When it comes to fine jewelry, we’re championing Anabela Chan. Born into 3 generations of film directors and cinematographers, Anabela grew up in London and Paris, and trained at the world-renowned Royal College of Art and Gemmological Association of Great Britain. Originally trained as an architect and a specialist in print and embroidery design, Anabela worked with Architect Lord Richard Rogers and Fashion Designer Alexander McQueen in London for 7 years before returning to jewellery to launch her eponymous label in 2014.
Having adorned the likes of Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts and Lupita Nyong’o amongst other global superstars and Royalties, Chan’s stunning creations are a staple at red carpet events over the globe. We caught up with the designer to find out where the genius comes from and what makes her tick…
TL: Your background is in architecture. How has this approach to design and craftsmanship affected your DNA and was this something you always wanted to incorporate?
AC: Growing up I was fortunate to be exposed to many beautiful things; it allowed me to develop a critical eye for beauty and detail. Visual imagery is very important in my work as a medium for story-telling, as I find the sensuality of what you see very powerful and moving.
I think my architectural training has influenced my attention to detail with an obsession to perfection; I think the sensibility of scale, proportion, geometry, materiality, and story-telling are all very similar traits shared between architects and jewelers.
Your designs are instantly recognisable. How have you grown the brand so successfully through word-of-mouth and with such minimal marketing?
As a brand we don’t do any advertising or paid marketing; every piece of press we have in editorial or celebrity placement are genuinely chosen by the editors, stylists and artists for its artistic merit, it is something we are very proud of.
I always believed that the most powerful form of marketing is through word of mouth, as well as support from our boutique-retail partners. With social media nowadays it is also a powerful, personal and spontaneous way to connect with people who love our brand.
Was it always a dream to launch your own line and how did you know it was the right time?
I always knew I wanted to start my own brand and company. I love that not one day is ever the same; the freedom of creativity and I get to make all the decisions. Having worked in architecture and fashion for almost a decade, from Richard Rogers Architects to print and embroidery design at Alexander McQueen, both experiences influenced me profoundly as a jeweller today.
Working at McQueen was a total submersion in creativity and craft at its best; pushing boundaries of wearable art and design with an insane beauty that is both intoxicating and inspiring. Rogers taught me about office culture, professionalism and how to build.
The FT How To Spend It named your London gallery-like boutique one of the city’s best kept secrets. How did that feel?
We were absolutely ecstatic – what an honor to be a real gem in this incredible city.
Since you launched the brand, what to date has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome and how did you achieve that?
To promote and champion laboratory-grown and created gemstones in a centuries-old industry, paired with thoughtful design and meticulous artisan craftsmanship; where we re-evaluate the intrinsic value behind natural vs man-made, and to promote the importance of sustainability and ethics in fine jewelry.
Did you see the digital landscape coming and how has it changed the way you worked or has it been a benefit?
All our pieces are handcrafted individually, it is a very traditional, manual craft. Digital has allowed us to have a direct dialogue with our clients all around the world.
With all the elements it takes to build a brand, what have you found is the secret to finding the ever elusive lifestyle balance and do you ever disconnect?
I am currently nursing my 3 month old baby boy and my daughter is 1.5 years old, so finding that elusive work life balance is definitely a challenge if not mythical.
I am fortunate to have a most supportive husband who is equally capable with our children; a wonderful nanny who adores our little ones, and an incredible, capable team at work – all of which contributes to the success of the brand in equal measures. When I first started over 5 years ago, I worked on my own and we have come a long way since then, with much further to go which is most exciting!
What do your first 30 mins look like in the morning/ do you have any rituals which set your day and the last 30 mins before bed?
I start the day by checking my emails in bed, our brand is available worldwide so we do work across multiple time zones and I get emails at all hours of the day. I rehydrate with a cup of hot lemon and ginger infused water, and I play and read with my daughter before the work day begins. I often work late into the night so I spend the last 30 minutes before bed catching up with my husband Jimmy, cuddling my french bulldog Valentino, a quick browse on social media and write up my to-do-list for the following day on my iPhone. Its multitasking at it’s best.
Which destinations have provided the most surprising inspiration/sourcing locations for you?
I love colour – I find inspirations from the vibrant rainforests of Argentina and Brazil to the hustle and bustle of markets in Delhi to the palaces of Jaipur.
What do you feel is real luxury to today’s global woman?
Real luxury for me is quality time spent with loved ones, mindful rest and beautiful experiences and objects that bring you joy and inspire wonders.
Do you have a particular creative process you follow from concept to completion for each of your designs?
Every collection tells a story, I always start the collection by creating a moodboard, where I then sketch different designs in my sketchbook and on paper, pairing each of them with interesting gemstones.
Every story begins by hand-carving the designs in wax before casting in parts, then assembling, polishing and engraving in meticulous detail. Every stone is carefully selected for its brilliance and colour; then cut, faceted, polished and set painstakingly by hand using artisan techniques.
Do you notice a difference in buying habits and tastes across the globe and do you have global clients in unusual locations?
As we become more connected and social online – so have our purchasing habits. There has definitely been an exponential rise in buying luxury fine jewellery online – from websites e- boutiques to instagram to whatsapp. We have seen the growth in our own e-boutique and Shop by Instagram too – I post on my own Insta account as it is a great way to connect with my clients and people who love what we do. It allows for spontaneous and direct conversations, a clear insight with our brand ethos, inspirations and aesthetics.
It also allows us to showcase different styling and more casual ways to wear fine jewelry every day rather than reserved for those special occasions. Although I love brick and mortar stores, I literally buy everything online too as it is open 24/7. When my working and nursing days are back to back, those 4 am purchases are particularly satisfying!
Do you notice a difference in buying habits and tastes across the globe?
I would say that there are different habits and functions across the globe, which mostly depend on the weather or on the way of living in a specific place. Taste changes as it changes from person to person in the same country, so when you have an audience that choose a brand for its aesthetics that is quite global.
How does your aesthetic translate into your home and interior pieces?
My home is a treasure trove – a sanctuary filled with photography, art and design books, eclectic furniture and mementoes from our travels. I have been collecting colourful butterflies, beetles and exotic birds specimen for two decades, where I like to paint and draw the flora and fauna in infinite details – the taxidermy made it possible to study them up close from direct observations. A few years ago collaborated with American furniture company Bernhardt Designs where I created a range of interior upholstery textiles inspired by gemstones, butterflies and birds, so we have these wonderful, colourful ottomans at home.
Which pieces are in your shopping bag on THE LIST?
An Attico embellished ostrich feather pouch bag in sweet lilac and a pair of Gucci Ace glitter sneakers.
If you could save one sentimental piece from your home or your office, what would it be and why?
The white peacock at our flagship boutique in London and my one-of-a-kind Butterfly Bloom Sculptures at home – I created these for my first solo exhibition in New York in 2016, where hundreds of iridescent butterfly wings are set on an 18k gold and brass structure resembling blossoming blooms, housed under a series of hand blown tinted crystal glass bubble domes on hand-carved translucent white quartz bases.
What can we look forward to seeing more of in 2019 from Anabela Chan?
We are super-sizing our signature statement chandelier earrings for 2019 – bigger and better. Watch out for a series of exciting collaborations and our travelling pop-up trunkshows around the world from Mykonos to New York and Hong Kong.
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