When a brand’s associations include A-listers like Kate Moss and Blake Lively, you know the brand has something special to offer. We’re talking about Ara Vartanian, the jewellery brand that’s collaborated on a one-of-a-kind collection with Kate Moss and has been worn by Blake Lively numerous times. From magazine covers to stylish films like A Simple Favor, Ara Vartanian’s designs are a regular among Hollywood starlets.
Despite hailing from a family of jewellers, the 43-year-old designer chose to purse Economics at first, gained a degree in the field from Boston University and worked on the NASDAQ until 2000 when he returned to his roots and began working for his family business. Bringing his Brazilian heritage to his (now internationally acclaimed) jewellery, the story of his brand began in 2002 selling to client in New York and when it came to opening his first store, the city that housed it was Sao Paulo, unsurprisingly.
Completing 17 years this year, his eponymous jewellery brand has gained popularity worldwide, particularly for their signature designs the octopus rings and hook earrings.
Ara Vartanian is presenting a collection at the upcoming Jewellery Arabia show in Bahrain. Incidently, not only have they exhibited previously year after year, Jewellery Arabia was the brand's first-ever show back in the day. In an exclusive with Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ara talks sustainability, the evolution of jewellery design over the years, lessons he's learnt from his family, and what's it like working with celebs.
Harper's BAZAAR Arabia: You were born into a family of jewellers. What are three things that you learned from them about the business?
Ara Vartanian: Learn your stones – you have to know your stones as wholesale market is very particular and this is how you gain respect; pay your bills on time, be respectful to the people you buy stones from and the people who produce the pieces for you; and follow your instincts.
HBA: How have you innovated and done things differently comapred to the older generations in your family?
AV: My parents were of the old school generation, so I found it very difficult to express my feelings through design. I would say the first difficult moment I had was when I decided to turn diamonds upside down – there was a complete unacceptance, as the whole market was setting diamonds in the regular way. I think the stone is beautiful upside down with the tip up – it’s three dimensional; it was intriguing to me, and very beautiful. When innovating within your own team, you can create excellence when it comes to design – it was very important to me that I had a team that was aligned with me, and only working for me. So, I left the family business, sold my car and everything I had – and started my own business.
HBA: Sustainability is a subject that’s gaining great momentum in both the fashion and jewellery industry. What’s your take on this?
AV: We are launching our conscious mining project this year. I’m from Brazil and we have some beautiful Rubellite, Emerald and Paraiba Tourmaline mines. I’ve had the good fortune and opportunity of visiting these mines and analysing how they’re operating so that I can choose mines that are responsible in their sourcing of stones and that they’re mining in a conscious way. We’re very in tune with what’s happening in the world and how we can take care of it. We're expending a lot of our energy in this direction and will soon be revealing a related wonderful project we’re working on.
HBA: You’ve worked with celebrities like Penelope Cruz, Madonna, Anne Hathaway and many others. What’s the process like working with celebrities?
AV: It’s a great opportunity but also a huge challenge to work with celebrities. I love it since you really have to learn to understand them as people, and women have a lot of choice when it comes to design. Kate Moss for example has been working from a very young age, she’s a rock star in what she does. I love working with people who are incredible in their field because you learn a lot from them.
HBA: Is there a favourite piece of jewellery you’ve designed?
AV: I have grown personally attached to many of my pieces and it’s usually the ones where I had more difficulty in finding the stones, where the stones are particularly unique or where the design was challenging to develop. Those are the ones I get attached to. The stones we work with are super rare and you’re never going to see them again, and I dedicate a lot of my time to these designs. When these pieces are sold, it feels like you’re putting a child out into the world and I tend to say we don’t create children for ourselves, we create them for the world.
HBA: What is unique about your collection this time for Jewellery Arabia 2019 show from collections you’ve released before?
AV: I am very excited about the show – this is the third time I have exhibited at Jewellery Arabia and it was actually the first show I ever did. Having exhibited at the show a few times makes me feel much more comfortable. I feel I now know and love the style of the Middle Eastern women, so naturally design with a flair that compliments them – there will be a lot of beautiful pieces dedicated to this very special market.
HBA: What do you expect from jewellery trends in 2020? Could you tell Harper’s Bazaar Arabia your prediction for jewellery trends next year?
AV: I don’t predict, I tend to wait and listen to my feelings. I create jewellery for myself and I understand that sometimes you create a piece that has more acceptance in market, sometimes less – I’m just happy to be able to explore my creativity.