At home with Kate Moss
A dell peopled by partially clad sprites climbing trees and indulging in decadent lounging? Of course! It’s Kate Moss and her band of models in her Cotswolds garden, showing off the new jewellery range she’s designed with Ara Vartanian. By Sarah Royce-gre
In her Cotswolds garden, the supermodel celebrates her new jewellery collaboration. Sarah Royce-greensill chats to her
There’s a certain amount of fretfulness in anticipation of an interview with Kate Moss. Will she make it out of bed in time for our call? Will the model known for her ‘never complain, never explain’ stance be totally monosyllabic? As it turns out, once Moss hits on a topic she’s passionate about – in this case, jeweller y – she becomes animated, even gushing.
She’s a lso sur pr isingly knowledgeable. ‘I’ve got a new favourite gemstone but I’m not telling you what it is because you’ll go and buy it. You know what it’s like, all of a sudden t here’ll be none lef t,’ she says. ‘It’s really ra re – like t hose Paraiba tourmalines that come from this one cave left in the world and there are no more coming out of it. Don’t tell everyone! They’re like treasure.’
Moss has always been obsessed with jewellery, she goes on. ‘I’m like a magpie with shiny things; I can’t walk past a jewellery shop without seeing something I love. Even at Christmas when I was about eight, I would look for the smallest box and hope there was a ring or a necklace in it.’
Her love for properly precious treasure, however, didn’t come until later. ‘We didn’t really have that much jewellery in Croydon,’ she deadpans. ‘It was the time when Madonna was wearing all these black plastic things; it wasn’t real jewellery. When I sta r ted hang ing out wit h Naomi [Campbell] and Christy [Turling ton] they would go to jeweller y shops, and they took me to one in Ireland where I bought myself my first proper piece: a silver watch chain t hat I loved because it reminded me of something Sid Vicious would wear.’
Her interest in the more unusual corners of the jeweller y world may ex pla in why she ‘clicked straight away’ with Brazilian jeweller Ara Vartanian, whom she met in São Paulo in 2012 and with whom she has collaborated on a new limited-edition fine-jewellery range. Moss is currently staying with Vartanian, so we talk on a dodgy Skype connection.
A former gemstone buyer from a family of jewellers, Vartanian specialises in bold, one-of-a-kind pieces featuring rare coloured gemstones. Moss had fallen in love with a tanzanite ring at his boutique in São Paulo but it didn’t fit, so he invited her to his showroom to choose a stone for a custommade version.
‘I showed Kate eight stones and told her, this is the best colour, this is the best clarity, and she just went, “This one,”’ recalls Vartanian. ‘It didn’t matter what I said about the quality, she looked at one and went, “That’s it.” It was very natural.’
Moss became a regular customer, also buying a sizable emerald and diamond bracelet t hat she ‘couldn’t leave t he store wit hout’, a nd t he t wo became close. ‘He’s a really good friend: we go on holiday together, we see each other when he’s in London, I’m godmother to his daughter,’ she says.
After throwing a dinner party to introduce the jeweller to her friends, she convinced him to open a store in London, which he did last June: a secluded man-cave of vintage Brazilian furniture in Mayfair, complete with a curving, corrugated concrete wall, a retro record player and a selection of whisky. It’s a far cr y f rom t he pastel-toned, orchid-filled jewellery boutiques on nearby Bond Street.
His work, too, is far from classic. ‘Hook’ earrings seemingly crawl out from inside the ear; laughably large gemstones are suspended between inverted diamonds in cocktail rings that span two or three fingers; satiny-gold chokers sensually brush stones against the clavicle. ‘It’s clever the way Ara does extravagant jewels but makes them look modern. He twists it up so you don’t look like an old lady wearing big diamonds; you can actually wear big diamonds and look cool,’ says Moss. The rock’n’roll edge to his designs struck a chord with her, and a collaboration was clearly on the cards.
The pair sought inspiration from objects in the dressing room at her Cotswolds home, such as the patterns on a Russian cigarette box from the 1920s and details from her antique jewellery – combining them with motifs from Vartanian’s existing designs. A circular amulet pendant he wore, set with black diamonds and amethysts, sparked Moss’s imagination. ‘I loved it and he said, “Have it,”’ says Moss. ‘He gave me his and then made another one. I’m terrible, aren’t I?’ A previous version had been nabbed by the Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, who was also attracted to its mystical properties.
‘Kate really liked the aesthetics of it and the fact that it’s for protection, and she said let’s do something like that together,’ recalls Vartanian.
‘I was a bit more excited than that,’ interjects Moss. ‘I said, I love that, let’s do more like that – that you can wear every day that means something and has good energy. It makes you feel very special.’
The resulting collection has a distinctly spiritual, slightly hippie bent. As well as the shield-like mandala pendants (a riff on the ancient Hindu and Buddhist symbol) strung on to leather cords and punctuated with inverted diamonds, rubies and amethysts, there are chains hung with the St George’s dagger on
one end and the ancient protective ‘evil eye’ motif on the other; crescent moons picked out in black diamonds and mother-of-pearl; and enormous single earrings of textured gold, designed to be mixed and matched with inverted-gemstone studs, or tiny hoops from which dangle crystals of amethyst, onyx or smoky quartz. ‘Nobody wears pairs of earrings any more; it’s old-fashioned,’ says Moss. ‘I like to throw it on, mix and match earrings. It’s cooler when it’s not styled so much.’
At first glance it could be costume jeweller y. It’s only on closer inspection of the brushed gold of a pinky ring, set with a bulbous, iridescent moonstone, or the delicate lines of pavé diamonds framing the edges of a rhombus-shaped ring that you can appreciate the quality, with every piece handmade in Vartanian’s Brazilian atelier.
‘Basically, I wanted to do jeweller y that I can wear ever y day,’ Moss says. ‘My emerald and diamond bracelet isn’t something I can wear casually, whereas this collection still has all the stones and the craftsmanship and ever y thing that Ara does so well, but in a more informal way.’
Moss is also a fan of underdog gemstones. ‘I love a diamond, obviously,’ she says, ‘but I’m not really one for your traditional white bling. I love the coloured stones – amethyst and citrine and garnet–because I find them more organic. I feel like they’re a bit more – I don’t know – spiritual; there’s something earthy about them.’
It’s not the first time Moss has turned her hand to jewellery design. In 2011 she collaborated with Parisian jeweller Fred on a range of stacking rings and delicate pendants adorned with anchors and hearts, inspired by her tattoos. ‘[The collaboration with Ara] is completely different because I’m actually involved with the person that’s making it,’ she says.
In the Ara Vartanian campaign, she appears alongside four models signed to her newly launched eponymous modelling agency. Shot at her Cots wolds home, the ethereal images depict long-haired boys and girls lounging in trees, cuddled up in a gypsy caravan, frolicking on as wing. All of them are accessorised to the hilt: rings on every finger, wrists loaded with leather cords, chests draped with pendants.
‘I wanted them all to meet; they hadn’t met each other before. There are only four models on my books so far and they all worked together so well.’ They were lucky on the day, with unseasonably good weather. ‘We were blessed; it was a magical day. Some things just fall into place.’
Most of the pieces are unisex, but they are a far cry from traditional notions of men’s jewellery. ‘People think it is all about sovereign rings and big gold chains for rappers,’ says Moss, ‘but I love wearing the things that men would wear back in the day. That watch chain that I bought years ago was for men. Everything kind of goes both ways now, doesn’t it?’ Her boyfriend, the aristocratic photographer Nikolai von Bismarck, wears one of V artan ian’ s dagger pendants, but there’ s no chance of him rummaging around her jewellery collect ion. ‘I can steal his jeweller y; he doesn’t steal mine.’
Her daughter, Lila Grace ,14, who recently launched her own modelling career with a campaign for a braid bar, is also a fan of jewellery, but certain parts of her mother’ s collection are off limits. ‘She does love jeweller y, but wearing my antique pieces? No.’
For Vartanian, a diminutive, softly spoken man whose day-to-day wardrobe consists of black skinny jeans and leather jackets, and whose São Paulo lair also houses his collection of vintage cars and motorbikes, collaborating with Moss was written in the stars. ‘I believe that you have some callings in life – it naturally brings you to these places,’ he says. ‘For us to do a collaboration is amazing. It’s like a tattoo; it is marked forever. There are really both of us in the collection; it’s very authentic.’
With prices star ting at £1,550, this collaboration will drive a new audience to Vartanian’s boutique, where the pieces currently on display carry five- and six-figure price tags.
‘I wanted it to be so that more people can go to the shop and actually buy something, and see all the other amazing things,’ says Moss. ‘I want everyone to know about Ara. But he’s always going to put bits aside for me. Otherwise I’ll kill him!’
He’d better be putting as ideas much of that secret, favourite gemstone he can find. If not, she has designs on gemstone hunting with him. ‘I was like, can you take me to Sri Lanka or wherever you go and pickaxe some gemstones out from the caves? Oh my God, I would love that.’