Jewellery designer Annoushka Ducas returns to Hong Kong, where her career began
Annoushka opens a store at the Mandarin Oriental, with its range of delicate, multifunctional jewellery to include a homage to the hotel’s logo
British jewellery designer Annoushka Ducas was destined to open a boutique in Hong Kong. She lived in the city in the 1980s, a time when she discovered her passion for jewellery design. Indeed, the first piece she designed (her art deco-inspired engagement ring) was made at jewellers KS Sze & Sons, which, as it happens, is around the corner from her new boutique at the Mandarin Oriental.
“Isn’t that a coincidence,” she says with a laugh. “In all honesty, we have such a strong Chinese clientele in London, so it seemed logical to put some context to the brand and open a store here. I know the local retail market is struggling but when The Mandarin approached us, I realised it would be a great fit.”
For her homecoming, Ducas is bringing 26 years of jewellery experience with her, during which she founded and sold successful brand Links of London. She went on to launch her eponymous label Annoushka in 2009 and has since been made an MBE for her services to the British jewellery industry. Her creations have also become favourites with celebrities and royals including Rihanna, Gwyneth Paltrow and the Duchess of Cambridge. Her success is all the more impressive considering that she is not a trained designer/jeweller.
“I unexpectedly found something I really enjoyed. For me, it was about being able to bring jewellery at a sensible price to women. All those years ago, there was really no jewellery women could buy for themselves. I wanted to create jewellery you could wear every day, that was relaxed and that allowed you to be yourself. Jewellery should be playful and fun, and I wanted to take the reverence out of jewellery. It’s a mantra that’s stayed with me ever since,” says Ducas.
Annoushka’s dozen or so collections are driven by Ducas’ personal style and are pieces she wants to wear herself (“I never understand why jewellers create sets – who wears sets these days!” she exclaims). Instead, she emphasises delicacy, multifunctionality and interchangeability, encouraging customers to mix and match from different collections (prices range anywhere from HK$2,000 to upwards of HK$100,000).
Take, for example, her stacking rings, still her bestsellers. Made from a range of textured golds and stones in a range of settings, they can be worn with existing favourites. Her latest design, the Crown ring, is based on a lace pattern but resembles a diamond-studded tiara.
Another collection, which she calls Hoopla, features a range of hoops in multicoloured metals that can be combined to form earrings and cuffs or strung onto a chain with multiple clasps to form a necklace or bracelet. The hoops are embellished with diamond briolettes, animals such as snails or bees, or even your initials.
“It’s about a different type of personalisation, one where you can really play with the pieces and have fun. My style is a combination of things – nothing is ever polished, so the jewels feel like a friend, or what I like to call a collectible treasure. I don’t design them to purposely look vintage – it just so happens the materials I use, be it brown diamonds and black rhodium, means they look aged. If you want plain diamonds, don’t come to me,” she says.
Indeed the beauty of Annoushka’s pieces comes from her use of unconventional stones and materials.
Her Dusty Diamonds collection, for example, features cloudy diamonds that most jewellers would refrain from using due to their imperfections. She has transformed them into modern heirlooms such as necklaces or rings. Her Golden Pearls collection highlights rare pearls sourced from a farm in Iloilo, which had been wiped out by a hurricane (the owner approached her with a collection they had farmed before the typhoon). Her opals are sourced from Ethiopia through a contact with the charity Give a Future and are prized for their fiery colour.
To showcase these rare stones, Annoushka has created a separate collection of 24 numbered pieces, called A24. For the Hong Kong opening she has included a pair of white gold, diamond and jade flamenco earrings in the shape of a fan – a homage to the Mandarin’s iconic logo.
“The jewellery is made all over the world depending on skills I need. Everyone talks about craftsmanship but for me it’s just a given. I am fanatical about the inside being as beautiful as outside. At the same time price is important – for that reason our prices are the same as in our stores in the UK, which I know people will appreciate,” she says.
For now Ducas is focused on building a solid clientele in Hong Kong, while adding new designs and collections each year (the next she says will mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution – she is half Russian).
“The end goal is to grow recognition, but not be everywhere. I made that mistake with Links. That’s the biggest challenge in today’s small world,” she says.