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Delfina Delettrez’s “Delirium”

Jewellery designer Delfina Delettrez launched her new collection yesterday in Paris.

Delfina Delettrez’s shop in Rome’s Via del Governo Vecchio, just around the corner from Piazza Navona, looks like a witch’s laboratory. Penicillin-green furniture that belonged to an 1800s chemist’s take up most of the space; black and white leather skulls with punkish hairstyles brazenly laugh at the clients from their shelves while antiques and vintage pieces by Fontana Arte are mixed with Delfina’s own jewels, all of them handmade in Rome. In the shop displays huge leather necklaces with a primitive edge contrast with little snail rings; fragile spider web earrings are juxtaposed to thick and scary bat bracelets and dragon brooches; pieces with innocent looking frogs, turtles, pigs and ladybirds are arranged next to rings and necklaces with disturbing Murano glass animal eyes. For the young designer - daughter of Fendi’s house accessory director Silvia Venturini Fendi and French jeweller Bernard Delettrez - working in her shop is a great experience that helps her understanding better the personality of her clients. Yesterday Delfina left her cave in Rome to present her new collection in Paris at the historical restaurant Le Grand Véfour. The atmosphere there was a crossover between Peter Greenaway’s macabre The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Stanley Kubrick’s mysterious Eyes Wide Shut and Tim Burton’s bittersweet fantasies that perfectly embodied the spirit behind her new disturbingly aggressive statement pieces.     

Dazed Digital: In your new collection you were inspired by Valerio Evangelisti’s sinister Metallo Urlante saga and Franz Anton Mesmer’s healing technique called mesmerism, what led you to explore these dark moods?
Delfina Delettrez: “Delirium” is an evolution of my previous collection and features more precious and larger pieces. The starting points for this new collection were my “eye” designs that led me to explore also the mystery behind other parts of the body as studied by Leonardo da Vinci in his drawings and by Belgian anatomist and physician Andries Van Wesel. This is how I came up with my lip-shaped rings and necklaces in gold and bright glitter enamel and with the skeleton hand bracelet in gold and silver decorated with diamonds and with just one ruby.

DD: What prompted you to become a jewellery designer?
DD: Until a couple of years ago I would have never imagined that this would have become my career. I always showed more interest in my mother’s work, that is accessory design. I used to like jewels, but I never wore them. Then one day I went to visit my father’s laboratory and I did five necklaces in different lengths with black, white and golden silver and bone skulls. I was pregnant at the time and did the necklace for my own pleasure. But, after I wore it, my friends and even my mum asked me if I could do the necklaces for them. So I decided to start designing jewels and never stopped since.

DD: Has the city of Rome ever influenced your designs?
DD: The religious symbols in my jewels - skulls, snakes, crosses - are inspired by the local churches. A great inspiration for me was the Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins church, located in Via Veneto. It’s famous for its ossuary in which the bones of thousands of friars are fashioned into decorative displays. Besides, I’ve always liked skulls and used to collect them. I find they are a way to exorcise death, though in my designs skulls are never extremely macabre or sad, but they are often colourful, smiling or paired with little cute animals.

DD: Which is your favourite piece of jewellery you designed so far?
DD: I have a soft spot for the pieces with the eye design, especially the ones with the elongated eye pupil. Some people think the eye design is the most disturbing I have ever created, but that was exactly the effect I wanted to achieve.

DD: Which was the most flattering thing that was said about your designs?
DD: That I’ve been brave to venture into this very modern type of jewellery that reflects my age and my generation. My designs are not related to traditional jewels as I employ unusual materials such as marble, chamois leather, wood, bone and glass. I also like coloured and glitter enamels: some designers think they give a sort of undesirable fake look to jewels, but this is exactly what I love about this material, it turns jewels into toy-like accessories.    

DD: From fashion, Coco Chanel came also to designing jewels: would you like to work as or with a fashion designer?
DD: Yes, I would love it. In the past I actually did four internships at Chanel’s style office, but I guess that if I had started with fashion I would have never thought of moving also into jewellery. I have a long list of designers I would like to collaborate with one day, even though some of my jewels wouldn’t really work with the creations of some of my favourite designers such as Martin Margiela.  

DD: Do you think it’s more difficult for someone who comes from a family with a strong fashion background to emerge?
DD: In a way it is, as you must show people that you’re really worth it as nobody is ready to help you in this business. When I was younger I used to think everything was perfect and easy in the glittery world of fashion, but now I have understood it’s not like that. Working for the fashion industry means never to switch off since, as soon as you finish a collection, you’re onto the next one and you never stop brainstorming and searching for new and fresh ideas.

DD: Is it true that one of your designs will be featured in a film that is going to be released next year?
DD: Yes, I have just collaborated with Italian film director Luca Guadagnino on his film Io sono l’amore starring Tilda Swinton and Alba Rohrwacher. The necklace Swinton wears in the film is a unique version of one of my designs, it’s an eye necklace with a few more details added, it was especially done for the film.     
DD: What are your plans for the future?  
DD: Learn more about jewels. I started doing this job just a couple of years after I finished school. I have learnt all I know from my father who has been a great source of knowledge for me, but in future I’d like to enrol on a proper drawing or gemology course.