The works of Suzanne Syz, a Swiss jewellery designer based out of Geneva, smack you with a strong visual force, as her sensational jewels are dipped in colour and the compositions are crisp and astonishingly playful. The diverse jewellery range of this former art collector is a result of the engagement with the top American artists and sculptors of the 80s – an obvious rub-off on her creative perspective. Blessed with a vivid imagination, Suzanne is an illustrious designer whose one-off jewellery pieces have an ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ quality about them. Shedishes out a heady mix of pop art and abstract expressionism. The result? Her jewels are cool, arty, and invigorating. BY SHANOO BIJLANI
You have been largely inspired by the contemporary artists of the 80s, like Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, and more. Tell us about how these great artists influenced you creatively.
We moved to New York City (NYC) in the early 80s and were introduced to the circles of Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, Julian Schnabel and the like. It was a period of complete freedom in NYC. All those artists inspired me a lot in their way of creativity. NYC was a melting pot of the best artists of that time. It was a unique moment of creativity. I think all those positive spirits and the energy influenced my life and later, my creations.
Your collections are very different from each other… eclectic to be precise. What is that one signature aspect that each of your masterpieces possess?
I’m a free woman! I have the liberty of designing whatever inspires me; and everything that surrounds me, inspires me. Sometimes it can be figurative, sometimes abstract, often contemporary or just a classic design with a twist. I’m not a marketing person and I don’t create to have one style only or to be recognisable. Yes, my sources of inspiration are very eclectic as are my clients. All women are unique and so are my pieces. My signature? I would say a perfect craftsmanship, mix of new materials and exceptional stones with a design they cannot find anywhere else.
Tell us about your background. You’ve interacted with the best of artists and sculptors. What then made you take up jewellery designing?
I’ve been collecting art since 30 years and felt a connection to all these artists I met during the years. I love being surrounded by contemporary art and I also love sculptures a lot. This is what conducted me to create my own jewellery as I could not find anything modern in the jewellery design that excited me. I first started to do pieces for myself and then my friends asked me to create some for them. And all of a sudden, I was presenting my first pieces in Paris about 13 years ago!
Have you done a course in gemmology and designing?
No, but for years I’ve trained my eyes in getting to know stones and visiting a number of ateliers and stone dealers before starting to create. I have a very close relationship with my ateliers and give them sketches or sculptures made in Playdo. Then we do different meetings to be sure it goes in the right direction.
When did you start your own boutique and where? How has the journey been so far?
I’ve opened a showroom that I call “the Purple Boudoir” in Geneva where all my ateliers are. It has been a great adventure so far and I have a very good team (Ariuna, Irene and Christopher) that shares the same vision of luxury and perfection and it is a joy to work with all together.
If you were not a jewellery designer, what would you be?
I would have loved to be a winemaker! Which I am, too! I’m producing biodynamic wine since the last eight years in Tuscany. I realised the dream with the help of a very talented Frenchman who takes care of the winery.
What according to you is the prime function of jewellery? Is it a piece of art, fun or simply adornment?
It’s a fun piece of art!
Do you work around a stone or do you think of a theme/idea and then source relevant gems?
Both situations happen. I sometimes fall in love with an excellent stone and work around it or have an idea and then source the gems!
Which is your favourite metal?
Titanium! I love it because it is really light and allows me to work on a bigger scale. Also, it can be in a big variety of colours that I love!
How long does it take you to produce a collection?
I don’t do collections, I work each piece individually. Some of them take a few months, some a year, some, many years.
Do you design jewellery for yourself?
I design all the jewellery I wear. I never buy from others.
What are your best-selling jewellery pieces?
My Life Savers earrings are the only model I did in different colours (only one time each colour), so I believe it is my bestselling piece. But as all the others are one-of-a-kind, I can’t really judge.
Of all your jewellery creations, which piece do you think every woman should possess and why?
My pieces are one-of-a-kind, so each piece is made for a unique woman.
What is the profile of your regular consumer?
Independent women! Art collectors! Women of the XXI century with their own personality!
How do you recharge yourself?
I go often to Tuscany where I have a house. I love to walk with my dogs (four at the moment) in the vineyards. I hear the movement of the leaves and trees, feel the wind and play with my dogs. It is a real treat to spend some time in nature.
What inspires you? What is your forte as a designer? What are the most recurring themes in your jewellery collections?
Everything inspires me. From a hip-hop video clip that inspired my barbwire earrings, to the leaves of wine grapes, a contemporary sculpture of Carsten Holler or just a stone found on the beach. There is no limit!
I usually classify my designs into three themes. Naturally (with figurative pieces inspired by the nature), Contemporary (with more abstract pieces), and Pop (with my colourful pieces).
Very importantly, what is your philosophy about designing?
Have no limits!