"I was born into diamonds but my story goes beyond my passion" – Valerie Messika on her diamond empire
Celebrating 10 years of design
V alerie Messika is at the forefront of the diamond industry. The daughter of a diamond dealer, the French luxury jewellery designer first entered the family business at the age of 12 before branching out to create her own eponymous label, which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary. Here, Buro 24/7 Middle East's Editor in Chief Shannon Wylie sat down with Valerie in Basel, Switzerland, to discuss her latest collaboration with a yet-to-be-revealed creative, which will be unveiled during the Haute Couture shows in Paris this July, being her father's daughter and why the Middle East feels like home...
Tell us about the 10th anniversary collaboration...
I hope you will like it! We designed a capsule collection, which consists of one ring, earrings, bracelets and pendants. We also developed two high-end pieces. It's something very special and next month I will be going to London for the photo shoot with Mert and Marcus.
Looking back on the past ten years and beyond, Messika stemmed from your father, who is a diamond dealer...
Yes. Fifty years ago he launched his business. He is the first generation in the diamond industry. Then the business is usually handed down from father to son. But there were six of us.
Did the dynamic change because you were the eldest?
We all wanted to work in the business. Every body needed to have their place in this nice story. So, my brother, for example, who is 24-years-old is involved in the diamond rough industry. Sometimes he will call me and say: "I have this stone, I'm going to cut it like this, what do you think?" Or he will give me ideas.
How would you describe your story?
It's like a fairytale. I was born into diamonds. But my story goes beyond my passion for diamonds. When I joined my dad 15 years ago, I said to him: "You know dad, I'm not feeling like I fit into your business because there's something else I see in my eyes". Then jewellery was a little bit boring. So I explained that I wanted to create my own jewellery brand but I wanted to make it a tribute to my dad so I said: "I won't call the brand Valeria Messika, I will call it Messika, because it's not about me. It's about the diamonds that you have built; this is our expertise. His reply? "OK, but I'll give you only one rule: Please keep only doing diamonds." So that's why Messika is all about diamonds. I will never do coloured stones or pearls.
three weeks ago a woman told me: "You know what, it seems like you created Messika for the Middle Eastern woman."
What is the largest stone you've ever worked with?
I used to have a 60-carat stone. It was huge.
You've changed the diamond industry significantly through your signature cuts, like the Madelline L'Univers. Can you tell us about this collection?
A lot of the inspiration comes from fashion and dresses, the way they're cut, the way they fit on the body. For me, a jewellery piece doesn't just start with a sketch. It's about how you're going to fit the piece on the body of the woman. So as in haute couture, when I'm making my high-end jewellery pieces, I think about diamonds as a fabric. I also think about Paris, which is a big source of inspiration for me. I found the '20s, the roaring '20s, which corresponds to women's emancipation. You know, they took out the corset, they went dancing, and a lot of amazing women started to appear.
Is the feminist movement something that inspires you?
I'm so proud that women are coming to the first row. Even in jewellery! The CEO at Pomellato and Piaget, are both women, and the Creative Director at Boucheron, is also a woman. Jewellery is for woman, and I remember, 15 years ago, there were so many men in the business and they aren't so young either (laughs).
What piece are you wearing this season?
I love my ear cuff. I find it super cool. I also love the choker because it's very trendy.
Now, in the Middle East Messika is set for expansion. What are your plans?
It's huge! I was almost crying last night because I was having a dinner with my distributor, Ali Bin Ali. I told him: "Remember seven years ago, you came to my booth at Baselworld — it was a very small booth — and you were just looking at me, you made your first order and you ordered a lot." I don't know why but he trusted in me from the beginning but now we're expanding with Ali Bin Ali and with the Seddiqi family — I adore them also. In the Middle East I feel like I'm at home.
Messika is set to open eight stores in the Middle East next year, one at The Dubai Mall, three stores in Doha, two in Saudi Arabia, one in Kuwait and one in Bahrain.
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