Glass reviews new book about British jeweller Shaun Leane by Vivienne Becker, Joanna Hardy, Claire Wilcox and Shaun Leane

THERE are very few friendships in the history of fashion that have accumulated to the same level of innovation between two creatives in the same way Alexander McQueen and Shaun Leane did. The pair spent eighteen years pushing the boundaries of fashion jewellery to its limit including metal corsets, shard headpieces and tusk earrings to shock us.

The story begins in 1992 as a young Shaun Leane attends the MA Fashion Design graduation show at Central Saint Martins where he witnesses the very first collection by an unknown designer that everyone called Lee. A few weeks later the two creatives met again outside Covent Garden tube station to meet their mutual friends to go out. And that evening they cemented a friendship that would mark a significant turn in both of their careers.

Shaun Leane with the Rose Corset, Givenchy Haute Couture January 2000

Yashmak by Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen Eye Spring 2000 Collection

Rewinding back to the start of Shaun Leane’s jewellery career, it began when he completed a Youth Training Scheme at Clerkenwell’s Princeton College at just 14 years old, which included a jewellery making section. Leane’s passion for art and fashion came together sparking a lifetime’s love for jewellery – he was taught the ropes of metalwork and sculpting which would build the foundation of his time with McQueen in years to come.

This course was set to take one year, however Leane’s hard work led him to finish it in six months. Brian Joslin and Richard Bullock became his mentors as she moved swiftly to London’s iconic home of diamonds and gems, Hatton Gardens. His passion and love for jewellery fast tracked him to earn himself an apprenticeship at ETJ and by 18 he was constructing diamond tiaras for jewellers on Bond Street.

Shaun Leane by Vivienne Becker, Joanna Hardy, Claire Wilcox and Shaun Leane

Shaun Leane by Vivienne Becker, Joanna Hardy, Claire Wilcox and Shaun Leane takes you on an in-depth journey of Shaun’s life, starting from his childhood and family influences to the beginnings of his career where a deep passion was lit and a fire inside pushed him to create some of fashion’s most hailed pieces of jewellery.

A large section of the book takes the reader into the friendship of McQueen and Leane starting from their first collaboration in 1994 for the infamous Highland Rape Collection until McQueen’s death, explaining how Lee pushed Shaun to create what no one had ever done before.

The pieces that Leane created for McQueen helped glue together collections that are put on a pedestal, the jewellery symbolised both fragility and strength, a juxtaposition that very few can execute quite like Lee. This friendship and new found way of combining his heritage of traditional craftsmanship as well as Lee’s input on edging his imagination to the very edge, led him to start his own jewellery collection in 1999.

Joan Headdress by Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen Joan Of Arc AW1998 Collection

Coil Corset by Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen’s The Overlook 1999 Collection

Shaun Leane and Alexander McQueen Backstage

Delving into the pages of this book and reading a unrivalled career unravel in photographs by Nick Knight, Robert Fairer and Chris Moore, as well as a personal photo essay by Ann Ray, lets you into a rare creative sphere – one not found today.

Taken to the edge with McQueen over 18 years cemented not only his talent and craftsmanship, but also a complete freedom to design jewellery that was unconventional in every manner. Today, Shaun Leane’s work is revered by all that lay eyes on his jewellery and has secured himself as a genius of jewellery.

by Imogen Clark 

The book is available July 16 with a deluxe edition of only 250 copies available to purchase which includes a signed Rob Rusling print by Shaun Leane