A blue and red zig zag on white shoes

Fashion designer Manolo Blahnik is something of a legend within the shoe industry. His career truly kicked off in 1969 after meeting US Vogue Editor in Chief, Diana Vreeland; after that, he devoted himself to designing shoes, opening the first Manolo Blahnik store in Chelsea, London, the next year. He speaks to Trudy Ross about his design philosophy, dressing for yourself and looking to the future

LUX: You’ve said before that shoes are in your DNA. Can you share the story of how you first decided to spend your career designing them?
Manolo Blahnik: It was all thanks to Mrs Vreeland. When I met her I was in a state of catatonic nerves; I grew up with Mrs Vreeland, with Harper’s Bazaar. I had presented some sketches to her of set and theatrical designs and she told me to design shoes. She said “Young man, stick to the extremities and make shoes!”. She gave me the advice I so needed to hear and paved the path for me to follow.

I took a hands-on approach and learned from the best shoemakers in Italian factories. To this day, working in the factories is still my favourite part of the job.White and red leather shoe point with blue and red dots

LUX: Tell us about how you opened your first store in the 1970s.
MB: The 1970s was such a fun time in London. It’s funny, the ’70s are absolutely much clearer than the ’80s. We opened the store on Old Church Street in London and that was the very beginning. I didn’t have anything to put in the shop! A friend of mine called Peter Young found the place. He said, ‘There is a wonderful place, far away from everything with no other shops on the street except a pastry shop.”

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I loved it and I took it, not thinking about how I didn’t have any people, customers, nothing. I used to live in Notting Hill and cross the park on a bike. I would come to the shop every day. We used to open at 10 o’ clock. I ate some cookies at the pastry shop and then we would call Italy and get the shoes done.Two colourful heels displayed against a 1960's style sign

LUX: What is your favourite part of the design process?
MB: Without a doubt, working with the artisans in the factories. I have been working with the same artisans for over 35 years. Craftmanship is in their blood, passed down over generations. The team there know exactly what I am thinking and strive to bring all my creations to life, even the most intricate and embellished designs, always pushing boundaries to ensure the complete perfection and the attention to detail required in each of my collections.

Developing seasonal styles with the artisans and spending time in the factory is truly my favourite part of the job. It always has been and always will be.

LUX: Can shoes be a work of art? Can they be more than a work of art?
MB: Shoes can be inspired by art. I am always inspired by art. Francisco Goya did the best shoes in his paintings! I think I would collect all his art if I could. It has hugely inspired me throughout many of my collections and I can’t count how many hours I have spent staring at his works in the Prado museum.

I want my shoes to embody personal style and creativity, pieces of art for your feet.Leg in suede black boot against a background of white and red stripes and lights

LUX: How can one stay ahead of the fashion curve?
MB: By not following trends. Staying true to who you are and dressing the way you want is, in my opinion, true style. It is a physical attitude that cannot be bought.

I’ve never been one to follow trends. If I see too much of something, I change it. What’s the point of people wearing the same dresses and the same shoes? Everybody ends up looking like clones and I hate that. Individuality is what makes us all unique. I like independence and I love eccentricity. If you like something, buy it. Find your style and stick to it.

LUX: Style or comfort?
MB: I believe you can have both. I spend a lot of time with the artisans testing the comfort of our shoes. Elegance and comfort go hand in hand, you must be comfortable to appear elegant, one cannot exist without the other. There is nothing charming about a woman who cannot walk in her shoes.Red white and black kitten heel on a light up sign

LUX: Women’s or men’s fashion?
MB: Both! What’s wonderful is that people are starting to dress up again. In London, men and women alike are now dressed up and going to Savile Row to have suits made.

So long as we are human, we will want to be decorated—for ourselves; not for other people so much. When I wake up in the morning I say, “I’m going to wear happy colours today,” and that is for myself!

LUX: What does it take to create a truly iconic brand identity?
MB: Be true to who you are and believe in what you do! I think the most important thing is the product. That should always remain at the centre.

But for me, it’s not about being a big brand or ‘iconic’! I just want to be healthy and keep doing things. I don’t want anything else. I have everything I want, and I have wonderful memories.

LUX: In the age of e-commerce and social media, how has the digital landscape affected the Manolo Blahnik brand?
MB: You must move with the times or else you will get left behind. Our e-commerce website and social media are a crucial part of the business. When we started to work on The Craft Room, I wanted it to be online so that anyone, anywhere in the world can access this virtual world. It’s exciting! It’s wonderful to be able to connect with the world in this way.

LUX: What does sustainability mean to you?
MB: We don’t use the term ‘sustainability’ because I feel that sustainability is misunderstood. It’s binary: you either are or you are not. We use the term ‘responsibility’ because it is a journey.

My personal philosophy, which was passed down to me from my parents, is that you buy the best quality you can afford and look after it. Mend garments and shoes, have things altered as necessary and upcycled when the time comes. I detest waste and think that overconsumption is unnecessary and lazy.

LUX: In 3 words, how would you describe the world of Manolo Blahnik?
MB: Timeless, colourful and elegant!

Read more: Blazé Milano’s Corrada Rodriguez d’Acrci on creating iconic style 

LUX: Where do you predict your brand will be in ten years’ time?
MB: I am so lucky to have my niece, Kristina, as CEO. She has been working on building foundations to protect the brand. We are a family business with a family mindset and it is wonderful we are able to keep it this way. I hope that people continue to enjoy our shoes. We aim to create beautiful handmade pieces that last and make people smile.

Find out more: www.manoloblahnik.com

All images are from the Winter ’23 Collection

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Reading time: 6 min
art gallery exterior
art gallery exterior

Pace Gallery’s new space in Palm Beach, Florida

As part on an ongoing monthly column for LUX, artnet’s Vice President Sophie Neuendorf discusses the cultural shifts caused by the pandemic and forecasts the future shape of the art industry

Sophie Neuendorf

Prior to the pandemic, city life was often synonymous with a thriving arts and culture scene. Most of the world’s major cities offered a plethora of  national and international galleries and museums to tempt tourists and locals alike, alongside the global rota of art fairs and biennials. It was an exciting ecosystem that was supported by constant stream of international art lovers and collectors.

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However, as James Tarmy recently wrote in Bloomberg, the pandemic has radically changed the status quo and has been vastly more painful to museums and nonprofit art organisations than to commercial galleries. The main reason for the disparity, he explained, is that “buying art is mostly a private activity; seeing art is much more communal.” His article reveals that sales have remained surprisingly robust at multiple levels of the market, from modestly sized dealers like James Fuentes and François Ghebaly to blue-chip galleries like David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth. The rapid pivot to online sales are largely responsible last year’s robust sales, with $10.1 Billion spent on fine art sales in 2020 (Source: artnet Price Database). Private sales have also proved resilient— perhaps not surprising, given that the collective wealth of America’s 651 billionaires, for example, has increased by $1 trillion since the start of the pandemic. Strong interest from millennials, who squirrelled away vast amounts of disposable income amidst the lockdown, and robust activity from Asia are further fuelling demand.

When it comes to projecting the art industry’s timeline for full re-emergence from lockdown, it would be wise to note not only the rate of vaccination as a benchmark, but also the psychological impact and cultural shift initiated by the pandemic. For example, countryside living is having a renaissance, fuelled by remote working. While previous generations were drawn to cities for work and leisure alike, the restrictions of our global lockdown have bought about a counter-reaction to city life. A shift to working from home, zoom calls, and decreased business travel support this change. But what does this cultural shift mean for the art industry? How will galleries, museums, and institutions respond to collectors’ migration away from the world’s major cities?

rural art gallery

Hauser and Wirth Somerset

As restrictions in movement and social distancing measures continue, more and more galleries, artist residencies, and institutions are finding homes in coastal towns and the countryside, opening up spacious, Covid-19 friendly spaces to attract collectors in a safe space.

Read more: Philip Hewat-Jaboor on discovering art through materials

Last summer, already saw an increase in pop up gallery spaces in popular destinations such as the Hamptons, Aspen, St Moritz, and Mallorca. Hauser & Wirth was ahead of the trend with its opening of H&W Somerset and this summer will see the launch of a new space in Menorca, and  in Monaco. Similarly, Pace Gallery is expanding within Seoul, as Asia is recovering more rapidly from the pandemic in comparison to European countries. The gallery is also catering to its Western clients who are migrating to coastal towns, by opening up spaces in East Hampton and Palm Beach.

As more and more galleries are responding to the “new normal,” a hybrid model will most likely develop. Taking advantage of the increased collector confidence in online transactions, galleries as well as auction houses will be able to connect with their clients online, while also opening up Covid-friendly spaces in more rural locations.

rural art gallery

Hauser and Wirth Menorca is scheduled to open in July 2021

The drama of quarantine also opened up previously unlikely collaborations between fairs, dealers, auction houses, and even luxury brands. For example, Bulgari sponsored Sotheby’s Old Master Week in January, outfitting the auctioneer and staff in the brand’s jewels. I suspect we’ll be seeing many more partnerships of this kind as well as auction-art-fair hybrids like Christie’s recent project with the 1:54 contemporary African art fair or Johann König’s ‘Messe’ in St Agnes.

The incredible innovations rapidly developed during the pandemic—from live-streamed sales to a rolling battery of online offerings—are here to stay. Industry insiders and experts are predicting a surge of post-lockdown activity, but physical openings and exhibitions will continue to be complemented by online sales. The art industry has definitely changed, but I’m hopeful for what comes next.

Follow Sophie Neuendorf on Instagram: @sophieneuendorf

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Reading time: 3 min
Models on catwalk at fashion week
Models on catwalk at fashion week

Atelier Zuhra’s latest collection “The Immaculate Flight of the Phoenix” showcased at London Fashion Week over the weekend. Image by Daniel John Cotton @cottonphotographer

Rayan Al Sulaimani is the female entrepreneur behind the growing couture fashion house Atelier Zuhra. Since its launch in 2015, Atelier Zuhra has had a growing presence on Hollywood’s red carpet. Following the launch of her latest collection at London Fashion Week, Emma Marnell speaks to the designer about fairytale dresses, timeless couture and her cultural heritage

Middle Eastern woman wearing headscarf

Rayan Al Sulaimani

1. The brand is named after your grandmother – has she always been a style inspiration for you?

My grandmother Zuhra is a strong Omani woman with a great passion for living life to the fullest. Yes indeed, she has always been a style inspiration, but eventually through the years I have also developed my own unique sense of style.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. What led you to focus on evening wear and specifically, show-stopping dresses?

From a young age, it has always been my dream to dress celebrities for big red-carpet events in a fairytale like Cinderella gown or to dress a bride at her wedding and help her dreams come true. Hence, from the very beginning we have always focused on creating show-stopping dresses.

Model on catwalk wearing black feathered dress

Atelier Zuhra’s LFW 2020 collection. Image by Garry Carbon @becauseimgarry

3. Can you talk us through the inspiration behind your LFW collection?

The collection is called “The Immaculate Flight of the Phoenix”.

In mythology the phoenix is a powerful bird which cyclically regenerates and is continually reborn over and over again in human legend and imagination. In the same way, this symbolises the beauty of ethereal everlasting couture as this immaculate bird represents the idea that the end is only ever the beginning.

Read more: Vik Muniz’s photography series for Ruinart

The LFW collection entwines beautiful tailoring with modern innovation and couture. The collection is brilliantly coloured in black and grey to represent the ashes of the phoenix. Contrastingly, its eyes are blue and shine like sapphires. Whereas the lilac and other ethereal playful colours are associated with the rising sun and fire, illuminating in the sky. Everything we have created in this collection is emphatically elegant and impeccably designed so that it looks like it would feel delightful to wear and to walk in.

backstage at a fashion show

Backstage at Atelier Zuhra’s LFW 2020 show. Image by Daniel John Cotton @cottonphotographer

4. How are your designs influenced by your cultural heritage?

Middle Eastern culture has definitely been a source of inspiration for all of our creations. Being born and brought up here [in Oman], I have grown up as a part of this beautiful culture, and knowingly or unknowingly it is somehow reflected in my designs. I would say the Middle Eastern influences are most recognisable in the silhouettes that we work with.

Model wearing maximalist dress on catwalk

Atelier Zuhra LFW 2020. Image by Image by Daniel John Cotton @cottonphotographer

5. When you’re dressing down, what’s your go to outfit?

My personal style is very classic and chic.

6. Who would be your dream to dress for the red carpet?

Angelina Jolie, Blake Lively, the Kardashians and Scarlett Johansson.

Discover the collections: atelier-zuhra.com

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Fashionable kitchen with modern appliances
Fashionable kitchen with modern appliances

Family-owned Italian brand Smeg transforms kitchen appliances into objets d’ art

Originally established as an enamelling plant in 1948 by the Bertazzoni family, Smeg is now globally renowned for making stylish kitchen appliances. Here, the brand’s third generation family member and CEO Vittorio Bertazzoni speaks to LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai about consumer trends, collaborating with Dolce & Gabbana and creating sustainable products
Man in suit standing in kitchen appliance showroom

Vittorio Bertazzoni

LUX: Do you think product design has become more important for consumers in recent years?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: I would say yes if we are talking specifically about kitchen appliances, which is mainly what we do at Smeg. I think there are a number of reasons for that, maybe one of the main reasons is that nowadays the domestic space itself is becoming more and more visible and central in the house. Once the kitchen was hidden, but today it is more and more visible. People like to gather in the kitchen with friends and family, so of course they want to have more beautiful kitchens. The other reason is that you have more and more appliances in the house generally. Nowadays, people like to buy steam ovens, dishwashers and lots of other appliances so it makes sense for everything to be more consistent in terms of style.

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LUX: Do you think it’s a global trend?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: Definitely, maybe it wasn’t the case a few years ago but it has become a global trend because of higher attention towards food and health and the rise of like TV programs such as [The Great British] Bake Off and MasterChef. There is a global trend that starts with food then eventually how you cook the food and how you preserve the food and I think this is a very positive trend, not only from our business point of view which of course is positive, but also it allows for more products and technological advancements as people are more conscious about what they eat, how they preserve food and cutting back on waste.

Contemporary mixer with colourful pattern

A mixer from the Dolce & Gabbana x Smeg collection

LUX: Can you tell us about your collaborations with fashion houses?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: So the collaboration started with Dolce & Gabbana four years ago, but we started to think about the collaboration with Domenico Dolce ten years ago. So it is not something we did over night. As Italian companies, we share values and Italy, from my point of view, is quite well regarded when it comes to food, lifestyle, fashion and design so it is already linked together and the combination of fashion and design feels very natural.  The aim of collaborating was to create something new and I think the result was pretty remarkable in that sense that the produce is unique and special. It wasn’t easy to translate the pattern, especially onto the smaller domestic appliances because the patterns are really, really precise and handmade. It took us 3 or 4 years to get the right technology. If you think about a kettle or toaster and working with the curves of those appliances as well as the liquid – the pattern has to be resistant to that kind of temperature. I have to say we are very pleased with the result. I think it is a good example of how sometimes design is not only design, but also technology. We will hopefully continue to work on new ideas together.

LUX: What are the challenges of being a family business?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: The obvious challenge for a family are the roles each person plays. You have to be very clear that one member of the family is a shareholder and another is a manager of the company. In Italy we struggle because in a typical family business you have family and shareholders and then you think that since you are a shareholder you have no option, but to be involved in the everyday business which is not the case. If we look at the US or even in the UK, the two roles are very different. You can, of course, be a shareholder and even work in the company, if you have certain attitudes and if you are engaged. Otherwise, you shouldn’t, as being a shareholder is also a job. It is not as if you just sit and wait for the dividends. Most of the time, family businesses are medium sized so the distinction of being a shareholder and being a CEO or whatever is still not very clear, so there is a challenge for the management of the company to understand this and be prepared for this. I see that there has been a big revolution recently in the stock market, more family businesses are going public and this helps a lot, as when you are not a close company you have to apply to certain rules and you have other stakeholders.

LUX: How has the nature of your business changed over the past few years with regards to digitisation and social media?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: The appliances industry has been regarded for many, many years as quite a conservative business. A fridge is a fridge, an oven is an oven. More recently, due to social media and the attitude of the consumer, the lifecycle of the product in terms of how long a product can last and the consumer demand to get the newest design and the newest collection has changed. Ten years ago, people didn’t have the desire to have so many changes in a product’s design. For example, Smeg is known for the retro style of refrigeration, maybe until a few years ago the cream, the black and the red were high selling products, but now, we see huge differences in colour preferences.

Read more: The must-visit destinations of 2020 by Geoffrey Kent

LUX: In terms of challenges in the future, do you think that this kind of universal visibility will become a challenge for you?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: I think Smeg has a unique place in the appliances market. We are very much about design, colour and putting together architects and designers to create distinctive appliances. So in this world of social media, where everybody is aware of what is available, I think we are in a good position. That doesn’t mean, of course, that is is easy and I think this really goes to the nature of being an Italian company, of our products being made in Italy. If you think about something made in Italy, you think of something distinctive and unique, not standard or a commodity product. I think that the consumer wants to be surprised by a product which is made in Italy – that is the very essence of the word. You think about Ferarri and Ducati, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada. The challenge we have is to not create different products for the sake of being different, but because they are truly different and they can add value to your flat, your house, your home.

Luxurious contemporary kitchen

The ‘Made in Italy’ concept is at the heart of Smeg’s design ethos

LUX: It sounds like the ‘Made in Italy’ ethos is very important for you?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: No doubt it is. Made in Italy is a concept that goes back centuries to the Renaissance when Italy started to nourish the beauty of the buildings and the architecture within towns, the paintings and sculptures. In Italy we are surrounded by the beauty of the country and the beauty of art everywhere. The Made in Italy concept is in the DNA of Italian people. For us, as a design led company it is very important for us to have our production in Italy which obviously doesn’t mean we are not open to the world – we are a global brand with 85% of our products sold outside of Italy – but we can see that people really like the Made in Italy concept and the care of our design. From this point of view, you could say that Italy itself is a global brand.

Read more: Artist Henrik Uladlen on the concept behind his latest exhibition

LUX: Can you tell us more about how you work with architects and what is your criteria for choosing partners?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: So first of all, from my personal point of view, I believe that architecture is the ultimate form of art. This I learnt from Michaelangelo as he used to say, painting is a very fine art but in the end it is not so difficult and not so important… sculpture, is a more evolved form of art it is three dimensional, but still architecture is the ultimate form of art. This is not my original thought, this was Michaelangelo’s thinking. Architecture is always going to influence a lot of people; if you have a nice building you have a huge impact on people and in the end, humanity. If you have a bad painting you can remove it, but if you have a bad form of architecture you are going to have a bad influence for a long time because you don’t have the opportunity to cancel the building and do a new one. By saying that I am explaining why we love to work with architects because generally speaking they have a vision for the future which is quite unique and when they design an oven, hob or a refrigerator they go about designing it as they would design a building or something that should last a long time. In fact the product we designed with the architect Renzo Piano, which was designed in the mid nineties, is still one of the best sellers because these products don’t age, they are beautiful and unique. I understand it’s hard for people to compare an oven or a refrigerator with buildings like the Guggenheim or the Shard but if you study it, the approach is the same. A beautiful product made by an architect can last a long time.

Luxurious contemporary kitchen

LUX: Smeg has long had impressive environmental credentials, whilst it seems that other companies are only catching up now. How have you seen attitudes towards sustainability change in the industry?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: That is right, it is part of our commitment as a family, I have learnt it from my father and he learnt it from his father. Obviously, this is something that happens everyday, it is not something that happens just one day, you have to work on it daily and sometimes you make a little step ahead, sometimes you can make a huge step with a very good innovation and ideas. But most of the time it is really having the idea and being consistent in everything you do. There is no doubt that the industry, in general, has improved a lot in the past 10-15 years. When I began in the company, I remember a dishwasher used 50 litres of water which has gone down to around 6.5 litres, I mean the saving is amazing on a global scale. Instead of hand washing your dishes, if you now own a dishwasher you use 1/10 th of the water used and ⅓ of the energy used than if you washed by hand. The new technology in refrigeration now allows a saving of around 700-750 euros per year of food waste because food can be preserved much longer. All this is really interesting and I see these concerns becoming more and more relevant. As as a company have introduced a new blast chiller, which is a very powerful refrigeration unit that can blast -30 degrees to the core of the product, which will allow you to save all the food that you have cooked and preserve it for longer. This is different from the concept of a standard freezer which goes down to -18 degree, but also our unit takes all the food down to that temperature very safely with no bacteria. I believe it is a revolutionary product and I am very happy that after a few years we are now out in the market.

LUX: Do you fear imitators?
Vittorio Bertazzoni: Well obviously, competition is always there and we have to accept that it is good for the customers on some level, but of course imitating is stealing ideas so we have to protect ourselves. Still, I believe by being innovative and forward thinking in terms of design and technology, we shouldn’t have to fear too much. It is a challenge, but I think it’s possible.

Find out more: smeguk.com

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Reading time: 10 min
Woman wearing a bowling hat wearing jewellery
Woman wearing a bowling hat wearing jewellery

The Cleopatra alexandrite and diamond set by Hirsh

Founded in 1980 by Anthony and Diane Hirsh, luxury jewellery brand Hirsh is now under the creative direction of Jason Hirsh with his wife Sophia as Managing Director. Here, Chloe Frost-Smith speaks to the second generation Creative Director about designing, selecting gemstones, and the relationship between art and jewellery

Man wearing a blue jumper in front of ads

Jason Hirsh

1. Is it true that you designed your first piece of jewellery when you were 10, and if so, what was it?

Yes it is, I used to sit in my father’s office, looking for things to do. My father used to have me draw the jewellery on stock cards (before digital cameras and film was too expensive). I loved the colour gems more than diamonds and drew out a suite of jewellery (necklace, earrings, bracelet and ring) using a pattern of emerald, ruby, sapphire, diamond set in 18k gold, very 80s! My father humoured me and made it. In those days Hirsh, used to manufacture jewellery for other retailers, our first store was still 2 years away, so he took the suite to the Dallas Jewellery show. I went with him and my mother and the suite sold on the first day. It was purchased by a prominent jewellery chain in the U.S. that had 16 stores at the time, so my father needed to make a few more! My father paid me $1 commission which I spent on a coca cola and cracker jacks (American popcorn), let’s just say my taste and remuneration has changed somewhat.

Precious stones shown on work bench inside a studio

Inside the Hirsh London atelier

2. What is the inspiration behind your new Autumn/Winter collection?

I’ve always been inspired by nature and the beauty of the different colours found in nature – be it in gemstones or in the changing of the seasons. My father also shared this love of nature and began a tradition of designing a unique snowflake pendant every winter. This is a tradition that Sophia and I have continued and really look forward to every year. As the Hirsh 40th anniversary is soon approaching, we decided to create three beautiful snowflake pendants this year; an emerald, sapphire and a ruby piece. Just like snowflakes found in nature, each snowflake we design is completely one-of-a-kind and very special. Our new spring 2020 collection also takes inspiration in nature and features natural colour diamonds – definitely one to look out for.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

3. Which gemstones are you drawn to work with in particular and why?

I am drawn to work with anything unusual, I try and seek out gems that are hard to find other examples of, be it the rarity of colour or the combination of shape and colour. It is especially why I like round natural colour diamonds such as the 7-carat round, colour changing chameleon diamond I parted with last year. With the amount of rough you lose, natural colour diamonds are rarely cut in round which is what makes them all the more special when they are. In colour gemstones, my favourites are those with an emerald cut. The reason for this is that, emerald cut gemstones leave no place to hide inclusions in the gemstone. However, my personal favourite gemstones of all are Alexandrites and sapphires, mainly for the colour change in the Alexandrite and the range of colours found in sapphires. My wife Sophia has an amazing bi-colour sapphire (half yellow, half blue) that I thankfully get to see on her every day. We also have an amazing selection of Alexandrite jewellery at Hirsh that I’m very proud of.

Image of a necklace in the middle of a christmas cracker

The snowflake pendant set with pink and blue diamonds

4. How would you describe the relationship between jewellery and art?

Well, art is subjective and whilst in the past artists like Seurat would spend four years on a painting, some artists today create art in a day, in some cases multiple pieces in factories. You can find the same thing in the world of jewellery. There are many jewellers who mass produce their craft either to satisfy their clientele who want the same pieces, or to fill their many stores. At Hirsh, we individually produce each piece by hand so we consider everything we create to be a piece of wearable art. In addition, the vast majority of our pieces are the result of a collaboration with several artists, from my creative direction  through to the design team who draw and refine each piece and then on to the mounters who turn our dreams into reality, and finally, the setters, who refine the claws on each stone.

Read more: Why we love TAG Heuer’s Monaco anniversary collection

5. Do you ever consider trends when designing your pieces?

Whilst remaining quite timeless in style (the majority of our jewellery is made to be worn season after season), I always feel like we are right on the pulse. When we were creating our “Cloud” collection, 9 months after the initial design, I was walking down Bond Street and saw Anya Hindmarch’s window displaying her latest bag collection featuring clouds which made me smile. Three or four months later, Hermès launched new windows with cloud bags and a cloud theme. The difference is that, unlike high fashion and just like London’s ubiquitous rain clouds, our collection is set to stay.

rings on a woman's hand shown dipping biscuit into tea

Ruby and diamond trio, ice and duet ring

6. Which piece of iconic jewellery from past or present do you wish you had designed?

I have a lot of respect and admiration for Andrew Grima– a British jewellery designer based in Mayfair during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I feel he truly transformed the world of jewellery at that time, by creating intricately designed pieces of jewellery using textured gold and unique stones. My wife and I love watermelon tourmalines so I specifically love and would have loved to design his ‘gift’ ring featuring a beautiful watermelon tourmaline and a gold bow. I really enjoy his use of colour and texture in his creations and find is work highly skilled yet playful which is something we always aspire to in the creation of our jewellery at Hirsh.

To view the brand’s collections visit: hirshlondon.com

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Reading time: 5 min
Hands drawing on pieces of paper in a workshop setting with shoe insoles
Pain of black high heels pictured in front of medical bottles

Maison Baum heels are fitted with a pain-free insole

Newly launched shoe brand Maison Baum combines French luxury design with German medical expertise to create a high heel that’s as comfortable to wear as it is stylish. We speak to co-founder Christof Baum about their patented pain-free insole, sustainable fashion and recycling

A man and a woman wearing lab coats in an old shop

Co-founders Sophie Tréhoret and Christof Baum

1. What inspired you to start Maison Baum?

I’ve seen a lot of women around me suffer from pain in high heels, including my sister. My dad is an orthopaedic surgeon, so the idea came about naturally to explore how to apply his knowhow and make beautiful shoes with it.

In addition, French was my first foreign language and having grown up in a city just next to the border, it felt like the brand should combine my love for France while at the same time valuing my family’s German heritage.

2. How does your pain-free insole work exactly?

The insole involves seven cushioned elements that support your foot bones in just the right places to prevent your foot from slipping forward. Together with my father, I have identified the key anatomic areas which you need to relieve. Due to the anatomical insole and a couple of other measures, our shoes reduce forefoot pressure by around fifty percent and are a lot easier to keep on your feet compared to other heels.

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3. What’s been the most challenging part of setting up a fashion start-up?

Defining a vision and believing in it when no one else does. New challenges come at you every day and you have to cover a broad range of topics, such as accounting, design or even foot anatomy. Nevertheless no matter what happens, it’s important to focus on the work you can do to improve the situation in that moment, think ahead and surround yourself with the right people. I’ve been very lucky to work with people I value both on a professional and personal level, and this is what makes all the difference.

4. How are you tackling issues of sustainability?

Sustainability is a heartfelt desire for me. We only have one earth to live on and to take care of and as shoemakers we belong to one of the most polluting industries. Nevertheless the world we live in is complex, and you need to think sustainability from various ways.

For Maison Baum, we try to implement environmentally sound materials wherever we can and combine them with social and economic long-term sustainability. Hence, we manufacture with selected European suppliers and family-owned companies only and make 90% of our packaging from recycled cardboard. Our designs are classic and timeless and we focus on creating ever-green design superstars that you can wear for many years instead of only following the latest fashion trends that will make you throw away your heels after a few months of wearing them.

However, combining feminine design with the largest medical soundness to make them “sustainable” for the body remains our utmost priority.

Read more: Designer Mary Katrantzou on the business of fashion

Hands drawing on pieces of paper in a workshop setting with shoe insoles

Inside the Maison Baum workshop

5. If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?

It would be to have internationally-binding and actually enforceable standards on the potential disassembly of shoes. We humans throw away and burn an insane amount of fashion and footwear every year. The number one reason why shoes are so rarely recycled is that most are glued together and can’t be easily separated into their constitutive materials.

6. What’s the longest period you’ve spent wearing  Maison Baum heels?

10 hours straight at home. But I wouldn’t repeat that in public.

Find out more: maisonbaum.com

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