Andrew Bunney and Rupert Smyth
Derek Ridgers: Selected Works for BUNNEY
On Thursday 7th June, English jewelers Bunney launched their first exhibition at Dover Street Market. Continuing from the first Bunney paper, this exhibition features selected works from classic London photographer Derek Ridgers.
From the mid seventies through to the late eighties Ridgers captured some of the most significant movements in British youth culture history, not through images of the major players and influencers but through portraits of individuals who made up those scenes. Often nameless, always authentic, they are given a quality of attention traditionally reserved for celebrities; classic portraiture let loose on the unconventional and nonconformist inhabitants of outsider culture.
The exhibition also includes exclusive jewellery and items from Bunney, many created especially for the exhibition, which is set in an exclusively designed space in the Dover Street Market Basement, designed by Rupert Smyth studio. For a closer insight into the exhibition, POST NEW spoke to Bunney founder and designer, Andrew Bunney, as well as the show's producer and spatial designer, Rupert Smyth, in separate interviews below.
The London-based jewellery brand BUNNEY started in 2009 and has become known for its line of beguilingly beautiful products. Objects may look simple at first glance, but a closer examination will reveal details and ideas that are contemplative and intriguing, often in a playful and tender manner. Taking on the spirit of the city where it resides, Bunney embodies the attitude towards dressing characteristic of Londoners. Bunney pieces encourage the wearer to consider and compose a variety of combinations on clothing and whatever take the wearer’s fancy. Made in workshops around England, including the historic Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, each piece is hand-finished with care and attention before being hallmarked at the Goldsmiths’ Company.
Post New: What originally drew you to jewellery design?
Andrew Bunney: The difference between jewellery and clothing is quite significant. Although I've made many things for brands which hopefully people liked and enjoyed - the lifespan of clothing is very short. On one hand tastes change and things become outdated, and on the other hand if you make something that is worth keeping for a very long period of time then it will have a physical lifespan - it simply won't survive as you may want it to. We don't think it is unusual to use a watch or jewellery from 40 years ago, but with clothing, perhaps excepting denim jeans, it simply isn't possible. I was interested in jewellery as a customer, and very rarely found much I wanted to wear, so I simply started making some of the things that I wanted myself. As I've travelled further into it, understanding the 'value' and sentiments behind something is very important.
PN: You collaborated with Derek Ridgers earlier this year with the first edition of the Bunney Paper. What draws you to his work?
AB: They capture an important time in the history of style, and with non-famous people. Although they very much capture 'genre-looks', the images feel very familiar and quite contemporary somehow.
PN: Was it always your intention to hold an exhibition following the publication of the paper?
AB: No, it happened very organically. Although when the paper was finished we always felt that it needed some kind of platform.
PN: What references did you take from Ridgers in creating pieces for the exhibition?
AB: Well, it was never about trying to replicate the photos, or replicate the style, it was more about making a link that made it a little more visual for those that weren't familiar with my reference points. It so happens that in the giant cast of people that Derek captured, many wore badges, studs, pendants...! But especially for the exhibition I created a very unique piece with Lewis Leathers. The jacket is created in a similar specification to how someone of the era in Derek's photos may have worn. If someone in the late 70's were to be wearing a used Lewis Leathers jacket, then it would have been in sheep leather, the zips would have become bleached by the sun and time, and it may have been decorated in studs - either by the original owner or themselves. So the jacket is made in this way, but decorated with solid silver studs, each individually hallmarked and hand-riveted by a silversmith so it really does have that feel.
PN: Although working in different fields, do you think similarities can be drawn between the aesthetics of Derek's work and your own?
AB: What excites me about Derek's work is the people that were captured, and how they are very much the star. I think the link is more in spirit than visual.
PN: Much of Derek's work relates to individualism - how do you and the Bunney brand relate to this?
AB: I want to see people use and wear things in their own way. I'm not really interested in prescriptive fashion, and I delight in the customer being able to pick and choose. The balance is to make something which is intriguing enough to appeal to different kinds of people without become bland.
PN: You have a very British take on the ideas behind what you make, but the pieces themselves are anything but traditional. Is this a conscious interplay in your approach to creating?
AB: I think that the main parts of what the UK has to offer in terms of style is the aspect of self-expression, and the other of course is tradition. I want to make things that can last for many years, but still be modern.
PN: How important is it to you to have your pieces made in the UK?
AB: With all of the things that I make - for myself or for others - I try to make them to the highest standard possible, depending on what the boundaries may be. For jewellery, and in particular silver, there is a very high standard of work available in the UK and so working on BUNNEY, I'm able to push things quite far. In the beginning it was very difficult to communicate the ideas to traditional makers. Although what I'm making may seem simple, if one sees the product in the flesh I hope they can appreciate the level and standard that I'm trying to set. It's very important that I can have control so it makes most sense to be local. I'm fortunate to work with workshops that are creating some very beautiful and significant works, I'm always humbled to see some of the other works that have been made in the past.
PN: Which designers excite or inspire you at the moment?
AB: For clothing, I like Sacai. For shoes I like British Remains.
In 2002, Rupert Smyth, the man behind this exhibition's spatial design, set up the Rupert Smyth Studio to handle a number of top level international clients. He has lectured and provided workshops with various educational boards including London College of Fashion for a series of MA talks on Magazine Art direction. Rupert has worked with numerous galleries and art institutions including acting as design director for the independent art festival New York Gallery Week, and has also worked with a wide range of artists to create a number of books. Here, we talk to him about his involvement with the Derek Ridgers x BUNNEY exhibition.
Post New: Tell us about your role in the Derek Ridgers/BUNNEY exhibition.
Rupert Smyth: Having art directed the Derek Ridgers newspaper for Bunney it was really excited to be given the opportunity to present the selection of works in a physical form. Derek, Andrew and I worked together to try and translate what we had done into a show.
PN: How did you come to be involved in the project?
RS: Andrew and I have collaborated closely on all aspects of Bunney's identity and branding. It felt very natural that we would work together on this.
PN: What sort of research was required for the new design at Dover Street Market?
RS: It was clear from the start that the show would have to make sense in the context of Dover Street Market. I work with a number of galleries and art institutions as well as fashion and retail companies; the combination of which has helped inform how best to present a project such as this.
PN: Did you take direct influence from Bunney or Derek Ridger's work when thinking about how to reinterpret the space? Was either one more prominent than the other when deciding on layout?
RS: I like to reduce things down to their essential elements wherever possible. Both the work of Derek and Bunney needed to be presented in a simple and harmonious setting. It was important that you could experience the works under the umbrella of Dover Street but that it should feel independent and distinct from the rest of the store.
PN: Is spatial design a new direction for Rupert Smith Studio?
RS: I am interested in all aspects of designing whether it be a website, a piece of paper or a physical space. I really enjoy the process of finding a way to represent something in all these different forms of experience.
PN: How have you found the overall experience?
RS: Any chance to work with people I like and respect is most welcome. I am looking forward to the next one.
Photographer - James Munro