5 MINUTES WITH… VERA XANE
I’ve noticed something in the past couple of months: it seems everywhere I look on this vast space of Internet I stumble across an interview with Alex Smythe-Kirk, designer and founder of jewellery label Vera Xane. And understandably – the debut collection Dichotomies boasts a sophistication that could rival any well-established and innovative brand. Growing up in a creative household has clearly played a big part in the development of Alex’s design aesthetic. Her father was the founder and editor of 1960s cult music magazine Drift, which Alex cites as a major influence (see below interview) along with 70s rock’n’roll and the many female music icons that were a huge part of that era. Recently I was lucky enough to have my own interview with Alex at her home in Neutral Bay. Only problem was that she is so warm, chatty, and passionate about her work that my 5 minute interview ended up taking 20 minutes! Enjoy…
ALICE: Is Vera Xane your alter-ego? Does she have her own personality?
ALEX: Sort of. It’s very hard not to design for yourself. I don’t see her as an alter ego exactly, but you do have to step away from yourself to design….. She’s like me, but separated!
ALICE: How much influence would you say your dads music magazine (Drift) has had on your style as an adult, and do you think the label would have a different aesthetic without that influence?
ALEX: The magazines influence is kind of glamourised for Vera Xane. I grew up with all of that music and that’s still what I listen to – you get in my car and its Elton John, Rod Stewart from ’65… Without at the label would definitely have a different feel. From a design perspective that’s always been my favourite era – they used to draw everything by hand and thats the way my dad put His magazine together as well. It’s massively influenced my life.
ALICE: If the collection could be a song, what would it be?
ALEX: That’s hard! When I first started the brand I remember I was sitting in the studio and I had a few lyrics up on the wall. One was Billy Joel Always A Woman – sounds really daggy, but there’s this description of a girl who’s strong but weak, really beautiful and fashionable; I loved that. I also love the idea of trying to figure out what Rhiannon [by Fleetwood Mac] would really be like… Stevie Nicks, Jefferson Airplane… That all influenced me. And there’s one Paul Simon song 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, which sounds a bit strange but I remember listening to it constantly while I was designing. It reminded me of this girl who is just SO cool that it’s nothing to her to just leave someone.
ALICE: Do you have a favourite piece?
ALEX: The Sunray Bangle. It photographed so well!
ALICE: What has been the most interesting manufacturing process you’ve adopted in creating Vera Xane?
ALEX: Lost-wax casting. I learnt the process under a master jeweller while I was in high school. So all my pieces are done using casting – [that way] the pieces are fully handmade. Basically they carve the pieces in wax, make a mould from that, inject it, then polish and plate it. The bespoke, handmade process has always been important to me. I’d love to explore all of that further – plating. I’ve only just scratched the surface – I think there’s about 500 ways you can do gold! The black colour in my jewellery is actually a rare metal called ruthenium. The only way to get it to be black is to plate it over gold! So the piece then becomes far more precious than just gold or just black.
ALICE: Which designers would you pair with Vera Xane?
ALEX: I was really excited recently to see an image in Grazia where they’ve styled the Sunray Bangle with Dion Lee on Samantha Harris! I love, love, love Dion Lee – he’s the perfect example of when you do something that’s all your own and innovative, people will go nuts for it. I also love Ellery for the colour palette, the soft punks and greens – it’s edgy but romantic, which I love.
ALICE: There are so many opinions on how to style jewellery – as with any thing – what would be your advice/aesthetic? Would Vera Xane be more at the minimalist end or the layered “Pamela Love” end of the spectrum?
ALEX: That’s an interesting question – with my pieces being so architectural they lend themselves to more minimal styling in the sense that there’s line and shape but they’re still quite bulky. I wanted larger pieces that were still very fine, that’s why there’s a lot of hollow space. So the pieces are nice photographed quite minimal. But me personally, I’m more into the layered look.
ALICE: Do you think you’ll ever go back to textile/clothing?
ALEX: I’m not sure. I’m not sure it’s appropriate for the brand as it is. But I want to delve further into accessories. There’s already a couple of bags in this collection. But I want to explore the use of leather, and other accessories like scarves, that sort of thing.
ALICE: What can we expect from Vera in 2013?
ALEX: I’m really excited about Spring/Summer. We’re in the process of sampling at the moment. It’s quite similar in the sense that its architectural, I think it will always be like that. But we’re introducing a bit of colour… In quite an innovative way – not what you’d expect!
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