Jewellery designer Kat Florence dazzles with a new flagship boutique on Grafton Street in Mayfair and a dimaond jewellery collection created in partnership with Sarah Jessica Parker
Kat Florence is a well-travelled woman. She grew up on the east coast of Canada, then studied in Australia and Colorado – gaining a degree in biology and a Masters in education – before settling in Bangkok, where she taught art and science for eight years.
After making the decision to change career and set up a jewellery house, Florence’s search for gemstones led her to far-flung spots including Tanzania. Her new Flawless Diamonds collection, made entirely from D flawless diamonds (the highest clarity grade), has been created in collaboration with Sarah Jessica Parker and meant several hops over to the Big Apple. So why, then, did Florence settle on Grafton Street as the location of her first boutique?
“I spent a lot of time living in the cities I was thinking about opening up in – I lived in Rome, I stayed in Milan for a while – but Mayfair is the only place that still has that dedication to single, privately owned companies that are forging their own direction and style,” explains the jeweller.
We are sitting in the boutique, a cosy, lilac-grey interior with divine suede curtains and a velvety soft sofa. A paper installation inspired by Kat Florence jewels adorns the ceiling – a delicate, jungle-like display by Veronica Hodges called The Nectar of Life.
Outside the store it is equally lavish. Fabergé sits next door and Graff is around the corner, but Florence doesn’t seem too worried about keeping up with the Joneses just yet, despite the launch of The Graff Venus in November, the largest heart-shaped D Flawless diamond in the world.
“Graff has the size, but we have the everyday pieces,” says Florence. “The integrity behind our Flawless Diamonds collection was to create beautiful, everyday jewellery that could become part of a woman’s journey through life, and to offer it at a price that wasn’t astronomical.”
Florence is unafraid of cutting large stones, which are chiefly valued on their weight rather than their beauty
It’s quite an achievement that Kat Florence is already a real competitor to these moguls, as the venture began only two years ago. It was something that Florence rather elusively ‘fell into’ while out in Bangkok. She then went on to study the craft for a year and a half.
“I’d done lots of painting and sculpture in the past, but jewellery was a totally different outlet and experience,” she remarks. “I felt like I had been given the privileged position to make a frame for this really rare stone, so it was more about having respect for it and trying to represent its beauty in the design.”
Florence is unafraid of cutting large stones, which are chiefly valued on their weight rather than their beauty. “I love the experience of cutting the stone and seeing how you can transform it to make it even more beautiful,” she says. “In June I sold a 420-carat tanzanite. It took six months to cut and it was a scary time – that was the only one I was really nervous about.”
Florence installs a spring mechanism in her rings, which allows the wearer to adjust the piece to one of three different sizes. It is a device adapted from a 1920s technique, but is becoming increasingly popular as more people are investing in modern heirlooms. But it isn’t just these inventive quirks that ensure “the new girl on the block” stands out.
Sarah Jessica Parker – a successful businesswoman and influential style icon – has partnered with Florence to create a collection “for every woman in the world”. Yet, the story of their meeting is quite organic. Around a year ago, Florence was meant to be doing a photo shoot with Julianne Moore, with whom Parker shares a manager. Parker was at the set and saw some of Florence’s pieces, and from then on a close working partnership soon developed between the pair.
“I was a little bit nervous about the collaboration, because when you’re designing with someone else sometimes you don’t have the same communication style or ideas and it can be time-consuming, but it was actually so much easier than I anticipated,” says Florence. “Sarah’s definitely someone who knows what she wants, and can say: ‘Let’s have a drop instead of a circle’ or ‘let’s make it more of a feeling’.”
The collection is big. So big that Florence and Parker have divided it into chapters according to styles and inspiration: from Art Deco Heritage to twinkling Pavé Hews. When we meet, Florence is wearing the Galaxy ring from the latter, which sits elegantly on her hand alongside a Tanzanian tsavorite ring.
“I always start with the stone, then try to represent the origin and journey of the stone through the design,” says Florence. “I can just feel it in the lines of the cut: you can see how it should fall on the woman’s body and then the lines just form around it.
“Although, doing the diamond collection was different because I sketched first and it was more about creating pieces that were the shape, size and volume for everyday wear – it was much more simple.”
For Florence and Parker’s sophisticated, feminine collection, there could be only one photographer: Peter Lindbergh. He’s the man considered responsible for single-handedly inventing the supermodel with his iconic monochrome Vogue shoot starring Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford. More recently, he shot the – controversially – unedited 2017 Perelli calendar starring a year’s worth of modern icons, from Helen Mirren to Alicia Vikander.
“When you look at his photos there is so much emotion and feeling in them,” says Florence. “I love how his main focus is to represent the authentic natural beauty of a woman, never to over-edit.
“It was a nice parallel to have him shoot the campaign as I wanted it to be all about the natural beauty of the stones.”
“There are moments, like when I’m sitting on a sofa with Sarah Jessica Parker and Peter Lindbergh, and I just think: ‘How did this happen?’”
Despite rubbing shoulders with fashion royalty, Florence isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty: whether it’s overseeing each process of her designs or undertaking philanthropic ventures in Africa.
“I love the idea that I get to create my own art, but in the end I’m selling it, and I couldn’t handle the idea of just selling and not having something else to build and give back,” she says.
“The Kat Florence Foundation launched a year ago: it’s so exciting. A school for 420 children in Nepal is being built with funds from the pieces sold. The day we open it the building in April and see all the children running in is going to be unbelievable.”
Florence describes the past two years as a whirlwind, but reflects that there are many different reasons to feel proud.
“Meeting clients and seeing their appreciation for the art and craft is always a lovely moment. As a designer you’re constantly doubting yourself so it is validating.
“Then there are other moments, like when I’m sitting on a sofa with Sarah Jessica Parker and Peter Lindbergh, and we’re discussing which photo is better, and I just think: ‘How did this happen?’”
Florence might be a seasoned jetsetter, but Mayfair is home for now. We can’t wait to see what she does next.