When Annoushka Ducas couldn’t find an engagement ring she liked, she decided to create one of her own—and from there a new eponymous jewelry brand was born. Robb Report’s partner Beyond Bespoke interviewed Ducas to find out the story behind the Annoushka brand.
First, can you tell us about the Annoushka brand? How did you start and what has been the evolution of the brand since your launch?
As a designer, I have always been passionate about rethinking the way women buy and wear their jewelry. I had found a lot of traditional fine jewelry quite formal, both from a design and cultural perspective, so everything in me wanted to counteract that. I wanted to design pieces that women wanted to wear, that they wanted to buy for themselves and that would become an integral part of how they lived their daily lives.
Did you always want to design jewelry? Where did you start your career?
Growing up I had no idea what I wanted to do. I started designing about 25 years ago, when I created my first piece of jewelry—my engagement ring. I couldn’t find anything I liked on the market; it was either too “cold” or too predictable. Much to John’s (my then husband-to-be) dismay, I created my own piece.
Comfort and practicality were at the top of my priorities as I wanted it to be something I would wear all the time. Although I was adamant that I wanted an emerald center stone, strangely enough I ended up with a ruby, which was the last thing I thought I wanted. However it was much better suited to my skin tone; it’s amazing how a stone can really speak to you. I decided on a bezel setting so it wouldn’t get caught on anything, and to this day I have never taken it off.
What inspires your designs—do you focus on trends?
My approach to design is one of distillation. Something I might have been feeling on a personal level, or a wider social trend that I have noticed triggers a stream of thought which in turn brings forms, objects, pictures, colors and artworks to my attention in ways I hadn’t previously considered.
Additionally, I have always had a love of nature and these organic inspirations continue to emerge in our collections. Take Mythology or Butterflies; both of these collections were influenced by nature, thanks to a butterfly momentarily landing on my sleeve. This fleeting moment is reflected through the playfulness of the collection.
What is your design philosophy?
I love to create jewelry that is fun, comfortable and timeless—my pieces should feel like an old friend. I want to create jewelry with a yumminess that defines exquisite jewels and must-have pieces with a strong sense of sentimentality—a keepsake of individual memories. Comfort and tactility are also key, as are a mix of golds, textures, and colors.
What is it that appeals to your clients?
I think the strong sense of playfulness that my jewelry evokes means each piece can be worn with other collections. My client’s often tell me how they are surprised by how well the pieces work alone or very naturally with jewelry they have had for years—it allows them to think about jewelry in a different way.
Jewelry is such a personal thing for a woman and my motto is to “dress up your jeans.” Women should be wearing their jewelry daily and enjoying it rather than only saving it for their cocktail dress or ball gown.
Do you have a favorite collection or piece of jewelry?
The Dream Catcher collection is a firm favorite. The name of the collection came to me one morning and the designs followed a few weeks later. There is so much narrative and sentiment that I really love. The combination of rose gold, texture, brown and black diamonds, and mother-of-pearl (subtle but complex) gives the collection a sophisticated femininity. The pieces are dramatic yet simple and evoke a feeling that is so important in the world today—capturing and holding on to your dreams.
What does British craftsmanship mean to you?
Having started out on my own in the world of jewelry design with little experience or specific training, nurturing craftsmanship is something very close to my heart. British craftsmanship is incredibly innovative and sets the bar very high. The high standard of craftsmanship in the jewelry world would not be achieved without the work of the new Goldsmiths’ Centre Apprenticeship Program, which I hope will rejuvenate the industry.
Who inspires you in the world of design?
I don’t think there’s one single person that inspires me. I tend to take reference or inspiration from things, places, and experiences, whether I am traveling to wonderful places in search of stones, or just for fun. I am fascinated by how other cultures adorn themselves and this subconsciously influences what I do. I love art—I might see a shape or a picture that sparks something. I recently went to the Alexander Calder exhibition at Tate Modern and loved his drawings of circus characters, which prompted and inspired my Alphabet Hoopla collection.
I’m excited about my new Flamenco collection, which launched in September. It explores the wonderful movement and attitude of the dance I spent so much time watching as a child with my best friend who lives in Jerez, Andalusia [Spain].
I am also very excited to be returning to Addis Ababa to visit the award-winning charity Give a Future, where I have supported the micro finance program for women for a few years now. On this trip I will also be visiting the mines from where my opals are sourced. My Ethiopian Opal Collection supports Give a Future, as 20 percent of each sale from the collection is donated to the micro-finance program. (beyond-bespoke.com)