We were thrilled to hear that Stephen Webster is hosting the United States launch of “Rock Vault” at this year’s Couture show. As reported in the press, Stephen, in conjunction with the British Fashion Council and with the support of International Palladium Board, has curated a select group of seven talented British jewelry designers: Imogen Belfield, Fernando Jorge, Jo Hayes Ward, Melanie Georgacopoulos, Hannah Martin, Tomasz Donocik and Yunus & Eliza. These designers will showcase their collections within the Stephen Webster ball room to press and buyers during the five days of Couture. You can read all about these designers in the British Fashion Council’s announcement here, but we wanted to get a little “behind the scenes” insight into why this initiative is important to Stephen…so we asked him!
Couture: What inspired you to take part in this initiative? Why do you feel it’s important?
SW: The concept of creating a proper platform where the many talented emerging jewellers in the UK could be best represented, originated during a conversation with Caroline Rush, the head of the British Fashion Council. We were discussing the fact that more and more fashion stores including concept and department stores are stocking contemporary fine jewellery, yet the jewellery showcased at London Fashion Week was fragmented and to be honest not at all representative of the quality of talent in the industry. Being my usual vocal self, Caroline agreed that this needed to be addressed and challenged me to curate of a group of jewellers who would show at London Fashion Week (LFW). Liking the idea but feeling unable to take on another role I replied that I would love to but maybe in a couple of year’s time. However, Caroline can be very persuasive and I left the dinner that night as the newly appointed curator of a dedicated jewellery area at Somerset House. Since then, all of us involved in Rock Vault have been blown away by the enthusiasm and interest it has generated. The plan is that Rock Vault will constantly change, always surprising buyers and the press with the creativity that surrounds the most exciting platform for emerging talent within the British jewellery industry ever to exist.
Couture: How involved are you with each of the designers in Rock Vault and their design process?
SW: My involvement with rock vault is to, alongside the panel, curate the strongest group of designer jewellers in the UK each season. I am also in a position to spot opportunities outside the home of Rock Vault at LFW. The first of such is Rock Vault’s current exhibition in the brand new jewellery salon in London’s oldest Department store, Fortnum & Mason of Piccadilly. The second will be at Couture in Las Vegas. Getting the designers together for their first collective overseas trip has been reminiscent of managing a band.
I only get involved with the designers if they ask for my advice, and lately this has come up quite a lot, however this is not about their collection designs, it’s more practical and commercial issues.
Couture: When you first began designing, were there designers or others who took the time to mentor you and help you advance your business?
SW: One of the reasons I am so involved with Rock Vault is really the result of talks, committees and panels I have given and been involved with over many years. I have always enjoyed seeing people become successful in an industry that at times can be challenging to gain acceptance due to its overall conservative nature. Thankfully, things have changed hugely over the past ten years. When I started designing there were few people who might have given me a little advise but on the whole there wasn’t too much on offer. People have given me encouragement over the years though. David Yurman, Theo Fennell and Alex Sepkus, amongst others at different times were very generous in this area.
Couture: You were recently awarded an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire)….we saw all of the pictures in the press and on social media, but can you tell us anything about that experience that was not captured in photos? Were you nervous??
SW: Receiving an MBE was a great honour for me, my family and all the people who work at SW. We are all very proud to have been recognized by the Queen and UK Government for services to training and skills in the jewellery industry. I wasn’t nervous at all, the whole experience having my wife and two daughters in the palace was just exciting.