for Balenciaga for nine years during Nicolas Ghesquière’s stewardship, she currently works for Maiyet, the American-based design company that promotes international artisanal techniques, and for accessories at Paco Rabanne.