Designing jewellery for the strong character

Gemma Champ profiles the young Polish jewellery designer Tomasz Donocik and reveals why he could be the industry's next big thing.
Chesterfield Hunters Bangle from Russian Aristocrat collection inspired by 'A Hero of Our Time'. Courtesy Tomasz Donocik
Chesterfield Hunters Bangle from Russian Aristocrat collection inspired by 'A Hero of Our Time'. Courtesy Tomasz Donocik

The search for the next big thing is fashion's perennial obsession, and when Stephen Webster's people spotted Tomasz Donocik's exquisite work at a graduate exhibition in 2006, where he had just won New Designer of the Year, they must have been high-fiving with delight.

Donocik was underwhelmed at the time. "I didn't know of Stephen Webster," says the Polish-born, Vienna-raised Royal College of Art graduate. "I'm a little bit clueless about things!"

When he met the rock'n'roll jeweller, he changed his mind, and a year working with Webster honed the already extraordinarily creative designer into an entrepreneur.

In 2007, he launched his own brand, from a tiny Victorian workshop in Shoreditch, east London, making pieces that have the dark, gothic aesthetic of an Eastern European folk tale. Displays of beetles and animal skulls hanging on the wall and intricate drawings papered over an old wooden desk reveal where it all comes from: a sense of narrative and a love of mixed materials.

Donocik's trademark piece, for example, is the Chesterfield cuff (pictured); a technically confounding feat that took weeks to master, in which fine glove leather is stretched over a complex articulated gold base and studded with diamonds. It's part of the Russian Aristocrat collection, which also includes braces in leather and gold-plated silver, horse's head cufflinks and necklaces made of Siberian horse hair.

Man or woman, it takes a strong character to wear pieces like the engagement ring he has just designed to order, in which two bulls' heads interlock, the horns akimbo; or the Courtship of the Hornbill, a giant, curving rose-gold sculpture encrusted with black, white and yellow diamonds, rubies and prehistoric mammoth horn (responsibly sourced, of course). But his fast-selling clusters of thin leather bracelets, studded with stars, and easy-to-wear gun necklaces are an approachable entry point to the brand - a canny move.

It turned out Webster was right about Donocik: last year named Jewellery Designer of the Year, working with the likes of London Fashion Week, Garrard and Swarovski, the icing on the cake is last month's launch as part of the Fine Jewellery Room at Harrods. Get in early: it won't be long before everyone discovers him.

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Published: September 20, 2012 04:00 AM


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