It's hard not to find inspiration in a city as breathtaking as Rome. But translating that into work is a whole different story. One of OC's favorite jewelry designers, Delfina Delettrez
, does just that with every opulent yet tongue-in-cheek piece she creates. When I visited Delfina in her Rome workspace, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I was delighted at how kind and welcoming she was. In true Italian style, we started off the interview with an espresso and a freshly rolled cigarette.
Alberto Jimenez: What about jewelry fascinates you?
Delfina Delettrez: Firstly, I have always been obsessed with details. I think I got it from my grandmother and my mother––it's in our DNA. I also like seeing the transformation of a rock or a piece of raw material into a mini sculpture, shiny and perfectly made. I like the smell of the material and the coldness of the stones. I can feel their energy sometimes; it affects you.
I never really wear jewelry, so when I do I want it to be transformable. I use traditional techniques but I don't follow traditional rules. I like to think that I make toys for adults; my pieces move and open, they are semantic and ironic. They remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. I think of strong women––I imagine a woman arriving to dinner with a caterpillar on her shoulder. I like to make pieces that are conversation starters.
AJ: You refer a lot to the human body in your work. Why is that?
DD: Yes––Kama Sutra, the eyes, the butt, tits... The only rule I have for myself is not to follow any rule, only my imagination. To me, the Karma Sutra figures
look very harmonic. From far away, you can't tell that the pieces are made up of two people melted into one sex position, and that was the point. Also I'm very shy and closed off––I think my references to the body are a way to express another side of me.
AJ: What if your favorite design of yours?
DD: Nowadays I've been wearing a lot of the eyes, but I'm attached to all of my pieces. It is like when you have a lot of children––you need to give attention to all of them. I feel guilty only wearing one.
AJ: I read that you spent a good amount of time of your childhood in Rio de Janeiro.
DD: Yes, I used to spend half the year there as a child. But home was always Rome. I also spent a lot of time in Paris. I'm half-French and half-Italian. When I'm in Paris I feel more French, whereas when I'm in Rome, I feel more Italian.
I love everything about Paris, it's like a big Rome. It is very royal to me––I love the enormous streets, the boutiques, the Parisian style. I love my coffee at a bar and a cigarette. Even in December when it's cold outside, the French need their cigarette and glass of red wine. I also love Paris when it's grey. It's very melancholic and poetic. So while I spent a lot of time in Brazil, home has always been Europe.
AJ: Why did you decide to base in Rome instead of Paris, where you show your collection?
DD: Rome is home. But a big part of it is also having grown up being taught the importance of "Made in Italy." I think Italy is one the only countries where you can still find real artisans. It's more magical to have my things made here.
AJ: Is there any part of your childhood that influenced your current collection?
DD: I have very loose memories of the time I spent in Brazil, but they are very colorful. Nature there is so explosive––the green is acid, the yellow is very strong. I translate those memories into the colors I like to use. Also, the insects, snakes, and insect are a lot bigger. I take from those as well.
AJ: Where else do you draw inspiration from?
DD: My daughter is a big inspiration. When I was pregnant, she brought out this sweet side of me that I did not know I had. Even her toys are inspiring––very intelligent and simple. The idea for my bracelet that opens and closes, actually, came from a toy. I love toys. Especially slap bracelets––they are so smart. Just imagine a necklace like that!
AJ: Describe a typical day in your studio.
DD: I don't have a typical day. My studio is divided into different areas––my office is for paperwork, then the laboratory is where I work with artisans. Going to the laboratory is like going to school. It's where I learn by watching, observing, and talking to the artisans. It's important to be close to them and to have a good relationship with them. One, for example, taught me how to make my own enamel. But design inspiration does not come from just standing around, so I like to walk around this part of the city. It can be very stimulating.
AJ: If I were walking around Rome, where would I bump into you?
DD: My daughter's school! [Laughs] Or the office, but I like to change my routine a lot and discover new places. I do love getting my coffee at Enzo on Via del Governo Vecchio; I love that it's old and marbled everywhere. I have my favorite restaurant Settimio on Via del Pellegrino, as well. You have to ring the doorbell for them to let you in. It's like eating at your grandma's house. Sometimes I go there by myself and I will find a friend eating alone, which is always a nice surprise. If you are alone, the cook will come out, and sit and chat with you while you eat. The food is very simple but very good quality.
You might also find me at the bookstore right under my office, which has a lot of amazing, old antique books. I also spend a lot of time at the bookstore AltroQuando in Piazza Pasquino, which sells hard-to-find movies, original posters, and books. I also love Via dei Coronari, one of the most beautiful streets in Rome. It's a good walk with a lot of antique stores. Gelateria del Teatro on that street has the best gelato in Rome!
AJ: Any other special spots that you recommend?
DD: There is a crypt called Cripta dei Cappuccini underneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, at Via Vittorio Veneto. It's amazing because the inside is entirely covered in bones––they are thousands and thousands nailed to the wall and hung in intricate patterns. I go there to refresh my mind.
AJ: How do you balance being a mum and having your own business?
DD: My daughter gives me the strength to balance it very well. I see her and my company growing at the same time, as well as myself. She's an old soul; she hangs out with my friends even though she has a lot of her own. She really likes grown ups.
AJ: Do you think she will follow your steps?
DD: I think more of her father’s. She’s an actress already––one who likes jewelry. Like the many actresses who like jewelry!
AJ: What advice would you give other women who dream of starting their own business?
DD: To follow it. If you have a real passion, you can really do anything you want. You need to believe in it and work hard. But if you are not having fun, stop doing it. You need to find your own mean of expression and take it seriously––but not too seriously. Work everyday and take risks, otherwise you would never have known the outcome.
Shop all Delfina Delettrez
and for women