My Favorite Pieces: Clare Corrigan Mixes Concert Cords with Native American Jewelry
When Clare Corrigan was working as a senior ready-to-wear designer for Karl Lagerfeld in Paris in the mid-1990s, he let her go back to her hometown of London with the words, “Bring back something that’s going to scare me.” “He had captured her love for jewelry and her flair for ornamentation. But it wasn’t until a few years later, when she was working with Marc Jacobs, that she had the opportunity to create jewelry.
Her 12-year collaboration with the American fashion designer included a move to Louis Vuitton – where Jacobs was Creative Director – to take on a costume jewelry position at LV (costume jewelry) Director of Design.
Since then, Corrigan has worked as a consultant for famous brands, including Tiffany & Co.
“Even though I’m called an independent consultant, I still go full-time,” she says. “It’s always this total immersion.
Over the years, she’s built an extraordinary and eclectic collection of jewelry, from seashell brooches bought for $ 10 at New York flea markets to Georgian diamond rings. She says, “I still love fabrications and I still love humble materials and still love things that are given opulence by the way they are processed.
Native American bracelets, silver and abalone, 1930s and 1977
“I think there is something very majestic about what you see in Native American crafts,” Corrigan explains. Her love affair with this jewelry began in 2017 at a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit in Brooklyn that featured O’Keeffe’s own jewelry from New Mexico.
Twelve trips to Santa Fe and two internships at the Shiprock Santa Fe Gallery (where these bracelets were purchased) followed. “It’s called the land of enchantment and it literally hooks you immediately,” she says. “I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and learn and study Native American metallurgy and craftsmanship.”
The most striking of the bracelets are from the Navajo tribe and were made in Taos in 1977. At its center is a large piece of abalone, but not the familiar blue / green iridescence. “They take off the back of the shell and leave it in the sun to whiten and it gets that lovely pale color,” Corrigan explains.
The two narrow bangles are also Navajo but earlier, from the 1930s, made at the same time as the wider Pueblo cuff with its floral motif.
“They’re made from molten bullion silver. You can often see the texture of the hammering in the metal and that’s how you can tell these are the earliest pieces of the Depression Era, ”she says. All of them have the distinctive and naive floral and symbolic designs unique to each tribe.
David Bowie concert lanyard, stamped aluminum, 1974
When a pop souvenir dealer contacted Corrigan, she was able to resist his offer of a jacket that had belonged to English musician Marc Bolan. But she couldn’t resist this piece of David Bowie history.
These backstage cords weren’t very popular at the time, but when it came to jewelry, they had a big influence.
“I don’t think I saw two; it’s pretty amazing that he survived, ”she said. “I like the fact that these are complete pop ephemera. It was a disposable item, but it’s so powerful now when you think back to the time.
She describes Bowie as her “real star from the north, who creatively informs everything I do.” The music, the costumes, the videos. He was also a cultural and ethical visionary.
Necklace and cuff, Junya Watanabe, chrome and leather, 2019
“I bought them at Dover Street Market in London,” Corrigan recalls.
“It’s very unusual for me to buy modern jewelry, but I just felt it could fit next to Hermes, or just a good piece to layer. What I like is that it can be punk or it can be Lanvin debut. It is this primitive modernism which is very refined, functional and futuristic, that I adore.
She’s seen this necklace “on people you wouldn’t expect to wear it on and it looks really classy.” There is a good proportion. He is holding on well. “
Necklace, rock crystal, gold-plated brass, leather, Louis Vuitton, 2011
This necklace was designed by Corrigan for Louis Vuitton. “I am not a trained jeweler, but I have always learned alongside the most incredible workshops in Paris and Florence. The relationships I have built with the model makers, technicians, were so important because they solved problems.
The result is a beautiful piece of engineering. “The idea was oversized crystal rhinestones, but reimagined as rock crystal with dwellings. It is only chic if there are inclusions in the crystal.
She still wears it a lot. “It goes with anything. i wear my [Andrew] Grimaced all day, I always wear my pearls, even if I walk my dog. I think that’s the way to wear jewelry.
Necklace, chromed metal, Bakelite, lacquer, Jakob Bengel, 1930
This necklace has a timeless quality that attracts Corrigan. “I found him in Vienna. It is reminiscent of a lot of pieces that were made at the Bauhaus, a great inspiration for me. It always looks extraordinary in its modernity and also its prettiness. For Corrigan, the necklace represents another strong link to the past in her history of refugees and, she says, of hope.
“For me that’s pretty powerful because it’s a lot of refugees and skill movements at a time when exactly what’s happening now is that there are huge cultures of skilled people who move and take their influence in other countries. ”
It refers to luminaries of Bauhaus design such as goldsmith Naum Slutzky and textile artist Anni Albers, both of whom fled Germany after the Nazis closed the Bauhaus school in 1933 – Slutzky au United Kingdom and Albers in the United States. Both continued to teach and continued to inspire generations of designers. “It gives me hope for the future,” she said.
Ring, gold, diamonds, boulder opal, Andrew Grima, 1974
Corrigan says Italian-British designer Andrew Grima, often referred to as the father of modern jewelry, has become a talisman for his “band of friends.” Among them, Marc Jacobs who wore and collected his pieces. For Corrigan, Grima also became a mentor and inspiration when she began designing jewelry, following a chance encounter.
“It was 2006 and I was walking along the Burlington Arcade in London and I stopped by the window of Peter Edwards’ store to admire a pendant. I went inside to ask if it was Andrew Grima and he said it was and if I came back in 15 minutes I could meet him in person.
The opal ring was a gift from Grima. “What’s so extraordinary about it is that it looks like it came from the Starship Enterprise, but it actually sits so well on the hand and every proportion – the shank, the way the stone is set – is so beautifully. resolute and it is such a hallmark of Grima.
Bracelet, wood, lacquer, Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co, 1990s
“I still love lacquer, there is a lightness and a modernity in it,” says Corrigan. “I love this kind of brown red, it’s quite a [Walter] Albini color, very New York, and the whole fits nicely on the wrist. It was made during the disco era and also during the craft era. So it is this incredible intersection that she created.
It is a piece of jewelry that Corrigan wears a lot. “I wear it with my Grima and Georgian diamond rings, I just like it as a mix. I just think an armband is a good vehicle to enhance an outfit. You can have something made of seashell, or lacquer, or rock crystal.