Dont be fooled by the giggles Victoria Tryon is a serious jewellery designer with a large following in the Middle East, says Sophie McBain
Don’t be fooled by the giggles — Victoria Tryon is a serious jewellery designer with a large following in the Middle East, says Sophie McBain
WHEN VICTORIA TRYON says that jewellery design was something she ‘kind of fell into’, it is hard to believe. She is a serial self-deprecator with an easy laugh and almost girlish eagerness to please, a studied giddiness to match her big blonde blow-dry, and carefully concealed ambition.
Having gained ten years’ experience at top jewellery houses such as Cartier, Harry Winston and Boucheron, Tryon decided to go it alone, setting up her own bespoke service in 2009. Her youthful yet classic designs and personalised approach have already earned her a loyal and growing client base in both the UK and the Middle East, and she has caught the critics’ attention, winning the Bright Young Gems award for upcoming designers in 2010 and featuring in Vogue jewellery editor Carol Woolton’s new book Fashion for Jewels: 100 Years of Styles and Icons.
The lessons she learned from her early career are pointedly summarised. ‘I am not that easily impressed,’ she says flatly, revealing unexpected steeliness. Her own jewellery service rejects what she sees as the ‘one in, one out’ attitude of the major jewellers, where ‘the clientele walk in and you just see dollar signs’.
Tryon says she never wants to own a shop but operates by appointment, and her office is small, intimate and minimalist. A simple display case reveals her latest collection, Alia, inspired by her trips to the Middle East. The jewellery plays with the arabesque curves of regional architecture and textiles and, like the rest of her work, is striking but wearable.
Working in the Middle East is another thing that she claims she ‘fell into’. Several of her Middle Eastern clients in London invited her to visit them, and she found she felt at home. She is primarily based in the UAE, a place she jokingly describes as ‘so clean and tidy and crime-free, it’s almost like a cult’, but recently she also visited Qatar and Tunisia, just one week after Ben Ali’s overthrow. Tryon has noticed a subtle shift in jewellery tastes in the region, where clients traditionally favoured big, ostentatious bling but are now becoming increasingly trend-aware.
‘There’s definitely an evolution going on, and the readership of magazines out there is huge, so Middle Eastern women are all highly informed on the latest this, that and the other,’ she explains. Her own work caters to the Middle East’s changing tastes, but she refuses to follow the fashion route.
Tryon feels a natural affinity with her Middle Eastern clients. ‘I grew up in a small village in the countryside, very family-oriented, and a lot of what I can see when I talk to them I can also see in myself,’ she says. Most people have a very different image of her childhood, a time when her private life was very much in the public eye. Tryon is the daughter of Lord Tryon and the late Lady ‘Kanga’ Tryon, Prince Charles’s close friend. In the years before her death in 1997 the tabloids painstakingly documented the deterioration of Kanga’s physical and mental health.
Victoria explains in the kindest possible way just how annoying it is when people ask her questions about her mother instead of about her jewellery. The point is quickly taken. She is, however, working on a ring that will raise funds for the mental health charity Sane. Not a very ‘marketable’ cause, she admits, but the ring will be inlaid with black, grey and white stones to represent ‘light at the end of the tunnel and the feelings of panic and claustrophobia you get when you’re depressed’.
‘My charity work is what really makes me tick,’ she adds. After the success of her Amazon pendant, which raised money for indigenous tribes in Ecuador, the proceeds of her next piece will go to post-revolutionary Tunisia and will be based on the mashmoom, the sprigs of jasmine or orange flower worn by Tunisian men. She then launches into an informed, impassioned analysis of the Arab Spring. Not all jewellery lovers are natural democrats, and Tryon is aware of that, but it is something she excels at: turning difficult ideas into beautiful jewellery.
Photography by Enzo Barracco