Tailor made: Behind the Scenes with Delfina Delettrez

The fourth and therefore last stop in our series “Reveal the Iconic You” was filmed in London at Delfina Delettrez’ jewelry boutique, produced in collaboration with smart. Meet the jewelry designer

For the fourth and final edition of my inspiring journey together with smart BRABUS tailor made, we paid a visit to a very special woman, whom I’ve admired for many years – The theme: “colour”.

Delfina Delettrez invited me for a private tour of her beautiful London store on Mount Street to discover her superbe and equally surreal creations. During my visit, I found out  where she draws her inspiration from and what her signature symbols, including lips and eyes amongst many others, stand for.  In fact, talent runs in the family: Delfina is the heir to the Italian fashion house Fendi in the fourth generation and her mother Silvia Venturini Fendi invented the famous Baguette Bag.

I was mesmerized by the dark green malachite-like trompe-l’oeil walls that give you the impression of entering a kind of organic space – “a modern cave” as Delfina describes. She loves the idea of giving colours a new meaning and in this case the colour green stands for hospitality; reassuring the person who enters the shop that they are cordially welcomed.

Personally, I am extremely thankful for Delfina’s ability to enchant me and the hey woman! team in the most unique way. She has a way of sensing questions before I actually ask them – an intuitive instinct, she also introduces in her own jewelry line. What is even more exciting, is that she does not only express her artistic vision by crafting such delicate jewelry, but also creates the objects that showcase her fine art, in her own right.

Some of the incredible constructions were used to showcase her collection during Paris Fashion Week. I was especially fascinated by a peculiar beverage machine, whose refreshment was served in drops that disregarded the laws of gravity by dripping upwards, instead of downwards – to me it seemed like a sealed book; and yet I’d definitely like to order one for our office (maybe we’d swap the Martini with Matcha, though).

And then, there were the porcelain hands, the noses and ears that lay in the vitrines of her shop so beautifully.

Moodboard Delfina Delettrez

Delfina Delettrez: Actually, these porcelain hands have been inspired by my own hands. Though, maybe I made the fingers a bit longer.. The ear is cast from my ear and the nose is a mix between my nose and Nicole Kidman’s. (laughing)

Afterwards Delfina showed me the “engagement section” – my favorite corner in the store.

DD: There is an engagement nose-ring, an engagement earring and an engagement bracelet. I wanted to sort of move around the traditions and make them more adaptable to different kinds of women.

Veronika Heilbrunner: I would love to see the woman who buys an engagement nose-ring.

DD: I was observing my grandmother and she was wearing her engagement ring on a gold chain, because she just didn’t like wearing rings as she is not a ring person, so I thought I should find another way. I mean, we sort of refuse standard love but then accept standard rings. So I moved the traditions around a little bit.

VH: Is there a reason why you chose these classic symbols like the bee, the lips and the eye?

DD: The house I grew up in had all these bees around the garden. It was a very old estate and the bees seemed like a kind of legacy of the noble family who had lived there before us. And also, I guess, I just have a natural attraction to bees. I chose them because they are hard workers: they work relentlessly to make honey. I guess I can identify with that. I don’t make honey, but I make jewelry, which is a synonym of sweetness and it is something that makes people happy. I also admire bees for their “soldier” attitude.

The lips and the eye are more classic pieces. Ever since the beginning I have harnessed the eye as a motive for my craft. My kind of eye is not an evil eye. It rather relates to the lover’s eye, which describes the ancient Victorian tradition of a watchful eye, that lies hidden in men’s suits, for instance when they had to leave for wars or any similar matter. It means “I have an eye on you! Don’t betray me!”. Of course, it’s also a sign of romance and the need for protection.

With the lips it was different. Actually, I just like to play with the human anatomy. If you think about all of the body parts that are commonly adorned with jewelry, for example the fingers and the ears, I just feel like it’s particularly interesting to do the opposite: to adorn entirely new body parts.

VH: Talking about the different ways to embellish certain body parts: I love the pearl in your ear.

DD: I like the distortion factor in things. I need to investigate a piece, rather than just looking at it. Pieces of jewelry are meant to be a sort of ice breaker – they must talk for you before you say anything.  

VH: Please tell me about your design approach?

DD: From the very beginning I wanted to open my own atelier, because like that, I can have the classic, time-honoured ritual of communicating with the artisan. They don’t receive technical sketches or instructions, instead they get words from me. So everything is made in-house, in Rome, Italy, to be quite exact. And that’s very important for me. You know, all the installation and all the displays are also made in Rome in a small laboratory. So the hand is also carved by a real life hand. That’s something I would never want to change.

VH: In your presentations I always have the feeling it’s not only about what you put on display, it’s also about how you do it.

DD: Yes. I really want to take charge of my artistic vision and I have this rather theatrical approach to my craft, because I come from the fashion world. There is always this idea in mind: “Work hard to build up an event, a show!” Somehow, it’s all about movement.

VH: How do you start on a collection?

DD: I don’t have a specific way, because I didn’t really learn a specific way of doing it. Every time I discover myself using new methods. Sometimes I would work by concepts, sometimes I would work by discovering a beautiful vase, whose style and technique fascinated me and I would bring the vase into my atelier. Sometimes I would prepare a collage to get inspired, because I don’t know how to draw. My drawings are very much abstract. I use a lot of writing as a memo to myself and a lot of talking to explain what I want to my team. But sometimes I find myself sitting in my atelier playing with stones – I always have this wire of metal gold  that I can play with and wrap around my fingers or sort of trail around my ear.

VH: So you sculpture around your body. I like that idea.

DD: Yes, I also have my mannequin or I try it out on my own body, like you just mentioned. You should come visit me.

VH: What are your favourite colours?

DD: My favorite colour is green. But not on me. On me I would say black, gray or blue – typical school uniform colours.

VH: So you can play a lot with your jewelry on top of your “uniform”?

DD: Definitely. Especially when I work I like the idea of wearing a uniform and not having to think about how I look. It’s like a gown. Sort of an industrial gown, mixed with ecclesiastical elements, because I have my gowns made in a Rome-based boutique, that specializes in modest clothing. It’s where the nuns would get their dresses made. One of my favorites is the gown, which nuns use for gardening and cooking. It’s actually a very sexy gown…

VH: So in terms of your jewelry: Do the colours of your stones have a certain meaning?

DD: Yes, but I don’t want it to be too much of an ayurvedic choice. I like to give them my own meaning. But sometimes I also like to investigate the reality of those meanings. So it’s a mix.

VH: What does “tailor made” mean to you?

DD: It means to have control over the quality and the result of your product. And it also the describes the sheer beauty of waiting on something. It’s the beauty of waiting for something that is made particularly for you. With jewelry it’s very difficult to say a piece is ready. You can continue adding and removing things. It’s infinite. Because my products are tailor made and especially tailor made in Rome I have time to actually process and understand what I am doing, time to understand the piece and make changements. All of my life I was surrounded by tailor made design. Therefore I appreciate it very much.

VH: Do you ever think about retail, when you’re designing?

DD: I am more influenced by my customers than by the market. By having my own boutiques I understand much more clearly what they want. When I first opened my boutique in Rome I used to hide behind the counter desk and listen to what they were saying and so many times they helped me to empower pieces. That was very helpful. It influenced the color, weight and comfort of the pieces. I frequently applied their advice, maybe not the day after; but I always remembered it.

VH: What is your best seller?

DD: I would say it’s still the shape of the Piercing model, I have so many different variations of that style. And the second best seller is the ring called Dots.

VH: What’s the first piece of jewelry you’ve ever made?

DD: It was a piece for myself, more or less. I was pregnant and I was determined to continue the Italian tradition of gifting a newborn with jewelry. Since my daughter was the first descendant of the fifth generation it was a really hard task, to pick a piece of jewelry for her that felt right to me. Every time I wore an antique ring, it felt old and stiff, which wasn’t really what I needed and wanted. So I went to this goldsmith with a few ideas very clear in my head, but didn’t have any clue how to actually make jewelry.

It was like a little miracle was happening, since I didn’t have any control over my body at that time, but I put all my mental control into this project, which was concerned with one single object. It was a ring, that was evocative of death – while I was giving life. So I guess I wanted this contrast to happen. There were two skeleton hands holding a ruby and each of these hands wore a ruby and a bracelet. I was very fond of small pieces of jewelry and I had a great interest in details so I continued from there on.

VH: How has your upbringing influenced your personal style?

DD: I mean I was raised with milk and fashion. But I never felt more special. Everything felt so natural. It was very democratic. No matter what age you were you could participate in reunions and you could ask questions and we had free access to every little room in the palazzo.

They prepared me to know that I needed to follow my passion, but no matter what I did, it was hard work. So, when I started my brand, I began with a light approach. But I knew all along, that I had to make sacrifices.

VH: What would you say are the differences and similarities between you and Fendi?

DD: First of all I am a single person, an individual. I would have loved to have my whole family behind me and around me, because they say the five Fendi sisters (one of them, my grandmother) were like the five fingers of a hand. Sure, they were united, but each one had a different role. So I am in a way my own CEO, my own designer and all of my moves are taken by intuition and not by numbers and business brands. So that’s the main difference actually. (laughing)

Thank you to Delfina Delettrez for the excellent cooperation.

 

PHOTOS & VIDEO: pascal rohé & Julia Zierer
REPORTER/ PRODUCTION MANAGER: VERONIKA HEILBRUNNER
PRODUCTION MANAGER: JULIA KNOLLE
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: CATARINA MARQUES TELES
Music / Video: The Last Rose by Starover Blue
©Vera Comploj

Born and raised in Munich/Germany, Veronika’s professional career has developed from being a model to a fashion editor, to online luxury retailing and most recently style editor of Harpers Bazaar Germany. She currently lives in Berlin where in the beginning of 2015 she started a company with Julia Knolle, the ex-editor at large of Vogue Digital.
Oh, and she loves pugs!