JEWELRY DESIGNER TO WATCH: VICKISARGE, EXTRAORDINARY COSTUME JEWELLERY
Costume jewellery is truly exciting – a statement piece can really add an affordable wow factor to any of your outfits. Over the last few months, I have been researching it for a new series of articles on GEMOLOGUE (read my interviews with Iradj Moini and Michelle Lowe-Holder).
I interviewed Vicki Sarge one sunny Friday in her charming and cosy boutique on Elizabeth Street in London Belgravia, where all her creative pieces are lovingly handmade onsite. Vicki is one of the most established names in the costume jewellery world: she has been designing jewellery for over 30 years as well as being one of the co-founders of the legendary Erickson Beamon brand. Regardless she keeps a low profile avoiding world domination.
Shortly afterwards, I headed to a Sotheby’s Sale preview, where I bumped into an acquaintance who was adorned in CHANEL Haute Couture dress and who chose to accessorise her look with VICKISARGE earrings. There are no set rules with jewellery: you can accessories your jeans and t-shirt with diamonds, and your haute couture with costume jewellery!
SHOP THE LOOK:
How did you begin working as a jewellery designer?
I arrived in NY from Detroit right in the disco era, so I did the whole Studio 54, out every night for quite a while. Taboo – an underground party created by Leigh Bowery and later opened as a club in 1985 – was also happening. Those were the two places to be. Unfortunately, New York was really hit by AIDS at the time.
I got into jewellery by chance and everything happened organically. Back in 1983 I was working with a friend, Robert Molar, who was doing a fashion show and needed some jewellery. It was such a long time ago! The first jewellery I made was out of suede – we cut pieces of suede and put crystals on it. We taught everything about costume jewellery by ourselves and it shaped into a business very slowly.
The 90s were the most powerful times for me…At the time there were all these other influential designers: John Galliano and Dries van Noten amongst others. Later, designing costume jewellery became in-house for most people.
You were one of the founders at Erikson Beamon – one of most well known costume jewellery brands – was it an exciting journey?
I was one of the founders at Erikson Beamon, which is nowadays one of the biggest costume jewellery brands. I was a part of it for 30 years and it was such an exciting journey! I put my heart and soul into it, and I beleive we shaled costume jewellery into what it is today! I came to London in 1985, because at the time we were getting EB off the ground and wanted it to have a European outlet.
What is the distinction between costume and fine jewelry?
Costume jewellery is an instant satisfaction, whereas fine jewellery takes considerably longer. With cosume jewellery I can make something in an afternoon, whereas a fine jewellery piece might take up to 6 months to produce. You are using expensive materials so you want to take your time with it. Costume jewellery, on the other hand, is all about fun, and you can be a lot more creative with it. Many people are looking for costume jewellery to travel with, because fine jewellery is very expensive to insure. Summer is a particularly busy period for me, because my clients need pieces to take with them on their travels.
Some people do not like the word “costume” jewellery: costume, fashion or designer jewellery is pretty much the same thing. Costume jewelry is perhaps more a little lower level. Something you would pick up at a cheaper store to accessorise yourself. Fashion/designer jewelry is something that we do at Vickisarge. Its all about that particular look. It is often aa bespoke product
In your opinion how was costume jewellery born?
The concept of costume jewellery is relatively new. For instance, there is antique paste jewellery from 18th and 19th centuries, where coloured flint glass was made to look gemstones by stimulating their fire and brilliance.
Costume jewellery really became en vogue post-WW2, when it was all about fast fashion and more people wanted to have the New Look. Fashion became accessible to wider audience and people wanted to accessorise their outfits with something other than fine jewellery.
Where do you find your inspiration/influences?
I am a very crafty person – there is always something going on with my hands: I either knit or crochet, or some other such thing.
I have a constant flow of ideas. For me, controlling ideas is harder than coming up with new ones. I try to never look backwards, only to move forward.
When was your eponymous brand founded and where is it produced?
I came to London in the mid 1980s to set up a temporary office, and after a while I just decided to stay.
Creativity is about people, not about brands. After almost three decades, I decided it was time to have my own thing, because big companies tend to become too commercial at one point. It had been on the cards for about 5 years, and finally I made the break.
Vickisarge is only 2.5 years now – it really is a baby! It is going to be very slow and on my terms. As long as I can make my ends meet, I will be happy! There is only five of us, and I am going to keep it that small. I have had a pretty fantastic lifestyle for most of my life and I am grateful for that…
Which metals do you like to work with?
I work mostly with brass and copper, and use plating does not have any lead in it- we are very strict about controlling it.
There is a prevailing good feeling costume jewellery will be making a comeback. Its been in a bit of a slum over the last five years, as everyone was doing more or less the same thing. Luckily, we have been working with Vogue and such others, making crazy and wonderful things!
I have fantastic customers who I work with from all over the world. They often have exciting things in mind, and I work with them to make their perfect bespoke pieces.
What is your favourite material to work with?
Feathers. Unfortunately feathers don’t sell.
What other projects are you involved with?
As well as designing costume jewellery, I am trying to give back and I love working with students in order to inspire the next generation. I teach jewellery workshops in different places. Right now, I am teaching a course fashion jewellery at HEAD in Geneva (Geneva University of Art and Design). I am also working on a project in Afghanistan called Turquoise Mountain and another one in Saudi Arabia trying to create jobs for women to promote their independence. It is funded by Princes Trust charity.
What is the major difference between jewellery and fashion? How do they complement each other?
Jewellery, either fine or costume, is the emotional part of your dressing. Clothing, on the other hand, is the intellectual side.
It’s all about adding that special final touch. Perhaps wear a little black dress and add an element of fun with pompoms or dress it up with Marilyn Monroe diamantés. You can change the mood you are in by what jewellery you have on!
GEMOLOGUE by Liza Urla features exquisite global discoveries, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews – a celebration of fine jewellery, fashion jewellery and vintage jewellery.
*Photographed by Yulia Harding. Styling and Art Direction by Liza Urla
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