"I love a good laugh," says the French-Algerian jewellery designer and ceramicist Anissa Kermiche when we meet at her stylish duplex in Marylebone. "It’s such a simple pleasure." With cheekily named pieces like the Free the Nip-Pearl earring and the Rubies Boobies necklace, Kermiche’s playful jewellery range attracted a cult following right from the start. Today, her curvaceous ceramics are appearing on the shelves of tastemakers including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the stylist Pernille Teisbaeck and Gwyneth Paltrow, celebrating the female form and bringing a certain joie de vivre to the world of interiors that was missing until now.
Kermiche grew up in Paris, surrounded by beauty. "I didn’t realise how lucky I was," she says of her childhood. "When we went on school trips to Versailles or Chantilly, I remember not wanting to leave and paying attention to every ornament." She excelled at art and would spend all her spare time sketching. "Everything around me would take human shapes," she recalls. "I would re-draw a car in the shape of a person, with the lights as eyes and the number plate as the mouth. I think the animated teacups in Beauty and the Beast had a big impact on me!"
Although it seems obvious that Kermiche was destined for creative success, she originally trained as an engineer. "My mum was very strict, and science was the only acceptable career path," she explains. "I thought about becoming a doctor, but the first time we dissected a mouse in biology I passed out, so I had no other choice but engineering." She won a job working at one of the top firms in France but began to suffer from depression: "I hated it and I was so low, but then I started drawing again. I thought, 'Either you become a designer, or you die'."
By chance, Kermiche’s friend had just come back from London and suggested she take a course at Central Saint Martins. So she rented a room in Hampstead and threw herself headfirst into summer classes in jewellery design. "It was a revelation," she says. "I got my confidence back and connected much more to the people I was studying with than my former colleagues." After quitting engineering and spending several more years honing her craft at Central Saint Martins and Holts Academy in Hatton Garden, she launched her eponymous brand in 2016, quickly making a mark with her pearl anklets and gold-plated fortune-cookie earrings. "I had a lifetime’s accumulation of designs in my head," she says. "I just had to be brave enough to start."
While her jewellery was an immediate hit among fashion circles, it wasn’t until Kermiche turned her hand to crafting objets d’art that her brand enjoyed mainstream success. Three years ago, she couldn’t find the right vase for her apartment, so she decided to design one herself. "It was a natural progression," she says. "A house also has a soul, in a way, and home-ware is like jewellery for the home." Her witty ceramics – including the Love Handles and Breast Friendvases, and the Jugs Jug – reimagine everyday items as voluptuous female silhouettes. "Naming pieces is crucial," she says, "and sometimes I’ll find the pun and design the piece after. That’s what happened with the latest one, From the Bottom of my Heart, a peach-shaped little bum in shiny red that we launched on Valentine’s Day."
You get the sense that Kermiche also likes to have fun with her own style. "In the day, I like to be practical and comfortable," she notes. "My signature look is Levi’s, a cashmere jumper by Le Kasha and flat boots from Doc Martens or Khaite. I think it comes from the time I was surrounded by men as a student, and I was always trying to show my strength and masculinity." At night, it’s a different story: "Let’s just say my RuPaul side comes out. I love to be girlie and I’ll wear my Manolos, my Prada feathers or something geometric by DionLee."
When choosing jewellery, she likes to mismatch her own earrings – "a long pearl drop and an ear cuff on one side and diamond studs on the other" – mixed with vintage finds from Grays Antique Centre just off South Molton Street. "When I was younger, I used to have lots of dainty diamond bands, but now I love a beautiful cocktail ring and that’s about it."
Kermiche’s cosy bachelorette pad also represents the duality of her personality. "The two sides are always at odds with each other – the engineer that sees volumes, shapes and lines, and then the dreamer –I feel there’s no in-between," she reflects. Her bedroom is filled with vibrant furnishings, from the Luke Edward Hall headboard to the Coco & Wolf silk sheets, and her latest investment – a pair of Ettore Sottsass lamps that add a flash of colour on the bedside tables. "You can tell that the child in me loves pink!" she says. "I’m banned from using it in my living room because that space has to show my grown-up side."
Here, cream tones and white marble form a soothing backdrop to a terrycloth Fred Rigby sofa, a print by Ren Hang, a plaster side table by Viola Lanari, a cloud-like sculpture by Ronan &Erwan Bouroullec that hangs above the fireplace, and a gothic chair from the design dealer Jermaine Gallacher’s showroom in Borough. "I love sculptural chairs," she says, "but when I host a party everyone’s backs hurt because none are actually comfortable to sit on!" All the same, an invitation into Kermiche’s world is one that any of us would gladly accept.
This interview was taken from the April 2021 issue of Harper's Bazaar UK.
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