Juliet Rowe considers the origins of the jewellery phenomenon.
Juliet Rowe explores the beginnings of designer Shaun Leane and comments on his latest collection.
Shaun Leane’s illustrated talk, Tradition Meets Fashion, in the glorious Goldsmiths’ Hall, was essential viewing of the week.
The tale of Leane’s journey to the top is a fascinating one. He blends the depth of his knowledge of the past Masters with a level of quality that surpasses most, resulting in some of the most inspirational couture catwalk pieces of the 90’s and culminating in a lucrative commercial phenomenon. Passion and romance are key ingredients, particularly influenced from his fixation with the Victorian era.
At the age of fifteen, via a YTS scheme, Leane completed a five year apprenticeship in Hatton Garden. He fell in love with romance, the hidden meanings of clandestine love and romantic trinkets, after being exposed to gems from all the ages, in particular Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco and Art Nouveau.
He soon realised his desire to interpret the art of jewellery into something distinctly his own. He met McQueen, whilst they were both in their twenties and was encouraged by the late designer to create something for his catwalk show. This was Leane’s first foray into the fashion world; he was self-taught from this point, free from constraints and his creativity was finally able to run free.
With the same hunger for absolute quality, he created unforgettable show-stoppers. He got into McQueen’s eccentric mind and produced pieces the like of which had never been seen before. This, of course, was invaluable to Leane as an artist and influencer of our time; he went onto work with Dior, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs.
The frightening-looking single silver tusk for the first show he worked on has been transformed into his current collection in the form of the tusk bracelet.
The story that Leane recounted of a lunch at Boucheron HQ, Paris, still the location to this day of the original workshop, left me with tears in my eyes. Leane’s authentic empathy with the Countess, who was banished from the Royal Court for being Napoleon’s lover, was palpable. This was, in fact, the apartment where the Countess of Castiglioni spent her last days. The tragedy of the Countess and her passion, which ultimately imprisoned her, was the inspiration for the remarkable mechanical piece he created for Boucheron’s 150th birthday.
How refreshing to meet a modern artist in the flesh, who hasn’t ‘sold out’, despite his prolific expansion.
All Shaun Leane pieces are made in the UK. He is an authentic fine jeweller in the traditional sense, who has been blessed with an imagination that has been allowed to explore to its capacity and beyond. Four collections are launched each year; in each collection, you will find a touch of the catwalk, the past Masters, romance, passion and heart ache, always impeccably crafted.