Jeweller Solange Azagury-Partridge: ‘Being glossy takes too much time!’
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My personal style signifier is my jewellery. There are a couple of rings of my own design that are constants. The Magic, which I wear on my pinkie finger, is made up of triangular diamonds, creating the illusion of a faceted rose-cut diamond. I’ll also usually be wearing my Emerald Cup, a large emerald supported by a square cup of pavé emeralds. I wear the same heavy faceted gold-link chain with a knot tied in it every day. A piece of jewellery can transform anything you wear. I’m not a very glossy person so my jewels mitigate the tatty and shredded nature of my clothes, which I repair and wear until they die.
The last thing I bought and loved was a pair of Saint Laurent heart-shaped sunglasses in pale pink, a Heathrow airport buy on the way to Sardinia this summer. I’ve wanted a pair for ages. I don’t really ever go shopping, so I buy all my make-up and sunglasses at the airport.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a red glass chandelier from a museum shop in Jaipur, which is now in our sitting room. It throws no light but is extremely warm and inviting. When it arrived at my house in London it was in a million little pieces and needed assembling. I left it in the box for about five years before I could face putting it together. Possibly it makes things look a bit red-light district from outside the house.
The last music I downloaded was probably something my husband put me on to. I’m not very good at music. My world is generally quite silent as I don’t like sound when I work or when I rest. So I rely on Muz [Murray Partridge] to know what to play to get me on my feet. When he puts on songs like Chaka Khan’s “Like Sugar” he knows I’m going to start dancing.
My style icon is Queen Elizabeth II, God rest her. She was so secure in her look, with a rock-solid hairstyle that only changed incrementally over time, her love of bold colours and the way she wore her jewels so they didn’t dominate her. I created a collection for her Platinum Jubilee called the Regalia Collection. I very much doubt that she ever saw it but she was an inspiration to me.
The best gift I’ve given recently was to my family: the gift of time together, which is the thing we all value the most. I took them to Cornwall for a few days to the Hotel Tresanton in St Mawes – my kids and my two grandkids, Zelda and Beatrice. They are the embodiment of my idea of happiness, always laughing and being mischievous. We experienced all the seasons in the space of three days, including burning-hot sun and a rainstorm. Everyone apart from me went sea bathing in all weathers. So English.
And the best gift I’ve received is a ring that my husband bought me. I became a jeweller because I wanted to design my own engagement ring. After that I designed all my own jewellery. But one day about 20 years ago, Muz bought me a ring. It was by Andrew Grima, a society jewellery designer in the 1960s. I was so surprised and it was so beautiful that I just burst into tears.
An indulgence I would never forgo is scent. When you wear it a lot you can’t really smell it on yourself, so when a friend says I smell nice it always makes me think I’ve put too much on. Growing up, I was obsessed with trying to find this thing called a “signature scent”. It took me a long time to find it. My first scent was Guerlain’s Shalimar but then I started to create for the women who wore my jewellery. I teamed up with Lyn Harris as “the nose” and we have made three together so far. Two of them, Stoned and Cosmic, were very womanly and sophisticated. Our upcoming collaboration is Kiss My Lips. It’s young, fun, happy and sweet, designed for the crowd that love my Hotlips rings. It even sprays through a pair of lips. A perfume kiss! Solange Azagury-Partridge Kiss My Lips, £125, available in January
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a classic black Altuzarra jacket. It is double-breasted, nipped in the waist and not too long. I am always trying to minimise my bosom and a well-cut jacket is the best way to do that. I have jackets I have kept for years – they are my everyday go-to.
An object I would never part with is some little clay models and pots that my children Mardi and Otis made for me when they were small. I would grab those before anything else if the house were to catch fire.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Ai Weiwei. He has such a beautiful eye, such compassion. He had a show at the Royal Academy in 2015 and it was the first time I really saw the power and integrity of his work first-hand. If I could, I would own the pieces of urn from Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn. I find it subversive and beautiful.
The beauty staple I’m never without is Chanel Le Crayon Khôl – my black eye pencil. I do my eyeliner in the morning and I like that it smudges as the day goes on. If I’m going out at night I do another layer on top as soon as I get home so it has time to get a bit messed up. £23
My favourite building is the Victoria and Albert museum. It is one of my default places to go. I like to wander around aimlessly and find new things to look at. I admire the elaborate architecture and the interiors, the mosaic floors and walls. The building, designed by Sir Aston Webb, is as important to me as what is inside it. I am also really drawn to the Alhambra Palace – the courtyards, the gardens, the tiles. My family were Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, so that decorative vernacular feels like it could be part of my DNA. I had my bathroom tiled a few years before visiting the place and was overwhelmed by how familiar it seemed.
I’m very self-reliant on the grooming front. I do my own nails and I cut my own hair. I do get my roots tinted at my local hairdresser called George G Hair and Beauty in Queensway. I was at a dinner the other day and I was looking at a well-groomed woman and I thought, “I could never be that glossy. It just takes up too much time!”
The work of art that changed everything for me was Concetto Spaziale by Lucio Fontana. I love how every piece he does has the same name. So bold, if nuts. The first time I saw one my jaw fell open. It made me feel like everything was possible. He was obsessed with the idea of space and space travel and I love that he was a dreamer. For me, it is the most important part of being creative.
When I need to feel inspired, I immerse myself in nature, stare at the sky and sometimes have a petit joint to help me float away with random thoughts.
My favourite website is probably eBay. As long as you know exactly what you are looking for you can find it. I found some great vases on eBay, made in the Vallauris factory where Picasso’s ceramics were produced. He lived there from 1948 to 1955 with Françoise Gilot and their two children, Claude and Paloma. I’m also addicted to the Health app on my phone. I try to walk at least 10,000 steps a day.
The place that means a lot to me is Villa Lina, about an hour’s drive from Rome. For the past 25 years we have rented a house there on the characterful estate. We love the Olympic-sized 1930s pool and the extraordinary gardens. There are five houses and our friends often rent them so we can fall in and out of each other’s spaces but never overcrowd each other. It’s all very Dolce Vita. It is in the medieval town of Ronciglione and we wander over there for fabulous ice cream at the end of lazy days.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I read this book in January and it really stayed with me. I love a page-turner and this is a heartbreaking story of trauma and love. I have since read her other two books and am now waiting for her next. She’s an inspiration – as well as being a prolific writer she used to be editor-in-chief of T magazine.
In my fridge you’ll always find pickled eggs, good for a fast day; my mum’s harissa; a bottle of champagne; manchego cheese; organic veg galore and probably a packet of florentines from M&S.
I’ve recently discovered Portobello Road market. Although I’ve lived near it all my life, it’s only lately I’ve started to go every Friday morning – the best market day. I walk from Paddington to Golborne Road and because it’s part of my geographical history I bump into so many people along the way. I like to have a falafel wrap from one of the stalls as I walk around browsing, picking up the odd bit of silverware – or even a bit of vintage jewellery. It’s a great start to a Friday.
My favourite room in my house is my bedroom. It has Watts 1874 wallpaper, a print of an 18th-century tapestry in greens and blues and oranges. It’s like being inside a verdant forest. On the bed, which is enormous, I have two antique paisley shawls that act as a bedspread. I don’t like seeing bedding. I spend a huge amount of time in this room reading, working, chatting to friends on the phone. It is the centre of my universe. Inside the hearth in front of my bed I designed a neon picture of the sun, clouds and a rainbow, inspired by a picture by my daughter Mardi when she was little. It gives the room a warm glow.
I have a collection of books. Happiness for me is lying on a sofa or in bed reading a book. I discovered very young that a book can take you out of your humdrum life and show you other worlds and lives. It all started with the Heidi books by Johanna Spyri, about that legendary little girl sent away from her home to live with her grandfather in the Swiss mountains. I loved her courage. I also buy books from charity shops. I’m always amazed by the people who can bear to give books away as if they’re clutter. They’re my favourite wall art and home decor.
The best bit of advice I ever received was from Suzy Menkes. When I was about to start my creative directorship at Boucheron in 2001 I had a moment of doubt about my ability to perform the job. She told me, “They need you more than you need them.” Those words gave me such confidence. Among other things, I designed the Quatre ring, based on my MishMash ring, which continues to be one of its all-time bestsellers. Thank you, Suzy!
Azagury-Partridge’s first Hotlips Boutique is now open at 25 Chilworth St, London W2