The sculptural jewellery of Annelise Michelson
Numéro meets Paris-based jeweller Annelise Michelson, whose pieces never fail to seduce.
Numéro: You studied at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture – what made you turn to jewellery?
Annelise Michelson: My godfather was a tailor for both men and women. He admired Gianni Versace and his mythic advertising campaigns shot by Richard Avedon. With him, I grew up dreaming of glamorous sculptural women. So I wanted to work in haute couture, but I soon realized it would be very difficult, if not impossible, today. After my studies, my experiences in ready-to-wear didn’t satisfy me: today there’s nothing of the extravagance of the 1980s and 90s. One day a friend who was a stylist asked me to provide accessories for a fashion series. And that’s how it started. I realized that the available costume jewellery was either too girly or too trendy, and its quality didn’t meet my requirements. It was clear to me that there was an opening. I wanted to created truly timeless pieces at accessible prices.
Your jewellery is abstract and imposing, with a very sculptural quality, inspired by draped cloth or an enormous broken chain link. How do you invent these forms?
I started by crossing a masculine bracelet with feminine lace and, to begin with, thought of myself as an accessories designer. Then I got into metal working, which I didn’t know anything about. Right from the beginning, I chose to have my pieces made in silver- or gold-plated bronze by Parisian craftsmen who also work for the jewellers in the Place Vendôme. My “Carnivore” line was the one that first brought me recognition. It represents a trap, a mouth bristling with teeth that closes in different ways onto the finger as a ring, or onto the neck as a necklace. After this contemporary theme, to which I add new pieces each season, I brought out the “Drapé” and “Démaillé” lines that you mentioned. I design articulated rings, I work with ergonomy and the placement of the piece on the body, but I also like the fact that my jewellery can stand alone – you can place it on a table and admire it as an object in its own right. Moreover I’d soon like to make a real, large-scale sculpture.
Your pieces are chic and sophisticated, but they also dress the silhouette with an almost punk aesthetic (bristling teeth, single ear pendants). How do these two facets co-exist?
These two facets are an expression of my personality. I’ve always been a rebel, at war with everyone, swimming against the tide. And my mother is a South African opera singer, which is where I get my extrovert side from, which is more Anglo-Saxon than French. As a little girl I dreamed of one day singing on stage in stunning costumes. But since I grew up in Paris I’m very demanding with respect to the quality of everything I wear. Without necessarily talking about luxury goods, I only like beautiful clothes and accessories, things that are authentic from A to Z. I need the objects I make to conform to certain criteria, otherwise my role as a designer would have no meaning for me. Nowadays ready-to-wear is such a competitive sector that you have no choice but to be the best, but it’s different for jewellery. I don’t claim to be the best, but I think I bring something different and very personal to it.
By Delphine Roche