Wednesday, 26 March 2014

THE INTERVIEW: with Eric Van Peterson



I got the opportunity to interview the fabulous Eric Van Peterson, the jewellery designer who' has been designing beautiful, fine jewellery for over 30 years. Working closely with his wife, the couple's signature style incorportates classic looks with modern, inspiring graphics. The Van Peterson 925 range at Debenhams is for the woman who likes to wear striking, uniquely designed necklaces, earrings and bracelets. I found out a little bit more about the amazing designer...

Tell us a little bit about your background, how did you come to be a jewellery designer?
‘I took a few minor courses at college in Art – I loved it, but I think that was the only clue I wanted to do something really creative. I then became a lawyer and studied for a long time. Then I came to London and I had a stall in a market and sold vintage clothes, and then eventually (I can’t remember really how it happened) I bought a glass cabinet and put some jewellery in there – I didn’t make the pieces, they were just old things, vintage pieces – and I thought yes, this is cool.

But I kept selling pieces like this too cheap, I kept selling out you know? Then, when this was going on, I bought some of these really gorgeous tailored suits for men, but inside some of these jackets were 18 carat gold cuff links. It must have been a classy guy’s, because in one of the pockets was a little leather pouch which contained 18 carat gold collar stays marked left and right. I took them round to an antique dealer and he asked me whether I wanted to sell them, and of course I did! And I did. And I started suddenly thinking like that. So, when I went out on my little missions to find stuff, I started hunting for jewellery as well, and that’s how I kind of got into the jewellery business. I had a tiny shop in Waltham Street, and a lady came along one day and said, ‘I’ve got one antique earring and I’ve lost the other one, do you think you could get another one made for me?’ So I took her earring to the girl that did our repairs and she said we could just make a casting, a mould. So I did. About three months later I had a whole counter full of stuff and that’s how it all broke loose and everything started.’  


What influenced you when you were younger? Was it vintage pieces or was it modern designers that inspired you?
‘Shall I tell you something? I was kind of interested in a lot of stuff, and I remember at the time I was particularly interested in Art Deco things and Art Nouveau things. I couldn’t, however, afford to buy the really serious pieces of art so I used to buy vintage costume jewellery from that period. Then I used to go to America, and I thought, there’s not a lot of American-Indian jewellery in London so I thought I’d just buy some while I was in Arizona, and I just bought bags of the stuff back – you know, really authentic stuff. It didn’t quite fit with all the Art Deco stuff I had in my cabinet in my shop so I used to sell it to Liberty’s. And, every time I travelled anywhere I’d buy and pick up jewellery to bring back.

I then met a guy in New York called Robert Lee Morris. He was the only person I knew who became a multi-millionaire from selling non-precious jewellery. It was all really sculptural, and he really made his fortune with Donna Karen. There was a stage where she did some really minimal stuff with these great big leather belts with these sculptural buckles – and these were all made by Robert Lee Morris.’



Have you worked closely with another designer before, if not, who would you like to work with?
‘No, not yet. There are probably a few people I would like to do that with. I’m pretty keen on Victoria Beckham’s work. She’s actually worn some of my line – I’ve got an amazing photo of her wearing one of my necklaces around her waist as a belt.  She’s very sweet, and very nice, and I thought it was very cool what she did. The power of celebrity is incredible.

Which celebrity would you choose to be the face of your brand (dead or alive)?
The work I’m doing at Debenhams is very, very delicate – it almost seems quite precious. I think, therefore, that the Duchess of Cambridge would be perfect.’

Are you influenced by the trends?
‘Well, I’ve been at Debehams for 15 years and about nine months ago they called me in and they had a bunch of the big guys sitting around the table. And, I was thinking – what’s going on here? And, basically they told me that they were going to take me from 20 stores to 104 stores – which is amazing, and that they were going to increase my options from 25 options to 85 options. So it’s great and very exciting.

The collection and pieces for 2014 are really something. So with a bigger range I can have more fun with it – I’ve got a lot more options, options that mean I can be influenced by the trends if I want. We’re still staying quite delicate as that seems to be a vibe I’ve always had here, and we’re introducing more semi-precious stones that are really beautiful - things that I had in my shop in Waltham Street.’


What key pieces have you got coming up for AW14?
‘Well, I came up with this concept, this weird thing for Waltham Street, that someone told me I should bring to Debenhams. Basically, we came up with a necklace that’s got a bracelet in it, and it’s also got a ring in it. The ring has a charm on it, and you can take the bracelet out and wear the bracelet, and you can wear the ring and the necklace separately, or you can wrap it all up and have it as a pendent. I put a watch fob swivel in the pin, so if you wear it like this it doesn’t stick out the wrong way, it always sort of moves around with you. We then tried to come up with a name, you know – what are we going to call this? The Trilogy Necklace? But, then I was sitting at home and I was thinking about the initials of the pieces and I thought: let’s call it the R’n’B? But then we were thinking B’n’B…rap…and in then end all of the jewellery had this musical association – which is a fun thing. So, Debenhams are doing the R’n’B! It hasn’t come out yet, but we’ll be having that next year along with all kinds of cool, new and innovative pieces that are just that little bit different.’

Tell us a little bit about your background, how did you come to be a jewellery designer?
‘I took a few minor courses at college in Art – I loved it, but I think that was the only clue I wanted to do something really creative. I then became a lawyer and studied for a long time. Then I came to London and I had a stall in a market and sold vintage clothes, and then eventually (I can’t remember really how it happened) I bought a glass cabinet and put some jewellery in there – I didn’t make the pieces, they were just old things, vintage pieces – and I thought yes, this is cool.

But I kept selling pieces like this too cheap, I kept selling out you know? Then, when this was going on, I bought some of these really gorgeous tailored suits for men, but inside some of these jackets were 18 carat gold cuff links. It must have been a classy guy’s, because in one of the pockets was a little leather pouch which contained 18 carat gold collar stays marked left and right. I took them round to an antique dealer and he asked me whether I wanted to sell them, and of course I did! And I did. And I started suddenly thinking like that. So, when I went out on my little missions to find stuff, I started hunting for jewellery as well, and that’s how I kind of got into the jewellery business. I had a tiny shop in Waltham Street, and a lady came along one day and said, ‘I’ve got one antique earring and I’ve lost the other one, do you think you could get another one made for me?’ So I took her earring to the girl that did our repairs and she said we could just make a casting, a mould. So I did. About three months later I had a whole counter full of stuff and that’s how it all broke loose and everything started.’  

What influenced you when you were younger? Was it vintage pieces or was it modern designers that inspired you?
‘Shall I tell you something? I was kind of interested in a lot of stuff, and I remember at the time I was particularly interested in Art Deco things and Art Nouveau things. I couldn’t, however, afford to buy the really serious pieces of art so I used to buy vintage costume jewellery from that period. Then I used to go to America, and I thought, there’s not a lot of American-Indian jewellery in London so I thought I’d just buy some while I was in Arizona, and I just bought bags of the stuff back – you know, really authentic stuff. It didn’t quite fit with all the Art Deco stuff I had in my cabinet in my shop so I used to sell it to Liberty’s. And, every time I travelled anywhere I’d buy and pick up jewellery to bring back.

I then met a guy in New York called Robert Lee Morris. He was the only person I knew who became a multi-millionaire from selling non-precious jewellery. It was all really sculptural, and he really made his fortune with Donna Karen. There was a stage where she did some really minimal stuff with these great big leather belts with these sculptural buckles – and these were all made by Robert Lee Morris.’

Have you worked closely with another designer before, if not, who would you like to work with?
‘No, not yet. There are probably a few people I would like to do that with. I’m pretty keen on Victoria Beckham’s work. She’s actually worn some of my line – I’ve got an amazing photo of her wearing one of my necklaces around her waist as a belt.  She’s very sweet, and very nice, and I thought it was very cool what she did. The power of celebrity is incredible.

Which celebrity would you choose to be the face of your brand (dead or alive)?
The work I’m doing at Debenhams is very, very delicate – it almost seems quite precious. I think, therefore, that the Duchess of Cambridge would be perfect.’

Are you influenced by the trends?
‘Well, I’ve been at Debehams for 15 years and about nine months ago they called me in and they had a bunch of the big guys sitting around the table. And, I was thinking – what’s going on here? And, basically they told me that they were going to take me from 20 stores to 104 stores – which is amazing, and that they were going to increase my options from 25 options to 85 options. So it’s great and very exciting.

The collection and pieces for 2014 are really something. So with a bigger range I can have more fun with it – I’ve got a lot more options, options that mean I can be influenced by the trends if I want. We’re still staying quite delicate as that seems to be a vibe I’ve always had here, and we’re introducing more semi-precious stones that are really beautiful - things that I had in my shop in Waltham Street.’

What key pieces have you got coming up for AW14?
‘Well, I came up with this concept, this weird thing for Waltham Street, that someone told me I should bring to Debenhams. Basically, we came up with a necklace that’s got a bracelet in it, and it’s also got a ring in it. The ring has a charm on it, and you can take the bracelet out and wear the bracelet, and you can wear the ring and the necklace separately, or you can wrap it all up and have it as a pendent. I put a watch fob swivel in the pin, so if you wear it like this it doesn’t stick out the wrong way, it always sort of moves around with you. We then tried to come up with a name, you know – what are we going to call this? The Trilogy Necklace? But, then I was sitting at home and I was thinking about the initials of the pieces and I thought: let’s call it the R’n’B? But then we were thinking B’n’B…rap…and in then end all of the jewellery had this musical association – which is a fun thing. So, Debenhams are doing the R’n’B! It hasn’t come out yet, but we’ll be having that next year along with all kinds of cool, new and innovative pieces that are just that little bit different.’

All images are sourced from Lee Publicity/Eric Van Peterson
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