It's highly unlikely that many other aspiring computer scientists have made such a drastic career change and become a fine jeweller. But Anissa Kermiche, much like her jewellery, is one of a kind. Following an academic upbringing in Paris, Kermiche's natural next step was to take up studies in engineering and computer science; however, after three years, Kermiche realised that her calling was in fact in the jewellery world. She promptly moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins and gained further experience in Hatton Garden, the capital's jewellery quarter.
In 2016, Anissa launched her eponymous label, creating modern jewellery that reflects and caters to inspiring, powerful and funny women. Kermiche turns everyday shapes into wearable art – lamps become earrings and miniature sculptures of the female form become necklaces, while pearls are stacked or worn as ear cuffs. Despite launching just a year ago, her designs have been snapped up by major stockists including Matches Fashion, Net-A-Porter and Harvey Nichols and her second collection is set to drop in autumn this year.
Kermiche invited us to her HQ in central London to discuss her career trajectory and craft, share advice for budding designers and explain why she wouldn't exactly describe her jewellery as feminist.
You originally studied engineering and computer science. How did the transition to Hatton Garden come about?
The transition couldn’t have been smoother! I originally ran away from my previous job in a big consulting firm, with a really good salary and promising career. I came for a few months for summer classes and quickly realised it was what I really wanted to do. I went back to Paris, left my flat, cancelled my plans there and stayed in London to study computer aided design and 3D printing, which was not too far from my engineering background.
Do you still split your time between London and Paris?
I have been based in London for five years now and I'd be lying if I said it hasn't been an extremely fortunate move. The doors I knocked on seemed to open more easily in England than France, but I still think the quality of life in Paris is incredible. That’s why I make the most of both cities, which are complementary I think.
London is the classic ‘work hard play hard’, while Paris brings me the ‘3Fs’ (Friends, Food and Family). God bless the Eurostar for making two of my favourite places in the world so close! This train has seen a lot of my designs taking shape, on my way back from Paris highly inspired, sketching the raw lines of my current bestsellers.
What does your typical working day look like?
Like in any startup, you have to wear all hats. I usually post a picture on Instagram when I wake up, depending on my sales, press releases, inspirations. As bad as it sounds, my first interaction with the world is virtual. I make sure I have worked at least an hour going through the tasks of the day before my team arrives. When I sit in front of my screen, in a glimpse of an eye the day is over. You can always work longer/ better/ more when you work for yourself AND in the creative industry. I also juggle between calls with the manufacturer, follow-ups with the different retailers (20 now), replying to new potential retailers, clearing customs, HR (are my girls happy? Are they efficient enough?), talking to press, managing stock; the design part is so little of what I do at present that I do it on my free time (at night or weekends) because running a company is simply overwhelming.
Which women have made the biggest impact on you both personally and professionally? Who are your career idols?
Witnessing my friend Camille Charrière’s success story from backstage was undeniably mega-boosting! On top of being an excellent writer, storyteller and of course having the sharpest eye in terms of style, her determination and sass are also part of the game. She is a go-getter and she doesn’t take no for an answer. There is a natural aura about her that shines and makes people want to work with her and share her vision.
As a career idol I would name Marie-France Cohen, a French businesswoman with a big heart. Not only did she turn her husband’s old shop into the ultra-chic, ultra-luxe French childrenswear [line] Bonpoint that she sold recently for a tidy sum, she then opened a concept store in Le Marais called Merci, where all the benefits serve to fund an endowment paying for educational projects and development in southwest Madagascar. They curate the best of fashion, books, home etc…
Can you tell us more about the 3D printing process you use to create your jewellery?
I trained two years full-time to be able to use a software called Matrix which allows you to create objects in 3D. You start sketching a two-dimension shape and turn it into a volume with different tools available. You can also sculpt, drill and import different shapes of stones, render in various colours of gold, etc. It is extremely powerful but you need a very solid knowledge of geometry in space to master it. It is revolutionary in a way that it can create much more precise pieces than handmade ones, in a shorter time. For me, who hated working at the bench where you have to solder, file, burn and break your lovely nails, this option is the best. Once your file is ready, you can 3D print it in wax, take it to a caster who will make a mould around it and there we go!
Some of your jewellery, mostly those pieces celebrating the female form, are boldly feminist. Is that at the core of your brand?
I would change the two last letters of this word. I would say my brand is boldly feminine. Feminist, I don’t know. I think we have to be careful about the way we use feminist, its definition has really become too vague to me. I shave my armpits, I am far from the androgynous stereotype that fashion advertises nowadays, I don’t like makeup but I do, I like my boyfriend to carry my suitcase but I still want to say I am strong and independent, I want him to invite me out on our first date but I want to make as much money as him. Indeed, our generation is a bit lost, especially boys! Ultimately, all I ask is being able to be me: a woman. My pieces are a tribute to being a woman. Beyond the female body parts of my Body Language collection, the circle, which is the symbol of femininity, keeps coming back in all my pieces. I also play with the roundness of the pearl, which symbolises timeless elegance.
My new collection, which I am really excited about, is coming out in September 2017. I am also exploring ways to design objets, let’s see how it goes. I am quite superstitious so I don't want to say too much!
What have been the biggest lessons you've learnt since launching your jewellery brand?
I have learned so, so many, I wouldn't know which one to start with! I would say as much as you can, learn to delegate and surround yourself with skilled people, at the end of the day this is your own business, your own money invested (whether borrowed or not), your own image that is at stake and absolutely no one will worry about it like you. You have to be constantly switched on and pay attention to detail.
What would be your advice to a budding designer?
Simply DARE. Trust your guts. When I designed the Body Language line – naked body parts, pubis, boobs – my manufacturers laughed at me. They said it would never sell. Now it is at The Conran Shop, the ultimate designer shopping destination, and stores overseas, and the range has appeared in magazines like The New York Times, Vogue and W magazine. Nevertheless, always keep in mind that this is a business and there is a validity and reality to market and trends.
As important as it is to believe in your own style and personal taste, it sometimes isn’t everyone else’s, so if you decide to invest time, money and your heart in a creation that will be seen by the public (and probably criticised), you have to be 300% convinced that it is fresh, unseen, exceptional. Ask the closest people around you, and wear your prototypes to see if people notice them; it is great to get validation right from the start. As much as you can, avoid looking at other designers’ work. In order to find your own signature, it is important to be blind to what already exists. Just look around you and seek inspiration in everything else you see, and beyond visual shapes, let situations move you and encounters influence you! London offers so many beautiful opportunities!