Q&A: Taher Chemirik
Did your childhood in Algeria inspire you to become a jewellery designer?
I come from a family of designers and my parents have always encouraged us to engage in the arts. We were always drawing and painting and creating things. My parents even gave me my own wall to do whatever I wanted with it.
When did you move to Paris?
I moved to Paris when I was 22 years old in order to study. I had already attained a degree in architecture in Algeria but I wanted to study stage and costume design so I enrolled at the Ecole Nationale des Arts Decoratifs.
How did your education in stage and costume design help develop your jewellery aesthetic?
After I finished school, I worked for the Opera de Paris designing costumes and accessories. Of course, in stage productions, everything has to be larger than life so I learned how to use the little means we had to create bold, statement jewellery that could be seen from afar. That was how I began to develop my own personal style of jewellery design.
When did you make the transition to professional jewellery design?
After working in theatre, I landed a position designing jewellery for Karl Lagerfeld when he was still at Chloe. I've also been lucky to work for other ateliers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Roger Vivier, Balenciaga, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Chanel (with Lagerfeld).
Which experience do you think taught you the most?
I believe working with Lagerfeld taught me the most because he is so innovative. Also, the environment he creates is very encouraging and he is very open to new ideas, which pushes you to be as creative and original as you can be. I worked with him for more than 10 years and I owe a lot of what I know to that experience.
When did you decide to launch your own label and how did you go about doing it?
I first began designing my own pieces in 1996 when I was still at Chanel. They were mostly silver because it was cost-effective. It was very exciting when that small collection was then picked up by Barneys in New York and the Galerie Naila de Monbrison in Paris.
You have become famous for modern, sculpted jewellery that has an architectural flair. Would you say that is accurate?
I think design, whether it is architecture, fashion or jewellery design, all come from the same source of creativity. I have been fortunate enough to experience all three so I am influenced by the principles of each. Everything I make is still crafted by hand and I like to experiment with different materials such as Tahitian pearls, wood, coral and enamel as well as precious and semi-precious stones.
How would you describe the woman you design jewellery for?
I always believe that jewellery chooses the woman. When a woman opens herself up to what she desires, without worrying about what other people will think, she'll instinctively be drawn to what suits her. The woman I design for knows that. She understands that it is important to pick jewellery that compliments her rather than takes attention away from her. Also, my pieces are quite eye-catching so my customers tend to be women who have plenty of character and aren't afraid to stand out.
How did it feel to be recognised in 2007 as one of Time magazine's 'The Design 100'?
Most of all, I feel proud. Being recognised is always a nice feeling because it validates my choice of career and makes me feel that I was right to pursue my dreams. Most importantly, it inspires me to always keep going.
The Taher Chemirik Collection is available at Lane Crawford, IFC Mall, Central, tel: 2118 3388.