Vivienne Becker of the Financial Times – How To Spend It Magazine is sitting on the prestigious IJl Bright Young Gems panel this year, alongside fellow judges Hilary Alexander, OBE: Editor at Large Hello Fashion Monthly magazine, Claudia Mahoney: Executive Fashion and Beauty Director of Glamour magazine, Annabel Davidson: Editor of Vanity Fair on Jewellery and Bec Clarke, MBE: Founder and Executive Chairman of Astley Clarke.
IJL took some time to speak to Vivienne about her love of jewellery, her career as both a talented author and journalist and also a trend forecaster plus her passion for fostering new young designers through initiatives like the IJL BYGs.
1. How and when did your love of jewellery begin?
Aged 18, I took a holiday job in one of London’s indoor antiques market, working for antique jewellery dealers. I had won a place on a pioneering Communications Studies degree course, but enjoyed being part of the antiques world so much, I stayed for a few years. During that time, I learnt so much about antique and 20th century jewellery, from the dealers who were so generous with their knowledge, and I met passionate, informed collectors, not to mention a colourful cast of wondrously eccentric people, and I learnt to love jewellery and its stories.
2. What inspired you to become a jewellery historian?
I had always wanted to be a journalist and writer, so that when I left the antique market, I found myself a job working on a women’s magazine, as fashion assistant. While there, I offered an article on antique jewellery to the magazine Antique Collector, newly acquired by the company (National Magazine Company) and eventually, having written several articles, I joined the staff of Antique Collector. I used my experience and the knowledge I’d gained as a base and gradually taught myself all I could about the history of jewellery. It wasn’t really a case of being inspired, it was the combination of my growing fascination with the history of jewellery, its early roles, meanings and design combined with my desire to be a writer that organically shaped my working life.
3. Was there one person who influenced you in your choice of career?
As I have said above, it wasn’t really a choice as such, and at the time I didn’t even realise there was such a “thing” as a jewellery historian. I was influenced by all my dear friends in the antiques trade, by Lynn and Brian Holmes, who had originally employed me, and who shared their tastes and enthusiasm with me. and when I first started teaching myself, it was Margaret Flower’s book on Victorian jewellery that most fuelled my interest in writing about jewellery.
4. You are not only a talented author and journalist but also a trend forecaster – which do you enjoy most and why?
Thank you!! I love both, writing is something I somehow feel I have to do, so much part of who I am now; I find trend forecasting absolutely fascinating, and I particularly enjoy and look forward to the workshops I participate in for the Gem Visions project I work on every year for Swarovski Gems. This is one of the most stimulating and rewarding of all the various projects I’ve been involved in over the years. I am joined in the project by Paris-based fashion forecaster Marie de Sigalony as well of course as by the Gem Visions team. I look forward to the annual workshops, held in different European cities as I so enjoy analysing the cultural, social and design influences that shape our attitudes and tastes, listening to contributions and ideas from the team; I love finding the threads between these influences and jewellery design. I enjoy the breadth and depth of trend forecasting, looking at other design disciplines, what’s happening in the world, the way consumers think and act.
5. You clearly feel passionately about fostering new young designers through initiatives like the IJL BYGs – why is this so important to you? And the industy as a whole?
With my historical perspective, and my passion for design, I can see the continuum of jewellery, through thousands of years, the way in which it evolves, captures and reflects its moment in time and I’m always looking for fresh talent, for designers who understand this and are able to perpetuate this heritage. New talent is vital for our industry, to keep it alive, in step with the world around it. The jewellery trade is deeply conventional, resistant to change and generally speaking not design driven – I’m always trying to propel it forwards, to keep it modern, in my small way. The jewellery world is deeply traditional which is both its strength and its weakness; new, young designers are able to push boundaries, respect the traditions but take them into the future.
6. What words of advice would you offer prospective BYGs?
To study jewellery history as much as possible, to understand the rhythms of evolving design and craftsmanship; they should understand the rules before they try to break them. And for today especially, to use technology to liberate design. New technology in jewellery design and manufacture is a revolution in our industry.
7. Looking ahead to IJL in September – can you share with us what you look forward to seeing at the event each year, and why?
I look forward to finding something entirely new and fresh, anticipating some exciting development in design and craftsmanship, and to testing myself, to see if I can spot an emerging trend.
8. Do you have one iconic piece of jewellery that has remained an all time favourite? And why?
I’m afraid there are so many. Two years ago I published my book the Impossible Collection of Jewelry: the 100 Most Important jewels of the 20th century and it was hard enough to pare my choice down to 100!! But I think if I had to choose one it would have to be a masterpiece by Rene Lalique, my great hero; and probably the dramatic, emotive Dragonfly Woman corsage ornament in the Gulbenkian Collection Lisbon, a truly great work of art, the ultimate symbol of metamorphosis and transformation, both transformation of the centuries, 19th into 20th, of the jewel itself, and of the female. For me, this jewel embodies the alchemy and artistry that lies at the heart of the jewel.
The IJL Bright Young Gems will be unveiled at IJL 2015 on Sunday 6th September. Find out more about the Bright Young Gems initiative here
Register to visit IJL 2015, 6th – 8th September – and discover future industry stars for your stores