BIRDS, BEES, BEARS
& BLOSSOMS

A Symphonic Summery Showcase
inspired by the Natural World

19TH July - 16TH Sept

Simon Harrison

Simon Harrison

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Simon Harrison

People are often fascinated by the idea that someone can dedicate their working life to designing and making fashion jewellery. This usually prompts the question, ‘why jewellery, how did you get into that?’ ...Good question. Everyone at Simon Harrison Ltd is passionate about jewellery, so how does that happen? Simon Harrison’s own interest in jewellery started early. By the age of 11 he was making pendants and earrings for friends and relatives. Simon believes that there is something primeval about the making and wearing of jewellery. ‘It’s part of our earliest human instinct to adorn ourselves’. It’s believed that our ancestors were wearing simple shell pendants long before they began to wear clothes.

Virtually everyone has the latent ability to pass a string though a bead or a found object to make a necklace. It takes a higher skill level to invent ideas and turn them into jewellery items that other people would want to buy and wear. Whilst studying for his degree in Industrial Design Simon worked with fellow fashion students to make jewellery and accessories to co-ordinate with their collections. From this collaboration he found that he could also support his studies by making silver jewellery and selling it through local retailers. He sees this period as a formative lesson in understanding what people want to wear and how to make a living from his design and craft skills. After graduating in the mid 1970s Simon started his first full time job with avant-garde jeweller Charles De Temple who was one of a pioneering generation of jewellers ready to question the orthodoxy and preconceptions of what gold and gemstone jewellery should look like. De Temple had developed his own modern sense of aesthetic though his association with the worlds of art and fashion. He had worked with sculptor Alexander Calder and fashion designers Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne. Within this creative environment Simon was encouraged to develop his design ideas into unique one-off pieces of jewellery.

Towards the end of the 1970s Simon struck out on his own. He set up his own small company working within the world of fashion. He made silver jewellery and fashion accessories for the designers of the time; Jean Muir, Zandra Rhodes, Bill Gibb, Bruce Oldfield and others. Simon regards Jean Muir as an important mentor who influenced the development of his philosophy of design. ‘She was relentless in negotiating the tiniest detail if she felt it would lead to a technical or aesthetic improvement. I learned that the commercial content of design is critical and must be in balance with the technical and aesthetic content. Jean Muir and her commercial team taught me about structured financial management, and details like how to build an accurate costing. However, I guess that the most important lesson was that the commercial content is not all about finance. It is more especially about understanding the wearer and being able to envision her aspirations, what would motivate her to buy and sensing how she would feel in the jewellery that I had designed’.

During the 1980s Simon developed his association with fashion. He also lectured part-time in jewellery design at the Sir John Cass School of Art in London and worked as a visiting lecturer at a number of colleges and universities in the UK. Towards the End of the 1980s he worked as an international product development co-ordinator for Swarovski. In this role he travelled extensively and was responsible for managing product development worldwide for a number of Swarovski’s own portfolio of jewellery ranges. After leaving Swarovski he started to focus on mainly making fashion jewellery from plated base metals. In the early 1990s he designed customised fashion jewellery ranges for Corocraft, Wedgwood and the famous London store Liberty. Soon his focus turned back to the fashion world when he was asked to produce a jewellery range for Vivienne Westwood. Almost twenty years later, Vivienne Westwood is still a key client amongst a portfolio of other fashion jewellery ranges managed by his team of more than 50 designers, craftsmen and commercial managers. In addition to the jewellery ranges that they produce under license for Karen Millen, Ted Baker and Cath Kidston, Simon and his team design and make a Simon Harrison jewellery range which retails through prestige department stores and specialist boutiques worldwide.