Mount Street, at the heart of Mayfair, is home to some of the most renowned retailers that can be found in the capital. Understandably such a high-end area can prove quite intimidating unless you have either a marvellous bank balance or say Paris Hilton on your arm. Unfortunately, on this evening, I had neither of the above (Paris was busy, obviously) and I couldn’t help but feel a little self-conscious as I shuffled into Stephen Webster’s flagship London store. However, I needn’t have worried as I received the warmest of welcomes and an enthusiastic introduction to a brand, which yes, is hugely luxurious, but equally as down to earth.
Entering into the world of jewellery 36 years ago, Stephen has since achieved great prestige as a designer, selling in over two hundred locations worldwide and boasting boutiques in the likes of Beverley Hills, Vienna and Moscow. By combining his passion and skill for the craft with his glam-rock attitude, Stephen has succeeded in creating dramatic jewellery that is unrivalled in both personality and quality.Intent on “bringing down the barriers” of stereotypes associated with conventional high-end jewellers, Stephen takes a self-proclaimed ‘tongue-in-cheek’ approach towards his designs, which is demonstrated precisely by his latest collection ‘Murder She Wrote’, which features satirical poison apples, revolvers and fireworks.
Put simply, I discovered that Stephen Webster is a designer who, although takes his craft very seriously, doesn’t take himself too seriously. The result? An incredibly precious yet fun and innovative British jewellery brand.
How has Vogue featured in your career as a jewellery designer?
About 12 years ago, jewellery started to become fashionable in a way that it hadn’t been before- it started to become part of the “look”… When something like that happens, journalists, for sure, look to people who are doing some fashionable stuff, and apparently that was already me. My style was very flamboyant, very edgy, and I already had some famous clients such as Madonna, and people looked at that and thought ‘well, we might as well start with him’. So it was then that I started to get a lot of press- press in Vogue, in Instyle, in Harpers, and that was because they were ready to give pages to jewellery, and they weren’t before.
So, how did you and ‘fashion’ first meet?
I went to art school in 1976 with the intention of becoming a fashion designer but I wasn’t quite prepared. I was 16 and I’d been to an all boys’ school and the fashion course was all girls and sewing machines- and I just thought ‘this is not for me.’ All I knew was that I liked fashion, and that was it, so I said ‘I don’t think I can do this’. But then I discovered jewellery and I loved it! I became obsessed with being the best jeweller- the best craftsman- that I could be. That’s why my jewellery is very complicated, because I know how to make it, so we don’t do anything the simple way- I like it to have intricacy and complications- and that’s our style.
Have you collaborated with anyone, or are collaborations anything that you would ever be interested in doing?
I’m not looking for any collaborations now. I did them with Guess, with Versace… It’s a funny thing; if you work with Versace you do it with the style of Versace, no matter what. I only did it for money, and now I wouldn’t ever do it. It’s not part of our strategy anymore, because now we are all about our brand. However, I’ve done collaborations with Harley Davidson, with Gibson Guitar- and I love those things, because they’re not about meeting with other designers- its all about brands- iconic brands- and having fun, I mean if I design a guitar, that’s pretty fucking cool!
Your proudest moment so far?
Probably when we did our first ever exhibition in America. That was huge and a really proud moment for me.
What is your biggest inspiration with regards to your designs- for instance, I understand that your newest collection ‘Murder She Wrote’ is inspired by said British television drama?
I don’t really look to that for my inspiration, what it does is I go ‘you know what, its tongue in cheek’- the whole thing is tongue in cheek. Murder she wrote, women killers, etcetera, but the collection obviously isn’t about killing people, its tongue in cheek, and that suits us as a brand.
Like I’ve got these zodiac signs that have just gone through the roof, they‘re big pendants that you wear in a fashionable way and people just love the interpretations we have done! They’re our top twelve selling items in the silver world, and you think ‘Why didn’t I do this before?’ I wrote every star sign myself, called myself the mystic tea leaf, I dressed up and went around doing shows- people would line up for me to read their tea leaves, I couldn’t do it properly, but I’d made a legend, and in the end that’s what its all about. No other jeweller’s gonna do it. It’s a really cool design thing but its also the package, its about that experience- people will never forget buying their zodiac sign from me dressed as a tea leaf!
So, to summarise, would you say that your brand is all about fun?
It’s about me actually. It’s very important in a brand, if its disconnected it doesn’t work. Every brand, it doesn’t matter if it’s a 150 years old, it starts with somebody, that person is that brand. Someone can be the custodian of the heritage and interpret it extremely well, or not, but the reality is that it started its roots with something that came from somebody.
And what’s next? Any ideas for a new collection?
D’you know where I was today; I went to the tower of London. I took a school trip, I took two of my designers and a curator and we went to the tower of London. We went and looked at the crown jewels, cause the crown jewels are amazing, but its quite interesting that you do come back sort of inspired, not to make the crown jewels as such, but something in it will make you think. For instance, its the Queen’s jubilee next year and that’s an amazing thing, I actually find that incredible, even though I wouldn’t say that I’m the biggest royalist, but its amazing- she’s probably the most popular monarch ever. So I find things like that inspiring, and that’s more like a history lesson. So yeah, who knows…