Say hello to Shaun Leane
Meet the man who combines fashion with craftsmanship. Sean Leane talks to Muddy about bringing the bling to McQueen and his own Jewellery collection at Strange The Jeweller.
When fashion and craftsmanship collide, you get jewellery designer Shaun Leane. He’s best known for his sculptural work with Alexander McQueen and has been awarded Designer Of The Year at the UK Jewellery Awards 4 freakin’ times. Shaun’s trinkets are regularly featured in glossy fashion mags and he has a loyal celebrity fan base. His work, available locally at the brilliant Strange The Jeweller in Wokingham, is unusual, edgy and feminine.
Taking his inspiration from the worlds of art, fashion, history and nature, Shaun combines his traditional goldsmith skills and early days restoring antiques with a fashion slant from his years working with McQueens. We especially love the elegant yet edgy hook and cat claw earrings, necklaces and bracelets from the Signature collection. He’s a man who makes the seemly impossible a beautiful reality.
What are the big trends at the mo?
The beautiful thing about the jewellery offering at present is there’s such diversity and there are many trends working side by side. To me, the obvious trend currently is the single earring and layering of smaller pieces of jewellery. There’s also been a rise in the purchasing of vintage cocktail rings, so I feel there’s a trend emerging for more one off statement pieces.
Any tips for choosing jewellery?
The most important thing about picking a piece of jewellery is how it makes you feel. If you connect with a piece and it makes you feel confident, empowering, sexy, spiritual and just beautiful, it’s the one for you.
Let’s talk celebs – who wears your jewellery?
The unstoppable Taylor Swift wore Shaun Leane Black Diamond Sabre earrings and the Quill Cuff in her video for Look What You Made Me Do. Others that come to mind would be FKA Twigs, Cara Delevingne, Naomie Harris, Bella Hadid, Daisy Ridley, Lady Gaga, Jourdan Dunn and Emma Watson.
What’s the most glamorous moment of your career?
The opening of the Savage Beauty exhibition which showcased 42 of my archived pieces with McQueen. It opened with a star-studded guest list from Naomi Campbell to FKA Twigs and Salma Hayek.
What was it like working with Lee Alexander McQueen?
I was classically trained as a goldsmith before my introduction to Alexander McQueen. We met through a mutual friend who told him of my crafts as a goldsmith. He came from a Savile Row background so appreciated my traditional training. Much of my work focused on diamond mounting and antique restoration; handling small delicate gold and diamond jewels. When McQueen asked me to create pieces for his first catwalk show I needed to teach myself to create large scale pieces in silver, something that I had never done before, so this was my first challenge. The experience was liberating for me, it has opened my eyes to using unconventional materials and experiment in design and technique.
One of the most challenging pieces between our collaboration was the Coiled Corset (AW1999). Earlier that year I had worked with him on an African-inspired neckpiece for Bjork’s album cover. It was a challenging project as I had only just began self-teaching silversmithing to meet the demands of the catwalk.
When McQueen asked if I could create the same neckpiece but for the whole torso, I knew it would absolutely challenge my skills as a goldsmith. (Being a goldsmith, I was used to making pieces in gold and diamonds.) I remember him saying to me that “nothing is impossible”, if I can make the neckpiece, and I can also make the corset. After that, I had spent 16 hours a day for 10 weeks creating the piece. The corset took many hours of work to build as I had to cast the models body in concrete first to create a mould and using this to hand-shape and coil every wire to fit exactly to her body but the result was so rewarding.
How did that collaboration effect your techniques and designs?
McQueen gave me a platform of creative freedom; there were no commercials restraints, they were works of art to reflect the concept of his show so I could really push the boundaries with my design. I also had the opportunity to explore new techniques and materials other than the traditional process I was accustomed to. Through this discovery I realised I could create innovative silhouettes and forms. Every show created a new challenge and excitement so through the years I grew technically and as an artist.
Who inspires you today?
I’m inspired by the people I see every day from London underground to the restaurants I dine in, London is so multi-cultural and full of style and creativity it’s a feast for the eyes and a creative mind.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Which parts of British life do you love?
I love London for its constant energy and drive to push the boundaries in every arena. Then I love retreating to the country full of calm and tradition
What’s next for Shaun Leane – the man and the jeweller?
We are extremely busy as always, I’m currently working on collections for 2018/19 and a string of some extremely beautiful bespoke works. There is an extremely important project that I have been working on for the past 4 years which actually does place a monumental landmark for the house and in the history of Jewellers in Britain, but sadly I cannot reveille it at this point, you’ll just have to wait and see!
Pah! No amount of arm twisting, bribery or intense questioning would get him to spill the beans. We’ll have to learn to be patient.