Jewellery designer

"It came to me very naturally. I was studying costume design when I found out that I was pregnant. My body was changing at a rapid pace that's totally out of my control. I wanted to create something else on my own terms. I create jewellery as a sort of protection for my daughter. I wish to one day give the jewellery to my daughter."

"Never say never. Don't say no to the prototype the first time you see it. When you really stick with the design, you'll see the beauty of it from a different point of view."


There's a certain je ne sais quoi about Delfina Delettrez Fendi and her quirky jewellery designs. We caught up with the descendant of the Fendi clan backstage at the Italian fashion house's autumn/winter presentation in Milan as she saluted her mother Silvia and Karl Lagerfeld's latest collection, and second jewellery collaboration with the maestro.

The slender beauty keeps herself warm against the winter chill in a fur coat lined with chiffon, ties her hair up in a dark velvet turban and enhances her magnetic gaze with teal smoky eyeliner.

Her jewellery is just as, if not more eccentric than, her fashion style. The designer is famous for her modern interpretations of jewellery - think knuckle rings, asymmetrical earrings and the recurring use of the "evil eye" motif which is believed to ward off malevolent spirits.

What motivated Delettrez to start the brand in 2007 at the tender age of 19 wasn't so far off from how the "evil eye" intrigued her. She found out about her pregnancy while she was studying costume design. She dropped out of school and picked up the craft of fine jewellery.

"I create jewellery as a sort of protection and tribute to my daughter, Emma," she says.

Today, her jewellery pieces have come a long way. In fact, since Delettrez's collection was first launched at the Parisian select shop Colette, she now counts A-listers the likes of Beyoncé, Madonna, Natalia Vodianova and Miroslava Duma as fans. In 2010, she became the youngest designer whose pieces joined the permanent collection of fine jewellery at Louvre's Musée des Arts Decoratifs.

The young designer is known for her unique take on pairing precious stones with modern designs. One of her more famous pieces is a gold bracelet and ring combination in the shape of a skeleton hand. Beyoncé's favourite is an enamel bee and pearl ring. Delettrez's rule-breaking style could be attributed to the absence of professional training. "At first, I didn't even know which one was the right side of the stone," she says.

Such freedom of thinking, mixed with impeccable taste inherited from her Fendi upbringing, has helped the designer create an original universe in the jewellery world. Her first piece of fine jewellery was crafted out of a family heirloom. A ruby her grandmother, Anna Fendi, gave her when she was born was turned into a ring depicting two hands holding the precious stone.

"I was really playing with the stones as if they were Lego blocks - really expensive blocks, of course," Delettrez says. "Although I have come to appreciate traditional cuts and techniques, I still adopt this free approach." Such an approach also reflects her understanding of jewellery nowadays. "Fine jewellery used to be traditional, but it's now changing," she says. "The preciousness is not in the mega-bling, but is more about the concept and design. I want to explore new ways of wearing jewellery on different parts of the body."

Her statement designs were quickly picked up by like-minded designers. Having worked with designers such as Alain Mikli and Opening Ceremony duo Humberto Leon and Carol Lim for Kenzo, Delettrez returned to her roots for a collection of jewellery in collaboration with team Fendi this spring/summer.

The collection saw her interpretation of the "bag bugs" concept her mother Silvia came up with. Delettrez mixed coloured fur with crystals and stones. Themed "Furrytale", the collection brought together Fendi's iconic fur and Delettrez's signature eye motif.

"Even when I work with high jewellery, I love mixing precious materials with something organic for contrast," Delettrez explains. "The eye motif comes in when I realised that the eyes could be mutating into strange animals. I like this concept of evolution and surprise in everything I design."

Although she worked as an intern at Chanel's atelier during her teenage years, working with the legendary Lagerfeld on a proper collection has been a refreshing journey.

"It was absolutely amazing," she says. "I felt right at home working with Lagerfeld in the studio. It's different from my previous experiences."

While her family background has certainly opened doors in the world of fashion, for Delettrez, the most precious gift is the freedom given by her family. Her family did not insist that she become someone creative or even enter the fashion industry.

"They always encourage me to believe in my passion. I think that's the best gift. Freedom is the best gift you can give your children," she says.

Her mother is also a source of inspiration. "My family inspired me when I was growing up and continues to inspire me today. It's a constant inspiration of amazing women, amazing points of view from different generations. We have a beautiful sharing of ideas."

At 26, Delettrez has bright prospects. When asked about her vision for the future, the quirky designer says jokingly: "I don't even know what I'm going to eat tonight."

Vivian Chen