The Mythical Creatures Of Jewelry Designer Jordan Askill [Exclusive]
Jewelry is a magical thing. It can be kept for decades and handed down to generations, becoming representations of special moments. Every good piece of jewelry has a story and often represents love and heritage.
Designer Jordan Askill understands how people treasure their pieces. Recently nominated for a British Fashion Award, Askill’s work is lovely, taken from whimsical inspirations like imaginary creatures and actual endangered species. But there’s a dark undercurrent to his creations, like the visuals from an old-school Brothers Grimm tale (like the ones where people get murdered, not the cute and cuddly Disney versions).
The Sydney-born designer, a veteran of Alexander McQueen and Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme, recently collaborated on a collection with legendary Danish brand Georg Jensen, the label’s first in fifteen years. Askill also frequently works with his brothers, Lorin and Daniel, both directors–Daniel does Sia‘s most iconic videos, including ‘Elastic Heart,’ ‘Alive,’ and ‘Chandelier.’ We talked to Jordan about his work with Jensen, the BFA nomination, and majestic, mythical creatures.
I loathe to use the word “inspiration,” but I am really interested in how you come up with your designs. They seem very nature-driven. What is it that appeals to you?
Yeah, I suppose they are nature-driven. There’s memory in them as well. It’s more about kind of creating a perfect place, like if you were to close your eyes and imagine you were in your perfect dream, almost higher-level place. I suppose I see it with these kinds of creatures, in multiples together creating shapes, in a kind of perfect form—majestic creatures. A lot of the plants I use are kind of protected or endangered fauna. I just did a collaboration with George Jensen, and the butterflies that they use in that are all protected as well, because of land development.
Do you know which species they are?
Well for the Georg Jensen it was the Monarch butterfly, and the Karner blue butterfly. In my own collection, I use the Viola canadensis leaf, which is protected in lots of parts in Canada. Those animals and species are kind of like from what I see as this precious, looked-after place. I suppose that’s why I find it transforms into jewelry, because jewelry’s something that’s precious, and you keep close to you.
When you’re a fine jewelry designer, are collaborations a way to survive?
Well, I’m sure that’s part of it. The other part if it is that, like with the Jensen, I was really able to realize something that I personally couldn’t have. It would have been hard for me to realize what the end product was by myself, which I thought was amazing. The team at Jensen was really behind me the whole time, making sure what I had designed really came to reality. That was pretty great, and that’s why collaborating is good. I also collaborated with my brothers a lot, even on the Jensen film, just getting other people’s support and interest.
“I was interested in pieces that you could keep with you and walk around with you and pass down to your loved ones.”
How long have you and your brothers all been working together? Your whole lives?
Since we were young, I suppose. It just feels like a very organic unraveling. My mother’s an artist and my father’s a musician, so we were always working on things together.
I find it interesting that you and your brothers are so successful. Do you think there was something in your childhood that contributed to that?
My parents didn’t really know any other option, I suppose. What we believed in and what we were attracted to was always very much supported and encouraged by our parents. But it was also because there were three brothers, and we’re all very close, and one didn’t want to step away from the other too much. So that was always kept in the realm. We’ve always wanted to do things close-by.
You’re going to London soon for the British Fashion Awards, right?
It should be fun. I’m just so excited to be around my old friends again. I haven’t been back properly—I went, actually, in March, to do some Jensen and to also do some of my own press, we’re having Thanksgiving with some friends, so it’ll just be great to be amongst them. And the BFC is just totally supportive.
And the recognition must feel great, too.
It was so nice. That was great. Yeah, and because I used to live in London. And I was nominated for this award before, when I used to live there. So it’s a really beautiful, supportive thing.
How did you get started in jewelry? Your pieces are very sculptural—do you have a background in sculpture?
Well I studied fashion at school, then I worked at Dior Homme, then I started looking after the jewelry. I was more interested in the timeless nature of things, not interested in churning things out every six months. I was more interested in pieces that you could keep with you and walk around with you and pass down to your loved ones. So I suppose that’s where the idea of sculpture came from—the idea of making something miniature that you could hold with you, and also stand alone. There is a sculpture connection to the pieces, but as the collections go on, they’re becoming more wearable.
Do you have any jewelry that you’ve kept forever?
Only my pieces. I wear these rings all the time. You know, my mum has given me bracelets, and I’ve got like a drawer or box with pieces that I’ve gotten. When I lived in Paris, friends gave me stones, and I keep it all. The one thing I’ve had for a really long time—I have the little Taurus symbol that I got for Christmas from my mother and father, and a heart locket.
Do you have plans for your next collection?
I’m hoping to release another collection in May, hopefully to coincide with couture, which is another fashion week that happens in America that shows in Las Vegas. It’s for jewelry, but it’s pretty amazing.
That’s fabulous! I can only imagine the rooms full of diamonds everywhere!
It’s amazing! It’s just a big American industry jewelry event. I just finished my capsule collection as well.
Will your capsule collection be using the fine materials you’ve been using?
Yes! In order to make the capsule collections for valuable, it’s almost like making collectables. It’s really rare, timeless pieces inspired by what was in at the time. I name all of my collections in chapters, so I’m up to chapter 7 now. This capture will be an interlude called ‘Remember Me.’ The next one is inspired by dark creatures, but this one is a little different. There’s a heart locket case inspired by those big religious cases from Eastern Europe. I bought one in the Czech Republic when I was like 15 years-old. So it’s all about sentiment, and memory. It’s these little things, like a locket, a leaf pendant. They’re almost like amulets.
You name your collections in chapters, and have themes like memory and dark creatures. It all seems very literary to me.
I do imagine it all as a story, I suppose. It’s like a novel. The chapter in March was called ‘Take Me Home.’ I suppose it’s a little autobiographical as well.
Yeah, that’s very magical to me, like a princess story. Not a Disney princess though, a Grimm princess story.
Yes, like that, but also in a magical way where you just want to close your eyes and believe.
What would your magical world be when you close your eyes?
If I were to close my eyes, I would probably be in a perfect serene, clear place, with these precious animals around. The whole extension thing is such a powerful thing.
If there was one person in the world that could wear your jewelry, who would you want it to be?
It’s hard to say because I really do believe it would be royalty, royalty at the turn of the century.
It reminds me of the Russian monarchs.
Yes! I love Fabergé, and the history, how these jewels were created for a family that didn’t really have any heirlooms. It’s the idea of creating pieces for someone with such poise. Even that story has a dark ending.
Shot at Milk Studios, New York
Photographer: Michael Hauptman
Photographer’s Assistant: Kyle Thompson
Model: Alexandra Elizabeth, The Society
Styling: Paul Bui
Hair: Holly Mills
Makeup: Kunio Katoaka