To coincide with the start of Frieze, today brings the London launch of Eugenie Niarchos' debut fine jewellery line at Dover Street Market, as part of the destination store's Open House Frieze showcase. First unveiled during the Paris Haute Couture, 'Venyx' sees Niarchos join a growing coterie of fashionable young women bringing an avant-garde edge to fine jewellery's luxury lineage.
Niarchos studied at the Gemological Institute of America, which she followed up with a stint at Christie's Fine Jewellery Department in New York. The 27 year-old got an initial taste for designing from a successful collaboration with friend and Repossi creative director Gaia Repossi, along with two capsule costume collections for Azzaro.
'It has been seven years in the making and I finally felt ready for the challenge of going solo and creating my own brand,' she says of her 'Reptilia' jewels that fuse retro and futuristic oeuvres, as an accomplished extension of her eccentric personal style. 'I love the sculptural, yet miniature aspects of jewellery.' The designer highlights the collection's abstract textures inspired by the natural world – this season namely shells and reptile skins, graphically grouted with gems. 'I thought of inventing a planet, which would represent the brand as a completely new world,' she says. 'Venyx is a mix of Venus and Onyx – a planet and a stone.'
Niarchos, whose pieces are hand-crafted between Hong Kong and London, is navigating a precious path paved by Milan's Delfina Delettrez (who also designed her first pieces for Fendi's S/S 14 runway this season), Paris' aforementioned Gaia Repossi, London's Katie Hillier (who was recently appointed creative director at Marc by Marc Jacobs) and New Zealander Jessica McCormack – who opened a five-storey London flagship in Carlos Place earlier this year.
Redefining this scene, other remarkable newcomers to watch include Lebanese designer Noor Fares and her geometric tetrahedron-inspired shapes; Geneva-born Sabine Ghanem (whose first season was just snapped up by Bergdorf Goodman and Montaigne Market); and Matchstick Jewellery's Louise Carter, who was formally head of development at the British Fashion Council, founding their Rock Vault jewellery showcase before getting into the ring herself. Carter's 'hangman'-style necklaces, made from one-carat bespoke cut diamond baguettes, perfectly represent the playful forms of this directional contemporary group.
Niarchos' entry into this rarified market comes at a time when even online retailers from MatchesFashion.com to Net-a-Porter are rallying behind this new guard of young creatives, boldly updating the storied category.
'Fine jewellery is an important growth category for us,' explains MatchesFashion.com's head of fashion, Natalie Kingham. 'Designers such as Delfina Delletrez, Noor Fares and Matchstick Jewellery offer a fresh approach that feels very accessible. They all share strong individual aesthetics – diamonds and precious gems are often mixed with not so traditional settings or materials.'
It's a space soon to be shared by New York jeweller Pamela Love, who also has plans to unite her downtown aesthetic with some serious stones in the New Year.