Even if you haven't heard of Valérie Messika, you've probably seen her work. After growing up and starting out with her father's diamond trading business, the jewelry designer launched her brand Messika in 2005, aiming to bring together a love for contemporary style with what she learned from traveling around the world. She started with her now-signature Move line, a collection of minimalist pieces with a three-diamond sparkle, and the brand has grown to be a favorite of both the entertainment and fashion worlds.
Messika's goal is to create contemporary diamond pieces for women to actually work into regular looks, and contributing to this wearable aesthetic, celebrities work her iconic bracelets and earrings into red carpets and social media posts galore. This year's awards season alone has been major, with stars including Lady Gaga, Cardi B, and Lupita Nyong'o rocked stunning hoops and moon-shaped earrings. Beyoncé has also showed her appreciation for the brand in her always-major Instagram photos, and Gigi Hadid flaunts the easy yet luxe pieces all the time, even having collaborated with the brand on collections since 2017. This high-profile relationship has helped to attract more attention, but most importantly, Messika loved the process of working with the supermodel.
"Gigi knew exactly what she wanted," the designer said of collaborating. "She created a number of highly precise mood boards, which formed the basis of our creative process. She was the orchestra’s conductor, providing artistic direction for these ideas."
Messika's pieces, which have moving shapes and luxe diamonds yet feel versatile enough for a range of aesthetics, make it no wonder why the designer has attracted such a star-studded fan base. Her work is a reminder of the importance of having fun in fashion, and shows that diamonds don't have to be reserved for the fanciest moments, but can add a lively, modern sparkle to any look.
Adding to the line's relevancy is the fact that Messika is the only woman in France to start her own independent jewelry brand, making her forward-thinking approach and powerful clientele all the more significant. The chic entrepreneur takes this position seriously, finding inspiration in her daughters as well as celebrating female strength with every piece.
"Remain focused," Messika says of her advice for other women who want to break into male-dominated fields. "Never let it down, know your priorities and stay passionate. I try to remind women to embrace their femininity."
From her stunning pieces to her powerful message, Messika is here to stay in the world of contemporary jewelry, so she chatted with L'Officiel USA about her upbringing, inspirations, and dynamic creative process. Read on to learn about the designer's favorite historical piece, everyday jewelry look, and appreciation for the people and places she encounters.
How do you blend your upbringing around the diamond trading business with a contemporary jewelry taste?
Less is More is my credo and I imagine my collections around four core values: Lightness, Liberty, Purity, and Sensuality. I’ve been lucky to work with diamonds in a free and audacious mindset. From the unconditional diamond purity to the clean designs that enhance it, Messika is always in search for the essential. I like my creations to be very comfortable; women should be able to live their lives without feeling uncomfortable from excessively heavy jewelry. I also try to come up with more daring jewelry pieces. Each year, I unveil bold new items: necklaces become chokers, rings adorn several fingers at once, ear cuffs curl around the ear, earrings are asymmetrical, cuffs envelop the wrist, and bracelets are worn plentifully or on the hand.
Did you have mentors along the way that helped you to develop your craft?
I don’t really have mentors, but I do work very closely with my cousin Didier Cherqui on each design and collection. For me, the most difficult aspect of my creation process is to transcribe my ideas into a drawing. I always have a lot of ideas, but sometimes it’s quite difficult to get the result I imagined. At the end, we always manage to make it possible thanks to my creative team.
What separates Messika from other jewelry brands?
My pieces are not created to remain in a safe. If I can give one piece of advice to all women, it’s to wear their jewels in everyday life. I wanted to present a very couture collection and demonstrate Messika’s special know-how through all the High Jewelry pieces.
When designing a new piece, where do you find inspiration?
I get my inspiration from many things all the time. I am constantly on the lookout, whether it’s through my travels, architecture, interior design (which I am crazy about), or by walking down the street and observing people’s attitudes and style.
Is there a particular era or historic piece that you admire?
To me, the most amazing piece in the world was Elizabeth Taylor’s necklace including a pear cut diamond of 69.42 carats, offered by her husband Richard Burton. I admire this woman’s elegance, personality, and her career. I designed a High Jewelry collection in 2017 called Miss Taylor in her honor.
How do you go about naming your pieces?
The names of collections are chosen after the jewels are created. The jewel is always the starting point. I begin all of my creations with a blank page which is the opposite of the prestigious houses of Place Vendôme that have centuries of rich archives of distinct styles. When it comes to Messika, each new collection is a real jump into the void; although I admit feeding obsessions for certain jewelry techniques. I always start the process without a precise brief.
What role does travel play in your creative process?
I do many personal and professional travels and I am constantly inspired by different cultures and landscapes in my designs. For example, the theme of the latest High Jewelry collection I created for Baselworld 2019 is the Californian desert.
You’ve been collaborating with Gigi Hadid a lot recently. What has it been like working with her?
It was a really nice experience and I loved working with Gigi. She helped push my perception of the way jewelry can be worn further through her love of fashion. For the first collection, we asked Gigi to find an idea around Messika’s iconic Move collection for its 10th anniversary. Everything went so well between Messika and Gigi, that a second collaboration was a must. Gigi knew exactly what she wanted. She created a number of highly precise mood boards, which formed the basis of our creative process. She was the orchestra’s conductor, providing artistic direction for these ideas.
What jewelry do you wear every day?
It depends on my mood. At the moment, I’m in love with my bangles from the Move collection, Romane and Noa which are named after my daughters. I like stacking them and mixing various pieces from all of my collections. The accumulation creates a powerful statement.
Such powerful women wear your jewelry. How have they furthered your vision for the brand?
I’ve been lucky to see my jewelry on many amazing women. It's always an emotional moment to see such prestigious personalities choosing Messika jewelry for their events or simply their everyday lives. Beyoncé, for example, often wears my creations. It motivates me to create more high jewelry statement pieces for the red carpet. My goal is to create jewelry that enhances a woman’s natural beauty. I always include a part of myself in my designs, leaving a personal and sentimental touch.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
Everything is moving so fast for Messika. I feel like I’m living in a dream! I hope Messika will continue to evolve–we are still a young brand and there are so many things to do. We are planning to expand further into a few markets and are excited as we look toward making a greater impression in North America this year.