The life of the intern has had a mixed press recently but, for Eugenie Niarchos, a brief, unpaid stint in the fashion business was a formative experience. ‘I found the world too ephemeral,’ says the 29-year-old jewellery designer. ‘It made me realise I wanted to create something that would be longer lasting.’
Fortunately, another apprenticeship — this time in Christie’s Jewellery department — pushed her in a new direction. Even more happily, a childhood friend then invited her to join the family jewellery business, Repossi in Paris. ‘Gaia [Repossi] knew of my interest in historic stones and asked me to help design a new collection,’ says Niarchos.
After furthering her technical expertise at the Gemological Institute of America in London, she eventually grew sufficiently confident to launch her own line, Venyx: ‘I was scared, but thought I’d like to give it a go.’
Today, she lives in a bright and airy flat in central London and forms part of an international set of young, affluent and stylish It girls — Delfina Delettrez, Noor Fares, Fernando Jorge, Bianca Brandolini, Sabine Ghanem — who sit on the front row at the couture shows and take their jewellery design extremely seriously.
Now in the throes of creating her third collection, Niarchos’s vision for Venyx (a combination of the words Onyx and Venus) is informed by ideas that transcend time and space. ‘For me, Venyx is an imaginary planet full of beautiful landscapes, plants and animal life. My work pays homage to nature, which makes us think about what is beautiful and precious in life.’
My work pays homage to nature, which makes us think about what is beautiful and precious in life
Her first collection, Reptilia, took as its theme the skin and shells of reptiles, which she interpreted to shimmering effect in stones and precious metal. Her second, Theiya (mother of light), is a starry tribute to the solar system. ‘It focuses on ethereal elements that come to life in a futuristic way,’ she explains.
During her relatively short business history, Niarchos has developed an elegant signature style, which combines precious and semi-precious stones (‘I hate the distinction. Something like moss agate, for example, is both rare and expensive,’), and now sells her work through high-fashion retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Net-A-Porter, and Dover Street Market.
Niarchos remains fascinated by antiques and makes regular research trips to the V&A, but she also draws on a broad range of other cultural references, such as accounts of the space race and the films of Wes Anderson (‘I find his stories, colours, and the child-like atmosphere of his films inspiring,’ she explains).
Ultimately, she hopes to leave something equally enduring: ‘Jewellery is my passion. I want to create heirlooms passed from generation to generation.’
These shoes are a limited-edition remake of a pair designed for Judy Garland in 1938 by the great Italian shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo. Ferragamo always wanted to make shoes that were perfectly balanced and allowed customers to walk as if in bare feet. As well as being lightweight and in beautiful colours, they’re incredibly comfortable to wear.
I’d fallen in love with a Louis Vuitton zinc-covered cabin trunk, but felt it was too expensive. Eventually, I tracked down this similar model online. It’s not by Vuitton, but it was about a quarter of the price. Trunks like these, produced in the 19th century, were covered in zinc to ensure the contents remained sealed against insects and humidity for travellers in Africa and Asia. It’s super-practical and light.
Vintage Paddington Bear
I used to read the Paddington books when I was a child, and recently saw the film. I was given some Paddington bears for Christmas, but then found this vintage one on eBay. It was made in the 1970s by Shirley Clarkson, who ran Gabrielle Designs. She made the first bears for her children (one of whom was Jeremy Clarkson). I love the colours and the bear’s bright orange eyes.
I found this statue of the Hindu god Ganesha when I was travelling in Asia. What I particularly liked about it was the posture — generally it’s only Buddha who is portrayed lying down. I love India — the colours, the smells, the way of life. I’ve been there lots and find that your senses are immediately attacked; you feel completely lost in translation.
Space book and pendant
I’m fascinated by the space race, which is why I bought this collector’s edition by Taschen about the first moon landing. Space has had a huge impact on my work. I designed the pendant I’m wearing, which is made out of labradorite with a piece of meteorite on the back. If you hold the pendant up to the light you can see a pattern of stars.
Main image at top: Eugenie Niarchos at home, photographed by Carol Sachs
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