Glass speaks to jeweller Simon Harrison on the launch of his new collection

SINCE the 1970s Simon Harrison and his team have been creating a sophisticated range of fashion jewellery that is a combination of flawless craftsmanship, contemporary style and intriguing individuality. As well as producing its own collections, Harrison has also created jewellery for some of the most well-known names in fashion industry, such as Vivienne Westwood.

On the launch of Harrison’s new collection, Glass interviewed Harrison himself and finds out more about the brand, what inspires him and his designers and how they create their pieces.

Simon Harrison 3Simon Harrison


Simon Harrison 2A necklace from Simon Harrison’s latest collection

What inspires you to create such an outstanding range of jewellery?
My work is mainly influenced by stories, storytelling, history- all that is involved and it really interests me. I try to see my work as a kind of 3D form of storytelling. As kids we get marks at school when we are learning to write, teachers test us on how good we are at telling a story in the written form. When I was growing up, I was quite interested in art, design and those aspects. The skills of learning to draw and make forms, and make things with your hands are as interesting and important to me, as being able to write. I think storytelling is the core of it.

You used the term “expressive” to describe your jewellery, what does that mean to you and how does it reflect in this collection?
I think when people use the term “expressive” they usually are talking about expressing something of themselves. I think that happens automatically but what I’m interested in is the expression that you share with other people. For example, when people wear jewellery, it should express something about them – their mood, how they see themselves, and if you give them the opportunity to choose a range of things that expresses something about them, it really interests me.

Going back to storytelling again, if someone is wearing pieces of expressive jewellery, it could be a conversation starter, it could be something that brings people together. Imagine two people that have never met before, if one of them is wearing an interesting piece of jewellery it could start a conversation.

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Earrings from Simon Harrison’s latest collection

You started at an early age of 11 by making pendants; do you remember how did you come up with this idea?
I think I was doing it for pleasure when I was 11. I just wanted to have a lot of fun exploring different materials and making things of my hands, and I think I just enjoyed that and tried to keep that sense of fun at the work that I do now. Sometimes I ask myself what got me started, and I think it is actually just the enjoyment of that.

You used to work for the avant-garde jeweller Charles De Temple. What was this experience like and how did it influence your future career?
It was great, that was my first full-time job after leaving art school. Charles was a natural-born showman; he was a really interesting and entertaining person to be around. He had a great team of people behind him though. The thing I learnt from him was to live life to the fullest and have confidence to aim high and reach out for your dreams. I also learnt from him and his team, that design is a team pursuit. It is important to build with a great team of people around you.

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Earrings from Simon Harrison’s latest collection

You mention Jean Muir as an important person and mentor throughout your career, what lessons have you learnt from her?
I think it was different with Jean because she was a lot more disciplined in the way that she worked. But she was also somebody who was very much part of the team. But what I learnt from her was to provide consistent quality and value, that the commercial contempt of design is not about money, and this is what people usually think. It actually is about understanding your customers and their aspirations, what their limits are and how far they would be prepared to go with new ideas, how to keep them onboard when you move onto new designs.

Craftsmanship is an important element in creating Simon Harrison jewellery. What materials do you work with the most and which one is the best-selling one?
In fine jewellery materials are really important so the choice of them is genuinely associated with the value. The wonderful thing about fashion jewellery is that there are no preconceptions about materials value. You can make jewellery out of pretty much anything and that allows the designer a lot more freedom to work in a wide range of materials and choose those that give the best outcome.

Choosing the materials that are more appropriate, rather than choosing something that has some kind of assumed value. My favorite material at the moment is probably stainless steel. It is easy for people to wear and they don’t have to worry how to look after it, they can throw it on a dressing table afterwards and that’s fine.

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Earring from Simon Harrison’s latest collection

Simon Harrison jewellery looks like a piece of art but at the same time is very practical, what is the key element in mixing avant-garde with everyday use?
I think it’s all about the detail. We want to achieve the maximum visual impact. But we care about the person who owns and wears that jewellery and we want it to have kind of layers of intimacy to it, so when people are handling and wearing the jewellery they notice new things every day. When you look at something that’s really well-made the craftsmanship might not be appearance straight away but after time you begin to notice and appreciate that.

What challenges have you faced in your career?
I have had quite a long career and faced lots of challenges. I think when people are starting out in their career the first time there is a significant challenge, they probably think it is a big deal. When you have been through a series of challenges and overcome them, I think you realise that the key things are to be honest with yourself and other people, share problems, seek as much advice as possible from as many people as possible and don’t be afraid to ask people to help you. If you involve others it helps you to reduce those problems and make them manageable.

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Ring and necklace from Simon Harrison’s latest collection

How do you feel about the upcoming show with Maggie Owen?
I really love working with Maggie and it was a pleasure to collaborate with her on a project. She is as passionate about her shop and her customers as we are about our jewellery. It is a perfect match.

Where do you see your company in five years?
That’s quite a difficult question. It feels like my team right now is in a relatively good place so my aspirations for us it to continue to be happy and stable.

Simon Harrison 6Earrings from Simon Harrison’s latest collection

by Karolina Zielinska

Simon Harrison’s latest collection is available at Maggie Owen, 13 Rugby St, London WC1N 3QT

His online shop can be found here

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