If you’re going to be a jeweller, hailing from one of Antwerp’s biggest diamond dynasties certainly can’t do any harm. Vanessa Tugendhaft, the 31-year-old jewellery designer who will debut in Dubai tonight at Toby Arts Gallery in Al Quoz, is not one to trumpet her origins, and her success – she counts Madonna, Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson and Inès de la Fressange among her fans – has been entirely her own.
She’s certainly a popular guest round Paris, but this rather shy Belgian is more likely to be found nesting at home with her young daughter than out on the town, and that unpretentious attitude extends to her jewels.For Tugendhaft, diamonds are not necessarily about grandeur and ostentatious dressing, but should be worn lightly, day-to-day, and the low-key delicacy of her signature “Identity” collection from 2004 – the single diamond hanging from a coloured thread – allows just that. “I don't wear lots of jewellery,” she admits. “I only wear real jewellery and very discreetly. That's why I designed what I call ‘skin’ jewellery. I can mix it with high-end pieces from my grandmother or mom's collection, but it's really very rare that I do.”
Indeed, even the most elaborate pieces in her collections, such as her latest collection, the art deco-inspired Le Garconne collection designed with the jewellery editor of Citizen K magazine, or the now iconic rose design, sit unobtrusively against the skin, with diamonds set in yellow, white or pink gold or, in the case of the rose, in a more affordable rhodium silver. Here is a peek into her lifestyle.
What are you reading?
On my bedside table, I have two books at the moment: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
What kind of music do you like? I listen to all kinds – I'm a music lover. But I have a weakness for the 1980s. My favourite artist? I have so many! I love Madonna, Tori Amos, Adele, Whitney Houston...
What's your favourite movie?
"Va, Vis et Deviens" (Live and Become), directed by Radu Mihaileanu.
Who are your style icons?
Audrey Hepburn and Charlotte Casiraghi, and the fashion designers I most admire are Riccardo Tisci, Anne-Valérie Hash, Stella McCartney (because she is animal friendly, like me) and Raf Simons.
Describe your personal style
I’m not a fashion follower. I'm often in black: a black classic Joseph pant or a denim leather jacket, my Isabel Marant or Chloé boots (both from old seasons), Maje tops, and I carry the bag that I designed in collaboration with the Belgian designer Clio Goldbrenner. I think a stylish woman is one who knows how to play with fashion according to her body and taste; she is chic, she's elegant with a twist of fashion. She is never overdressed, never wears a total look, she mixes and matches and knows how to be simple during the day. The last pieces I bought and loved were a black Antigona bag from Givenchy – it’s so chic – and the latest MacBook Air.
What are your best beauty buys?
I don’t buy beauty products – I use organic essential oils to create my own beauty products. My favorite is Docteur Valnet because each oil has a therapeutic power and it's organic. I love going to a spa as well, and being surrounded by my best friends and family – we sometimes need a change of scene because of the Parisian turmoil! My favourite is the U Spa at the Hôtel Fouquet's Barrière de Paris.
What do you like to eat?
Food is my guilty pleasure. I love to eat cookies, chocolate and especially fruit dipped in fondant dark chocolate! My favourite cuisine is Italian. I'm not a cook, although I do cook very simple and organic things time to time. I love summer white truffle risotto. I love going to Il Carpaccio, the Italian restaurant at the Royal Monceau Hotel in Paris.
Where do you like to travel?
I last went on holiday to The Seychelles – it’s such a peaceful, wild and relaxing island. For hotels, the Shangri-La in Paris blows my mind. I love going to Los Angeles, too, because it has such a unique combination of green, gardens, beach leisure, perfect weather, glamour, good food and fashionable places. And when I'm in LA, I spend some peaceful weekends in San Diego.
Which artists do you admire?
I've started to collect art, following in the footsteps of my mom's passion for art. My favourite artist is David Gerstein. I adore his genuineness and colourful world.
Who would you invite for dinner?
My top dinner party guests would be Coco Chanel, for her revolutionary fashion vision and her amazing and strong personality, and Grace Kelly for her beauty and timeless elegance.
What do you never leave home without?
My BlackBerry, because unfortunately you have to be reachable everywhere and anytime – but also because I like being in contact with the ones I love.
Describe your personality in five words.
Determined, honest, smiling, open minded and faithful.
How would you like to be remembered?
A loyal person and an innovative jewellery designer.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Never give up.
What is your greatest achievement?
My baby girl.
Who do you most admire?
What inspires you?
Everything. It could be a cafe, a city, a dress, my baby girl, my travels, sight-seeing, a person...
Vanessa Tugendhaft launches tonight at Toby Arts in Al Quoz; the jewels will be available soon at S*uce. www.shop.vanessa-tugendhaft.com