“My aim for jewellery is to make it democratic and exciting for people who are interested in fashion as a whole,” says jeweller Dominic Jones on the ethos that drives his work. “I feel as though jewellery as a category is stagnating, and about a decade behind fashion in terms of the way it communicates – and fine jewellery is so often an alienating field. I would like to think that I’m creating an opposite world that is inclusive, diverse and friendly.” On Saturday, as part of London Fashion Week’s schedule, Jones unveiled a new collection showcasing an altered vision for fine jewellery brand Astley Clarke – where he was appointed creative director in September last year – encompassing these exact sentiments. It’s an unexpected collaboration to say the least: the history of Jones’ craft has typically blurred the peripheries of jewellery design, contemporary art and fashion, placing him at the forefront of his practice, while Astley Clarke has historically been driven by a commercial sensibility. But after taking a break from the industry and dissolving his own namesake label, he felt 2017 an appropriate moment to confront a challenging opportunity. As Jones explains, “what attracted me to the brand is the unique and slightly bizarre heritage in that it comes from a retail background. It’s a very interesting and exciting proposition for a designer to take on.”
Jones’ collections for Astley Clarke form a triptych: one ‘contemporary’ and two ‘fine’, a diverse range of price points feeding into the designer’s aim to democratise. The first he shows me is entitled Colour of Calder, compiled of delicate pieces inspired by modernist sculpture. Semi-precious stones in the form of tiger’s eye, pink opal, turquoise, onyx and malachite are suspended from delicate 18ct gold chains with a nod towards Peggy Guggenheim (who notoriously wore jewellery designed by Alexander Calder with the enthusiasm of a magpie). At Saturday’s presentation, pieces sat displayed beneath a beautiful custom-made mobile, clearly referencing Calder’s work. For the second collection, named Phototaxis, Jones took his inspiration from the manner in which moths are drawn to moonlight. One particularly intricate design is a pair of earrings, with the silhouette of a rose gold moth balanced on a hinge, mimicking the flapping of powdery wings through a shimmer of miniscule grey and black diamonds. The history of Astley Clarke is central to Phototaxis, for Bec Astley Clarke’s geneticist grandfather, Sir Cyril, helped cure Rhesus disease affecting pregnant women through research into winged insects. And the third collection, Astronomy, demonstrates a clear influence garnered from the processes of antique jewellery making, with Jones citing René Lalique as one of his greatest sources of creative stimulus. I am shown a ring formed from a slice of polished ruby set into a gold band, a tiny emerald set into its suface representing a martian; and another pair of globular earrings representing the earth, emerald green landmasses set into sapphire seas, a gyrating axis topped with a pearl signifying the moon. It’s clear from the way that Jones elatedly talks about these pieces – and from holding them in your hand – that he has poured a great deal of sentiment into them, subsequently creating a longevity in what he refers to as “the antiques of the future”.
Alongside those who wish to purchase a piece of jewellery to be cherished and handed down, Jones aspires that the new Astley Clarke customer would be the “self-buyer”: the woman who intends to purchase for herself. “There’s a huge scope for this, I hope, as the entry price point is £25 for a single, silver plated, sapphire stud for example, and goes all the way up to £12,000 for one of the grander pieces.” This, Jones explains, allows him to craft beautifully designed objects catering to any kind of budget and any kind of woman. “Historically, fine jewellery has been a man’s world, with men buying it as presents for their wives and girlfriends,” Jones proposes. “Now we occupy a space where women are empowered to cater and provide for their own desires – and this is what I want Astley Clarke to represent.”
For our A/W17 fashion week coverage, anothermag.com is collaborating with Gasoline, a photography collective working with visual artists around the world. Here, photographer Bex Day presents a look at Astley Clarke A/W17.