Anabela Chan was born in Hong Kong and went to live in Paris when she was 10. She worked with fashion designer Alexander McQueen while a student, and helped design the new World Trade Centre in New York. Her jewellery is worn by stars including Lady Gaga and Rita Ora. She tells Daniel Kong about her family, the creative process, and her training as an architect.
You were born into four generations of film directors and cinematographers. What was that like? "Growing up I was exposed to a lot of beautiful imagery, cinematography, props and jewellery, so that has made me driven by what I see. This shows through with my brand, because photography is an intrinsic part of the storytelling. At one point I did think about working in set and costume dressing - I definitely didn't want to be in front of the camera."
Narratives are key to your creative process. What stories have resonated with you? "I have always loved Alice in Wonderland, because the whole story is so magical and I love the idea of falling into a completely different world where there is so much play with proportion and scale. The story is reflective of my jewellery and my Secret Garden collection was inspired by the magical gardens of that fairy tale."
You trained as an architect. Have you found parallels between that and jewellery design? "Definitely. With jewellery, it's about creating a miniature piece of work, so when there is a technicality to how something is put together, in its proportions or joints or understanding the materials to create different textures, that has many similarities with architecture. You can say that the scale of each discipline is different, but how you approach the design is related to the human scale. Jewellery is something you hold with your hand, and architecture is something you walk through."
Does your work take you to exotic places? "Recently I went to Iguazu, a tropical jungle that borders Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and was actually the jungle that inspired the movie Avatar. Every corner you turn there is a waterfall with a rainbow, and you see the most exotic flowers and birds."
Is it true that your great-grandmother used to own flamingos and peacocks? "Yes. I didn't know about this until my mum told me. My great-grandmother was a movie star and she had a big house in Shanghai and a big back garden with flamingos and peacocks roaming around. I think maybe this is the reason why I'm so obsessed with birds - it's in my blood!"