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Q&A with Jewellery Designer Agnes Walker

With the launch of our Gloriana collection came the perfect opportunity to collaborate with the incredibly talented designer Abby Gadd from Agnes Walker. Through her exploration of the connection between heritage and modernity Abby’s pieces perfectly complement the symbolism of this collection’s print, and echo Elizabeth’s love of lavish jewellery. Specially for us, she created fifteen, beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces – the perfect finish to your Gloriana look. We chatted to her about her ideas, inspiration and advice for those wanting to follow in her path.

When planning the collaboration with Olivia Annabelle, where did you look for inspiration?    It was a perfect opportunity to look again at the great paintings of Queen Elizabeth I dressed in all her majestic finery, and to wider examples of Tudor jewellery to get a feel for the shapes and motifs which were popular. I also loved revisiting the costumes and styling of Cate Blanchett in the two films about Elizabeth. But I also wanted to bring a sense of timelessness to the collection and I wanted to reflect how our fascination with symbolic and statement jewellery has endured through the centuries. That’s why it was important for me to use costume jewellery pieces from right across the 20th century – from the 1900s to the 1990s.   What is your favourite piece from the collection?   I absolutely loved putting the Gloriana Halo Crown together, starting with the Edwardian paste moon-shaped dress ornament and the Art Deco era paste star brooch, both which I already had in my stash of vintage treasures, and then sourcing the other pieces of vintage jewellery to echo the rich royal blue hue that runs through the Olivia Annabelle print. But I think my absolute favourite is the OA Eye, created from an oval early 20th century paste dress buckle. The design came to me in a flash of inspiration. I had all the little component pieces here in the studio and everything came together in such perfect harmony!   What led you to become a jewellery designer?   That’s interesting and quite difficult to pinpoint as it happened almost accidentally. I have always enjoyed creative activities, but I took a more academic route at university, studying history, obtaining a PhD and becoming a researcher and university lecturer. When on maternity leave with my third daughter I decided that I wanted to explore more creative avenues and focused on how I might use my passion for vintage costume jewellery and treasure hunting at antiques markets and boot sales in this endeavour. Prompted by my cousin’s success as a wedding cake designer, I began to look at the growing opportunities in the area of bridal fashion and could see an increasing demand for distinctive and meaningful accessories for weddings and special occasions. So, I began designing jewelled headpieces for brides, using reworked vintage jewellery elements. Over time, my range has grown to include earrings, necklaces and bracelets - though headwear remains at the heart of my collections.

When planning the collaboration with Olivia Annabelle, where did you look for inspiration?

It was a perfect opportunity to look again at the great paintings of Queen Elizabeth I dressed in all her majestic finery, and to wider examples of Tudor jewellery to get a feel for the shapes and motifs which were popular. I also loved revisiting the costumes and styling of Cate Blanchett in the two films about Elizabeth. But I also wanted to bring a sense of timelessness to the collection and I wanted to reflect how our fascination with symbolic and statement jewellery has endured through the centuries. That’s why it was important for me to use costume jewellery pieces from right across the 20th century – from the 1900s to the 1990s.

What is your favourite piece from the collection?

I absolutely loved putting the Gloriana Halo Crown together, starting with the Edwardian paste moon-shaped dress ornament and the Art Deco era paste star brooch, both which I already had in my stash of vintage treasures, and then sourcing the other pieces of vintage jewellery to echo the rich royal blue hue that runs through the Olivia Annabelle print. But I think my absolute favourite is the OA Eye, created from an oval early 20th century paste dress buckle. The design came to me in a flash of inspiration. I had all the little component pieces here in the studio and everything came together in such perfect harmony!

What led you to become a jewellery designer?

That’s interesting and quite difficult to pinpoint as it happened almost accidentally. I have always enjoyed creative activities, but I took a more academic route at university, studying history, obtaining a PhD and becoming a researcher and university lecturer. When on maternity leave with my third daughter I decided that I wanted to explore more creative avenues and focused on how I might use my passion for vintage costume jewellery and treasure hunting at antiques markets and boot sales in this endeavour. Prompted by my cousin’s success as a wedding cake designer, I began to look at the growing opportunities in the area of bridal fashion and could see an increasing demand for distinctive and meaningful accessories for weddings and special occasions. So, I began designing jewelled headpieces for brides, using reworked vintage jewellery elements. Over time, my range has grown to include earrings, necklaces and bracelets - though headwear remains at the heart of my collections.

If you had to describe your designing style in three words, what would they be?   Whimsical; Textural; Detailed   Who is your style icon?   Oh goodness, that’s difficult as there are so many women throughout the decades whose style really moves me. But Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine would be right up there among them. She often appears in my consciousness as a muse when I am designing.   What empowers you as a woman in the industry?    I think my grounding in the history of design and culture and, I guess, the sense of expertise that it brings me, is what gives me a feeling of empowerment in my industry. I think many women are susceptible to feelings of self-doubt, the nagging feeling of being an imposter in your field, and so on. I’m prone to that too, especially as I don’t have any formal design training, but I draw my particular strengths and focus on the values that I want my designs to represent.

If you had to describe your designing style in three words, what would they be?

Whimsical; Textural; Detailed

Who is your style icon?

Oh goodness, that’s difficult as there are so many women throughout the decades whose style really moves me. But Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine would be right up there among them. She often appears in my consciousness as a muse when I am designing.

What empowers you as a woman in the industry?

I think my grounding in the history of design and culture and, I guess, the sense of expertise that it brings me, is what gives me a feeling of empowerment in my industry. I think many women are susceptible to feelings of self-doubt, the nagging feeling of being an imposter in your field, and so on. I’m prone to that too, especially as I don’t have any formal design training, but I draw my particular strengths and focus on the values that I want my designs to represent.

What piece of advice would you give to budding jewellery designers?   You can’t be everything to all people. Spend time thinking about what lies at the heart of your desire to design. Authenticity and communication with your particular customer have to be your focus.   What does 2021 hold for Agnes Walker jewellery?   Well, it’s been an extremely tough 2020 – particularly as weddings have been so severely hit by coronavirus restrictions and such a key part of my client base are brides-to-be. But weddings will return, and I cannot wait to be working on bespoke commissions for 2021 and 2022 brides. I love how each client brings their own story and it’s really wonderful to be a small part of their planning for their special day. More widely, I will be broadening my curated collection of original vintage costume jewellery and combining this with a series of themed collections of my own reworked vintage designs, so that we’ll have three or four mini collection launches throughout the year. And hopefully some more exciting collaborations with talented independent designers and brands like this one with Olivia Annabelle.

What piece of advice would you give to budding jewellery designers?

You can’t be everything to all people. Spend time thinking about what lies at the heart of your desire to design. Authenticity and communication with your particular customer have to be your focus.

What does 2021 hold for Agnes Walker jewellery?

Well, it’s been an extremely tough 2020 – particularly as weddings have been so severely hit by coronavirus restrictions and such a key part of my client base are brides-to-be. But weddings will return, and I cannot wait to be working on bespoke commissions for 2021 and 2022 brides. I love how each client brings their own story and it’s really wonderful to be a small part of their planning for their special day. More widely, I will be broadening my curated collection of original vintage costume jewellery and combining this with a series of themed collections of my own reworked vintage designs, so that we’ll have three or four mini collection launches throughout the year. And hopefully some more exciting collaborations with talented independent designers and brands like this one with Olivia Annabelle.