Jewellery designer Solange Azagury-Partridge tells us what makes her tick.
At home with Solange Azagury-Partridge
Wallpaper*: Where are you at the moment? What can you see?
Solange: I’m in my bedroom. I can see the tree from my bedroom window. From my bed in fact, where I tend to be by default. I enjoy the sound of silence. The noise inside my head is very loud, so I can’t really listen to music or podcasts unless I’m doing nothing other than that. I prefer to see than hear. Imagery or the written word speak louder to me than sounds. I enjoy music to dance to, or for nights out on the town. My desk is where I sit if I need to focus more. My desk is black-painted, brown leather-topped, gold-embossed 19th-century French.
Where do you live? Describe your street, neighbourhood/area?
We live in Paddington/Bayswater in London. Close to the station and Kensington Gardens. It feels anonymous, with all the tourists walking around, yet also very neighbourly. We’ve lived here for 30 years. I even went to junior school around here. I work just around the corner from home. Lots of familiar faces. It’s so central and convenient. Close to Portobello and Notting hill, we can walk to most places in London through all the parks that connect one to the other, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park, St James Park, amazing.
What’s the last thing you bought?
A pair of Martin Margiela Tabi ankle boots in silver leather. They’re such an icon of design and I’ve wanted some for ages. I didn’t think there was any point in going for a practical colour.
What’s the last phone call you made?
I call my mum most days. She’s the family matriarch and works so hard taking care of everyone. She’s full of love and compassion. She has so much energy and has worked all her life and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. She has famously good hair, and is so young looking.
The last object you lost? Will you replace it?
My mouth guard. I wear it at night to stop grinding my teeth. It makes me feel relaxed and secure. I sleep better with it knowing my teeth are safe. it’s obviously not very attractive but I will definitely be replacing it.
Where and when do you find you are most productive?
At home. In the quiet. At my desk where I can get my head straight. Formulate ideas and make plans and lists. I need to be organised. When things are clear, I can then go to the office to share with my team.
Favourite place, anywhere in the world? And why?
Somerset. Our little cottage. Arriving and opening the car doors and smelling the air which is honestly like an exquisite perfume combined with birdsong and the green that surrounds us and I’m immediately in heaven. A heaven on earth. I never thought I would adapt easily to spending time in the country. I’m such a Londoner. I didn’t see the English countryside until I was 14. I make sure to have a lovely walk every day in that amazing air. My son and his family live close by so we see them when we’re there. We have so many fun friends in the area so we can choose to isolate or socialise.
If Wallpaper came for dinner, what would you cook us?
At the moment, it would be a cheesy garlicky mash, with a bean stew – lots of onion, peppers, tomatoes and four different types of beans, and a roast chicken. With a chocolate cake and berries with cream or ice cream for dessert.
What’s the one thing (in your creative field) you wish you had designed or invented?
A ring carved from a solid piece of emerald. Not very commercial but such a brilliant idea. I saw it in a museum exhibition of the Royal jewels of Qatar.
Who would play you in a movie of your life?
On a good day it would be Monica Belluci, beautiful and serene, and on a bad day it would be Mrs Trunchbull. Maybe they could both be in it, à la Buñuel.
What are you reading, and what do you think of it?
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. It’s quite an old book (1980s) that’s been reissued. It’s a touching, sweet story about the way love creeps up on you. It’s also so interesting to read a Japanese voice and sensibility, which is so different from an Anglo-Saxon or European one.
Favourite indulgence and why?
A whole day in bed. I probably manage this once every five-ish weeks. I spend the day dozing, reading, watching stuff, phone calls, eating. I’m always amazed how quickly time passes when I’m being that lazy. Amazingly, I'm still able to sleep properly the following night. I look and feel great for days after. Very restorative.
What’s inspiring you right now?
Design is 90 per cent perspiration, and 10 per cent Inspiration. Isn’t that the saying? Inspiration is pure luck and pretty random. Occasionally an idea will hit me out of the blue. But even then, it takes work to perfect.
How do you switch off? Do you switch off?
If possible, I like watching something unchallenging on TV and then spending an hour reading in bed to clear my head. Always fiction. The reading part is the most vital bit. Otherwise, I can’t get to sleep and wake unrefreshed.
Favourite material to work with and why?
24ct gold. It’s so soft and pure. I recently made some rings for my Solid collection called ‘The Shapeshifters’ using 24ct. That way, the ring changes gently over time in a way that’s very specific and personal to the wearer.
What one piece of advice would you give to the next generation?
Just start working as soon as you finish school or Uni. Earn money and gain some independence. It doesn’t really matter what the job entails. Even doing something rubbish helps you work out what you want to do quicker than waiting for the universe to present you with the perfect role. Doing is good for your mental health.
What’s been your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Selling my company and my name a few years ago. I’ve finally learnt that organic growth in a business is always the best way. Rapid expansion is like forcing a bud to flower when the petals don’t yet exist. I ended up buying back my company, and my name, ten years ago. It's so freeing to make your own rules and decisions. Any success or failure is down to you. Independence in creativity is everything.
Who is your dream collaborator?
I would love to work with a hotelier. I can pretty much design and make anything I want in jewellery. But my other love is interiors. A small hotel would be great. I can make anywhere feel comfortable, cosy and an exciting place to be. Isn’t that what a hotel needs?
What’s top of your to-do list?
To finish all the pieces I’ve been working on that I’ve neglected during the push to get my new Hotlips Boutique open, and devise a new collection for next year.
The new Hotlips Boutique is open now in London's Bayswater at 25 Chilworth Street (opens in new tab). The new 'Kiss My lips' Eau De Perfume launches on 15 January 2023
solange.co.uk (opens in new tab)
Hannah Silver joined Wallpaper* in 2019 to work on watches and jewellery. Now, as well as her role as watches and jewellery editor, she writes widely across all areas including on art, architecture, fashion and design. As well as offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, Hannah is interested in the quirks of what makes for a digital success story.
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