State of the Art: In Conversation With Haute Couture Jewellery Designer Alexandra Mor
Her eponymous label is taking over The Big Apple, coveted by Oprah and spotted often on the red carpet. How did Alexandra Mor go from strength to strength and more importantly, how is she ensuring a responsible supply chain? We find out from the designer here…
TELL US A BIT ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INTO JEWELLERY DESIGN?
As a child, I watched my mother and my aunt, who were seamstresses, tailor clothes by hand. Their process fostered my passion for original design and craftsmanship. Alon, my husband and business partner, and the father of my three beautiful children, was the one who introduced me to the jewelry industry. He is a savvy merchant, who comes from a lineage of merchants and diamond dealers. His father, Abe Mor, who still deals with diamonds, will be celebrating his 80th birthday next weekend. Abe was one of the first founders of 47th Street, New York City’s famed Diamond District. Much of what I know today about the business, diamonds and gemstones came from Alon’s experience and extensive knowledge. In the beginning of 2004, during my pregnancy with our first child, I wanted to do something to fill my time until I went back to work. We decided to take a jewelry bench class together. The moment I sat on the bench—and it was all hands on, soldering, filing the metal—I felt completely at home. It was both a physical and spiritual birth.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START ALEXANDRA MOR?
Our strength as women is to bring beauty, love, harmony and grace to everything we do. Designing jewelry gave me the opportunity to express exactly that and more. As a woman, I found the jewelry industry lacking authenticity and uniqueness to pieces. Very few brands were really focusing on old world craft and quality. I started slowly cultivating a collection. I didn’t rush or push it. Between my first jewelry bench class in 2004 and my official launch at Phillips de Pury in 2010, I had three children, build a home in NYC and took my time exploring, developing and learning. I spent a lot of time and effort creating the voice of the brand and developing the design elements that I still use today. I surrounded myself with like-minded people who are an important part of my business and my personal life. I have learned that this, like my jewelry, is something that takes time to find.
In the spring of 2010, I went to visit a pre-auction presentation at Phillips. One of the salespeople, Carmela Manoli, a dear friend of the brand since and a savvy sales woman, approached me and asked me whose pieces I was wearing. My mother-in-law, Hana Mor, immediately jumped into the conversation: “These are her designs!” This is how it all started. Carmela introduced me to Nazgol Jahan, the jewelry buyer, who gave me my first and most generous opportunity. Nazgol selected 5 pieces from my collection, which at the time only included 12 pieces.
“Heirlooms in the making” was one of my first taglines, created by a dear friend and talented writer and brand builder, Eitan Chitayat. In the world of Haute Couture jewelry, we stand out with our heirloom-quality pieces and unique signature work, drawing from an extensive inventory of diamonds and precious stones. My bespoke process was born from seeing my mom and aunt making clothes for women in their ateliers and from the notion that every woman is different. Therefore, the key to this process is creating a piece that embodies the individuality of the collector. This service enables collectors to witness the entire process, from preliminary sketching, rendering, and gem selection, to the final reveal. From the onset, I meet with a client to learn about their lifestyle, interests, and intentions and use what I discover to design. It is a unique and personal process, very old fashion in a way, and what I love doing most. The personal connection I develop with my collectors is a lifetime relationship. Each bespoke piece comes with an Alexandra Mor certificate of authenticity, appraisal, gemstone or diamond laboratory certificate and a personalized storybook, which details the making of the piece from start to finish.
HOW DO YOU SOURCE YOUR MATERIALS?
Our diamonds are all sourced through vendors whom we have worked with for many years and strictly adhere to the Kimberley process. We also carry our own significant stock in resold selected one of a kind diamonds and gems. In addition, we are actively pursuing working with refined sustainable platinum and gold starting 2019. Currently, I am working with Vogue Italia, serving as their creative director for the US Protagonist Event, launching at Christie’s New York in December 2018. This event will bring together 12 high jewelry designers from all over the world and focus on sustainability. We will create sustainable jewelry collections that will embody the philosophy of mindful and sustainable practices. These practices will start from materials, to responsible sourcing and social mindful buying supporting small local artisan communities around the world. We will be using cultured pearls, leather (made of pineapple leaves), natural (non synthetic) diamonds, (non synthetic) gemstones, drifted wood and recycled and sustainable platinum and gold in our pieces.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOUR DESIGNS?
I have witnessed a shift in the jewelry industry towards greater participation and support of social causes. Businesses are now looking to areas where they and their consumers can affect lasting change through socially responsible products and practices. I believe this movement is as essential to the success of our industry, to the survival of our planet and to the survival of all the living things that inhabit it. Accountability for the environment, living species and indigenous cultures, as well as increased mindfulness of the people and communities that drive industry forward, will help ensure that we can provide for the present and the future. Sublime Connection is a new Alexandra Mor film created by talented filmmaker and award winning director Laia Cabrera and animator Isabelle Duverger. The film is about our sublime connection with our natural environment—from Mother Earth to our heart and mind connection- and you can watch it here.
My Tagua seed capsule collection, which I have created in Bali with local carvers and goldsmiths, using old world techniques and practices, is the first of its kind and set the tone to where I wish to take my work in the future. The collection has huge success among collectors and in the design world. It has brought an awareness to what is possible. As designers, we have responsibility to what materials we are using, and as collectors of fine jewelry, we have a voice and can make a difference in how we purchase. I believe this will be an important and key factor in investment and collecting jewelry in the near future.
I would love to help support this movement not only though my designs, but also by bringing together like-minded fine jewelry professionals, who together, can offer a real resource to collectors who are looking for guidance in the art of collecting jewelry. As an insider in the jewelry industry, it is my duty to foster new connections with collectors, designers and jewelry houses and promote the best this beloved industry has to offer.
HOW DO YOU WORK WITH YOUR ARTISANS?
We choose each other. In the fine jewelry world, it is very hard to find dedicated and knowledgeable professionals who are willing to dedicate their time to create one of a kind pieces. It takes years to develop a craft team. Recently, I started looking into collaborations with craftsman from other parts of the world, because I wanted to highlight the heritage and tell the story of them, before they are gone.
IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE A FAVOURITE PIECE WHICH WOULD IT BE?
Gemfields was an amazing opportunity and collaboration. When they first started, they were looking for talents to create jewelry for their ethically sourced emeralds. They picked eleven designers from around the world for the project. Randi Molofsky, who used to be Gemfields marketing director in the U.S and who now owns a beautiful blog called For Future Reference, approached me to be one of these eleven designers and I picked out stones with which to create pieces. I created a sugarloaf emerald cabochon ring, worn by Mila Kunis. The design of this piece was inspired by this center stone. The design is almost secondary to the stone, almost as a background that exists with the purpose of highlighting and enhancing the center stone. It was a year-long, beautiful collaboration during which the ring traveled all around the world. I loved working with Gemfields on this project, they were the first to introduce sustainable and transparent practice of mines. I was inspired and felt truly lucky with the generous support from the press and top stylists and celebrities. That was 2014. It really helped to elevate my brand. It was the same year that I won the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO STARTING THE BRAND?
I think my biggest strength lay in what I didn’t know. It gave me the courage to do things differently. Things I would not have done if I know what will be the obstacles. Getting one of a kind and limited edition into retail was considered a bad practice, and impossible mission and something no store would be interested in investing. In 2013 I was lucky to meet Gerard Riveron, the former director of Dorfman fine jewelry store in Boston, and a dear friend. As a Frenchman who worked with all haute couture jewelry house, Gerard spotted my brand and offered to bring it into his store. He and his amazing and dedicated sales team, Rochelle Lerman and Lisa Pacino-Leone, were my greatest supporters. It was due to their excitement and trust in my work that we got into retail and were extremely successful, with both the signature collection and bespoke creations. In 2015, I was offered to open my first salon with in a store in Dorfman Jewelers, to replace the Van Cleef and Arpels salon. I could not have asked for a better compliment and trust of the brand than that. That followed by joining Bergdorf Goodman in their new renovated fine jewelry salon
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST WOW MOMENT FOR THE BRAND?
Every moment is a wow moment! My pieces have been worn by celebrities and the brand has received numerous awards and accolades, but my biggest wow moment was discovering my voice and power as a designer to make the world a better place. One of the most profound moments, that transformed me both personally and professionally was the discovery of Tagua seed, the botanical alternative to elephant ivory. Upon discovering that elephant ivory is still being used for jewelry and resulting from my desire to create a more meaningful, spiritually connected, human and Eco-conscious practice, I was compelled to find a sustainable way to replace elephant ivory. After researching, I discovered Tagua seeds, a sustainable, botanical alternative nearly identical to elephant ivory. The new Capsule Collection incorporates traditional and handcrafted Balinese workmanship and heritage with the use of wild-harvested Tagua seeds, and heralds an evolution of my signature design aesthetic through a combination of new materials discovered on my 2017 artistic journey in Bali.
Jewelry photography: Russell Starr
Bali photography: Ken Kochey
Portrait photography: Hardy Klahod
Film: Laia Cabrera & Co
Like what you see? Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest in positive living. If you’ve enjoyed our feature on Alexandra Mor, you might also like to read ‘A Day In The Life Of: Lily Lapenna’ and ‘Royal Blue: How House of Garrard Discovered Nature’s Treasure’