ART EXPERT Annoushka Ducas
- A jewelry designer, creative director, and entrepreneur who founded Links of London and Annoushka. In 2013, Annushka was awarded the MBE Award for her contribution to jewelry.
Annushka is involved in mentoring and annually oversees projects with students at the Central Saint Martins College of Art.
Annoushka is directly connected with Russia, her family immigrated to England in the 20th century.
— Annoushka, we are so pleased to have an interview today, you are not only an amazing designer, but also a designer with Russian roots.
— I am! I am half Russian. My mother was Russian. My grandparents left Russia in 1922, but I was born here, in the UK. How is London? It is difficult to enjoy London now.
— London is a fantastic city! So diverse and inclusive. Unfortunately, we have quite unexpected circumstances here, but we are going to make the best of it.
— I guess we are. It is an interesting time to be able to reset, re-think about everything. I am very lucky; I have my four children at home. It has been already 8 weeks, very unusual (Annoushka is laughing)
— Some family time together?
— Yes, together. Maybe it is not so good for them, but it is very nice for us.
— You said your family immigrated in 1922. What about Russian traditions in your family? Do you still have Russian spirit at home?
— When I was growing up, I had a lot of Russian traditions.I had a Russian nanny, who was my mother’s nanny and then mine. There were a lot of traditions back then. We used to celebrate Christmas, Russian Easter. So every year we would have Pasqua for Easter and red eggs. Do you still have that traditions?
— Yes! We still do that. You need to boil eggs in onion shell to get that red color.
— Yes! Oh, it is all such a delicious food. But now maybe not so much anymore, because effectively I was rose up in England. My mother died when I was 24, so my children never really knew her, it is very sadly. The Russian traditions are gone a little bit, although I still feel Russian. Very emotional, love color...all that things in me, I think are quite Russian.
— Emotions and colors are definitely about us, exactly. You even have a collection inspired by Russian churches, Touch Wood.
— Yes, Touch Wood. When I was very small, my mother used to import Russian horses. In early 1970 I would go with my mother to somewhere, I don’t even know where in the countryside in Russia and by my very early memories I remember this beautiful wooden onion – dome churches, but not churches like in Moscow or Saint-Petersburg, they were simple wooden churches. And I have this memory how my mother has a wooden ring, that she used to wear always, when we traveled. I never asked her, but I’m sure that ring was about to be touched, touching the wood. Ever since I can remember I always was said to touch wood a lot, because something can happen. So the collection was very much based on this idea of the churches of my memory and my mother’s ring. Each piece of the collection has inside a piece of wood, so you always touch the wood. Because it is very much about how the person wearing it feels. It is not so much about what you think, it is more about what I think, when I wear it. Does it make me feel protected? This is what is about.
— Did many of Russians buy this collection?
— I think quite a lot of Russians liked it.
— You have already had a very exciting career, which is still going on. How did you become the person you are today? What were the main milestones that happened to you during your journey?
— It has been a wonderful journey. Good fun, a lot of interesting things. I have met so many amazing people, who helped me or inspired me. But I think that the most exciting thing in terms of person level was to be made MBE by The Queen. I don’t know if you know much about England, but very few people every year are given this title. I felt very privileged and my husband as well, we got it together and what it meant, that we had to go to Buckingham Palace to receive it. We could take 3 guests each, so we took all of our children and John’s parents as well. It was a very special time.
— We are sure your family is very proud of you. If you were able to talk to yourself when you were starting this journey, what would you say to that Annoushka Ducas?
— It is always a difficult question. I think I would say: “Believe in yourself, don’t be worried about what other people think. If you believe in yourself, than other people will believe in you too.” When you are young, you are full of insecurities, you know, and it makes you a little bit reluctant or tentative to do things. I think I probably wasted a bit of time, worrying about that too much.
— You still have achieved fascinating results, that inspire us so much!
— Just don’t spend to much time worrying about what other people think.
— That is a very good advice. You got inspired to make jewelry, when your mother asked you to make some fish cufflinks. How did you feel when you made something with your own hands?
— I didn’t train to be a jeweler it was something that I did, because I just had an idea. I still don’t make jewelry with my own hands, I just have something in my head, in my imagination. Quite often my way to design is not by making it or drawing it, because I’m not very good at drawing, it is very much in my head and I would say to a designer “I want it to be longer, or a bit shorter”. How does it make me feel? For the first time I was a bit surprised, but now it is nothing more exciting, than when you have an idea and you can visualize the idea, but actually holding it in your hands, or seeing somebody else wearing it – that is the best feeling in the whole world. It is kind of an affirmation, when somebody else likes it too.
— When you see a person, do you imagine which of your jewelry can she wear?
— I definitely do that. Which color can suit them, which metal will open them? And people are often surprised about what suits them. They say: “Oh no, I don’t like yellow gold, or red color”. As long as you try it, people are very-very often surprised. Even me, when I was designing my engagement ring, in my head I wanted to have an Emerald, I was so sure about it, but when it came to trying stones next to my skin I quite quickly realized, that Emerald doesn’t suit my skin, and a Rubin really did. I think there are reasons for that, just the stone doesn’t speak for you in the end.
— Where do you look for inspiration?
— Inspiration comes form so many places. I’m talking to you now from Sussex. We are two miles from the sea on one side. I love nature, it has always been a part of my inspiration. Either it about the texture, or the perfection of the flower or a leave, or just a tiny little element might start some idea. So it really comes from a lot of places, but I find myself returning to the nature.
— We noticed that Annoushka Jewelry has a lot of symbols. It is not just about jewelry...What is the role of symbols in your life?
— I’m siting now talking to you an I have an Evil eye in front of me on my window. You know, it is a bit a subconscious thing, like Touch Wood collection. It is kind of a feeling from inside. I have always been like that.
I have Dream Catcher collection, for example. The design came last and the first thing happened was the ides for the name. I woke up and I was like: “I’m going to call a collection “Dream Catcher””. It was 2009-2010, when the world was a bit more certain than it is now. I didn’t know how it was going to look like, but later I went to the designer and I knew how it’s gonna look like. And it was fun enough and unusual. It was based around a sign in Bed & Breakfast on the way form home to work. So that was a kind of important. Also, travel has always been an important part of my life, and I think inevitably you are inspired and take things in even without knowing the true meaning. For me it is not about how it looks for the other people, but most importantly how it makes you feel. Symbols are important, but I don’t design around symbols, it just happens to be a part of DNA.
— What do you like the most in the process of making the jewelry?
— What I like most, it once I have the idea for what I think it is going to be, I love waiting for the first sample. There is nothing more exciting than guessing what I’m going to see. You know, you see it in the wax first and there nothing more exciting than guessing how it is going to be in gold. And it is not always perfect, but I love that. I really like when I want to create something and one person might say to me: “Annoushka, you cannot do it, it is too difficult”. And I find that very exciting to find a solution. Particularly, I’m not a trained designer, so I don’t have any barriers really, so I can imagine anything I want.
— You are travelling a lot, but also you lived in a different place during your life – Hong Kong, Paris, Philippines, United Kingdom...It is a mix of different cultures in those places. How does mix of cultures really impacts the Fashion Industry? So much discussion is happening right now around inclusion and diversity. What is your opinion about that?
— Inevitably. As the world has got more global, people travel more, of course it has become much more cross-cultural. For me it is not a very conscious thing, it just something, where I have grown up. It just observation, isn’t it? When I was little, I spent a lot of time in Italy, and there you know, jewelry is very important. Women from all level of income wear a jewelry and normally they wear a lot of it. I’m not talking about important a jewelry, I’m talking about generally a jewelry. Looking what happens in South America, or when I was travelling to Africa and I saw tribes wearing a very interesting jewelry. Jewelry is a connection between cultures.
— Genderless or femininity & masculinity?
— My jewelry is quite feminine, I don’t design for men particularly, I am delighted if they would wear it. My jewelry is designed by a woman for women. Because I understand how it feels, if earrings are too heavy and I don’t want to wear it, of it doesn’t seat right. So I design from a very practical angle as well. So, ultimately, I guess I am a designer for women, but it doesn’t mean that anybody else can’t wear it, as I said.
— Can you describe #annoushkawomen?
— I think #annoushkawoman are sophisticated, knows their own mind, they are well traveled, they are intelligent, it is people who are interested in the story behind the pieces they wear and they can make their own decisions, they tempted to be the women who buy jewelries for themselves, so independent. 85% percent of our client are women, who buy jewelry for themselves.
— You have #annoushkabookclub, what is this about?
— We started it in the beginning of the lockdown as a way to cheer people up, as a way to keep a community together and to keep a conversation going. So, people don’t feel isolated, whether it’s my customers or my team, or whoever wants to join. And it has been great.So what we do is we ask a people to read a book and then we do an Instagram live Question & Answer with the author.
— What will you suggest to a young jewelry designer or someone, who wants to start his first jewelry brand?
— Just start. It is never a good time to start, you need