Jewellery designer Kiki McDonough talks to us about business, ballet and wearing what suits you.
Jewellery design was thrust upon Kiki McDonough, almost without her realising it, when, in 1985, a friend noticed her magpie’s eye for gemstones. At that time, only the ‘big boys’ of Bond Street were making jewellery and hardly anyone was designing pieces to be worn every day, offering the gap in the market that Kiki needed.
Although her grandfather and great-grandfather had dealt in antique jewellery, Kiki wanted to make designs that were very much of the moment and could be worn for all occasions. Her vibrantly colourful creations—rather like confectionary—look beautiful on women of all ages and from all walks of life. The Duchess of Cambridge is a particularly loyal customer—she once wore a pair of Kiki’s earrings when out rowing in the morning and later that day at a royal engagement.
However, Kiki doesn’t pursue the celebrity culture that’s been heightened by social media. In her eyes, every customer is important—she’s just as pleased to bump into someone wearing one of her pieces at a party as she is to see The Duchess of Cambridge in a pair of her elegant earrings.
After Kiki opened her first tiny store in Belgravia in 1998, business quickly grew through
word of mouth and she’s now to be found just off Sloane Square, on Symons Street. The brand’s royal connections—Diana, Princess of Wales was also a fan—draw an international clientele and, although she regularly designs new ranges, she wouldn’t dream of discontinuing the classic collections she’s been making for 20 years.
About half of the colour combinations in Kiki’s designs are inspired by her passion for the ballet. ‘I’m often to be seen scribbling on a programme halfway through a performance when something catches my eye,’ she confesses. ‘I did ballet until I was 15, but then boys and parties kicked in, so now I just watch it. Thank goodness I work or I’d probably be found sleeping in Covent Garden.’
There’s certainly a fun, light and feminine feel to all her jewellery and she has a knack for designing pieces that clients think they might never wear, but soon fall in love with. ‘I haven’t taken these earrings off for two weeks,’ she discloses, proving the point that, if the jewellery suits you, nothing else matters.
Kiki’s tips on buying jewellery
- If you’re new to jewellery, buy earrings; they will light up your face, especially as we live in polo necks in this country
- Don’t try too hard—one great piece is more effective than layering it all on
- Wear jewellery that suits you, not just because it matches your clothes and never wear long earrings with a hat—the smaller the hat, the bigger the earrings can be
- And for heaven’s sake, if you’ve got a pretty pair of earrings, just get on and wear them—don’t leave them hiding in your jewellery box