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LUXURY NOW / A DIFFERENT APPROACH / BELMACZ BAUBLES: HEIRLOOMS OF TOMORROW

Julia Muggenburg, founder of cult London jeweler Belmacz, talks to us about her love of exotic materials, unusual proportions and tribal-influences.

To meet the London-based jeweler Julia Muggenburg is to meet the most cutting-edge trends of the moment: false eyelashes in gold (“I’m a jeweler, why not?”), a jaunty Stephen Jones hat (“He’s a friend and a genius”), and sharp tailoring by young Japanese designers (“They’re my soft spot”) are further accessorized with a generous sprinkling of gobstopper-sized rings, wooden cuffs and tribal-influenced necklaces of her own creation. It is a look that is exotic and boldly contemporary, just like the jewelry she designs under the Belmacz label.

Born in Germany and educated at London’s Central Saint Martins art school, Muggenburg founded Belmacz upon graduating and quickly gained a cult following amongst stylists and fashion editors. Rare materials, including mammoth tusk, coral, and an impressive selection of unusual woods, is her hallmark. Oversized proportions, especially on chunky wooden cuffs, is another signature. Muggenburg describes her striking aesthetic as a “21st century take on the status-affirming ceremonial adornments worn in ancient times by tribal chiefs.”

Nothing but a trendsetter, Belmacz also produces a capsule collection of beauty products made using the particles of precious materials such as pearl and gold leaf. These, along with the jewelry, are sold at some of the world’s most influential boutiques, as well as at the Belmacz by-appointment showroom on London’s Mount Street (Muggenburg was there long before it became a fashionable shopping destination).

As we showcase the latest Belmacz collection, we talk to Julia Muggenburg about her love for understated materials and probe her encyclopaedic knowledge of jewelry design.

Your jewelry is fantastically bold and statement making. What is your design philosophy? I always look into condensing the design down to its essence. As I am not interested in superfluous details, I am keen to cover new territory. I feel that only if the jewel makes a statement in its own right does it have a reason to exist. When I start a new collection I am totally at liberty to follow my instinct and whim. Working with random elements is what I enjoy most. Strong contrast is what I thrive on; lightness in spirit is of the essence; volume and valor all have to come together.Wood and mammoth tusk feature as prominently as diamonds and other precious stones in your collection.  Which are your favorite materials? It is all about following the mood of the moment. I fall in love frequently and randomly with various aspects of different materials, some widely known and some I just came across. Nature is generous - I am never disappointed. I feel myself strongly attracted to materials that are understated: Scottish and Madagascan agates, cabochon rubies (from bright pink to ruby red), Australian chrysophase (from old sources in its glorious bright green). The idea of using mammoth tusk (a politically correct alternative to ivory) that has been under the Siberian or Antarctic ice for 20,000 to 30,000 years excites me, especially as it has an unusual and stunning verdigris patina. I cannot wait to see what I come across next.You have an expert knowledge about jewellers both past and present.  Who are your icons of jewelry design?  
With regards to jewelry and its history, the anonymous creator who made a fantastic piece is just as valued to me as a fancy well-known name. This could be a long list; let me start with the usual suspects. I adore the deliberation and sensitivity of Carl Fabergé, the chic and edginess of Louis Cartier, the generosity and flamboyance of the house of René Boivin, the femininity and elegance of Suzanne Belperron, the devotion and experimental approach of Alexander Calder and finally the innovation and ethnic touch of Giorgio Vigna.      Who do you see as being the jewelry stars of the future?Only heaven knows! I am so happy for each re-jig and to let youth and talent come to the fore. It is good that there are people who challenge established views!What was the inspiration for your latest collection? It is all about the petite and magnificent, club kids and ladies who lunch, oxidized silver and gleaming gold, twisted wire and cast monoliths. We were experimenting and it all came round in a whirl - the heirlooms of tomorrow!Who do you think – from both past and present – wears jewelry well?Marlene Dietrich is an obvious contender; she mixed the fake and the precious beautifully. Josephine Baker brought exotic-chic to Europe. She loved decorating herself; it was part of her performance. Tina Chow wore jewels effortlessly and is a great inspiration. In London, Judy Blame is an irreverent accessory lover whose look always delights me. Naturally, so do my clients! Once you fall in love with a jewel you wear it well. How you adorn yourself shows who you are!The Duchess of Windsor once remarked that before leaving your home, you should remove one piece of jewelry.  How do you think jewelry should be worn?The milliner Stephen Jones once remarked that before leaving the house, it is advisable to add an extra jewel. The Duchess held back, Stephen gives. I prefer the latter vision! You clearly have a passion for fashion too. Who are your favourite designers? To me, fashion is part of my self-adornment ceremony. There are so many designers that I love, past and present. Paul Poiret is an all time favourite; sadly there is very little of his that I own. Yves Saint Laurent on the other hand I have loads of; I wear it with relish as his transgressions in fashion are timeless. Haider Ackerman’s aesthetic is elegant and strong yet light. All Japanese designers have a soft spot in my heart. Amongst the newer generation, I have a fondness for Erdem who I work with as well.Who are you favourite artists and designers? Do they inform your work? Yes always. In order to achieve, one has to reach high and look with an open mind. Therefore it makes no sense but to look at the best of them: Mies Van Der Rohe, Eileen Gray, Ettore Sottsass, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Piet Mondrian, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Eva Hesse and Martino Gamper.  
What is your definition of luxury?
Whatever I desire. Once I own it, it is a necessity.
If luxury were an object?
A flower, possibly from Odorantes in Paris.
If luxury were a person?
A gifted musician.
If luxury were a moment?
Smelling a beautiful scent.
If luxury were a place?
A memorable spot in outer space.

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