Phoebe and Annette Stephens, the sister design duo behind Anndra Neen, say their sculptural, art-as-adornment jewelry is worn by an independent woman of style: “She is definitely the anti-sheep. She dares to wear and wants to be different; she appreciates jewelry as much as she does art.”
It was perhaps inevitable that the stylish sisters would end up in a creative industry, having had an enviable childhood growing up surrounded by artists in Mexico City. Their grandmother, Annette Nancarrow, was a sculptor and jeweller, whose work was collected by Peggy Guggenheim, Anais Nin, Helena Rubenstein and her friend Frida Kahlo.
Their own jewelry, which has been worn by Michelle Obama, Solange Knowles and Jessica Alba, is influenced by their grandmother, their own love of art and design history, and their worldly travels.
Five years after launching Anndra Neen, Phoebe and Annette split their time between New York and Mexico City, where their bold necklaces, cuffs and signature cage clutches are handcrafted in Alpaca silver and brass by a team of talented artisans.
Their latest collections for Spring/Summer 2015 and Fall/Winter 2015/6 mark a progression for the designers with the introduction of explosive color through stones, including other-worldly opals in volcanic rock, ruby zoisite and amber, as well as Jackson Pollock-esque paint splatter pieces.
They talked to Latest Revival about their eclectic, endlessly creative approach to jewelry design:
Phoebe, you were working as a fashion specialist at Philipps de Pury auction house and Annette, you were working in theater. What led you to start a jewelry line together?
Having our own jewelry collection was something we had always talked about, especially because we were so inspired by the type of jewelry that our grandmother made. We really felt like no one at the time was doing what we had envisioned so that’s how the idea was slowly born. We were on a holiday in Japan exactly five years ago where we became truly inspired and decided to open a workshop as soon as we returned and devote our full effort into that project.
Are you both equally involved in the creative process?
Yes, we do everything together. Typically we always come up with an idea and if we’re not sketching together, one will come up with a design and the other will give some input. We always have a strong understanding of what we’re looking to achieve so there’s rarely any disagreement.
Then of course we have to take everything to our workshop where the design can change based on some technical aspect. Our artisans are a vital component to the creative process and challenge us as much as we challenge them.
Your grandmother sounds like a huge influence. What is the greatest lesson she taught you? Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry from her?
Our grandmother was a great source of inspiration, as we design for the kind of woman she was. She was daring in her sense of style and loved to stand out, as well as being incredibly classic and feminine. The biggest lesson she passed down was to always be an original. She was one-of-a kind.
One of our favorite pieces from her collection was a metal necklace that she wore when the painter Clemente Orozco painted her portrait. It was a statement piece and she layered it with one that she made out of Pre-Colombian beads.
What led you to introduce natural stones and painted pieces in your Spring/Summer’15 and Fall/Winter collections?
Up until these collections we really built our brand on purely working with Alpaca silver and brass to keep the design focus very sculptural. We slowly began to experiment by slipping in one or two pieces with a natural stone recently but our Spring/Summer’15 season was the most dramatic change we’ve had so far. It’s in no way a departure of what we originally started out with because we still take the ‘sculpture’ approach to our design. We’ve always been making more delicate, “cleaner” looking pieces since the beginning but our woman has evolved as well over the years so one could say the aesthetic today is a little more precious.
What is your greatest achievement since launching Anndra Neen?
It’s always hard to pick one specifically. The first major achievement is the First Lady carrying one of our clutches in 2012. We always send pictures of major editorials and celebrities wearing our pieces to our team in Mexico, and it was very surreal for them to see her carrying something that passed through their hands.
We were also commissioned by Carine Roitfeld to make an 18 karat gold version of our cage clutch in collaboration with LoveGold for the 2013 amfAR gala in Cannes. We sold the clutch last year through the Sotheby’s Important Jewels auction, which came as a complete surprise. It was such an honor for us to be presented among jewelers like David Webb, René Lalique and Harry Winston.