I “met” Sylvia Toledano over Instagram. We silently exchanged emoticons under each other’s photos and then, seeing that she designed beautiful, crystal encrusted clutches, as well as amazing jewelry that recalls her childhood in Africa, modernized by her chic, Parisian roots, I had a long look at her website. I fell in love with her aesthetic.
I had Sylvia’s website up on a tab in my browser for about a week, reminding myself that I needed to feature her on this site, when the latest issue of French Vogue (this was back in December) arrived in my mailbox.
There was one fashion story that I particularly liked. It opened with a heavily bejeweled beauty hanging out on a terrace high above Paris, grey rooftops serving as her backdrop. Then we went into her opulent apartment, where she lounged covered in gold lamé, finely dotted tights and forties hats. The story spoke to me. The softness of the girl, the clothing, the romance, being transported to Paris. But what I really liked, and could incorporate into my own style, was the way the jewelry was styled. I’m a “more is more” kind of girl – I pile my jewelry on whenever I can, but it needs to look organized. I’m not into an “arm-party,” I just like one or two bracelets… on each arm. A necklace or two. And earrings. I’m naked without earrings.
There was one cuff that was repeatedly used throughout the story. It went with everything. A gold cuff with two sizes of onyx cabochon stones uniformly lined up, but the gold detailing was organic, recalling tribal jewelry. It was very ‘70’s chic, a bit ethnic… a look I love. And I love something that works with everything. So I scoured the tiny writing at the bottom of each page the cuff was on, desperately trying to figure out who designed it. I needed to know who designed that cuff! Page after page, no mention of the cuff. Finally, on the last page, I see “manchette SYLVIA TOLEDANO” and my eyes widened. Whoa!
Then, triumphant, I flipped back to the first page, to look to see who had designed the long necklace with the cross pendant that was hiding halfway behind the model’s hand. I’ve been having a Sicilian moment lately, in search of a big cross. SYLVIA TOLEDANO… again!
So I emailed Sylvia to tell her how I had been magnetically drawn to her cuff… and then the cross, how her site had been up all week on my computer, and, basically, I really wanted to feature her on my site.
Low and behold (literally, scroll down for the interview), I learned more about Sylvia and her jewelry and handbags, have a great new feature for my site, and she was able to dig up one of those amazing black and gold manchettes I’ve been so obsessed with… one that has long been sold out on modaoperandi.com.
According to the trusty thesaurus on my dashboard, The consequence of serendipity is sometimes a brilliant discovery. So thank you Instagram for this serendipitous discovery. And thank you Sylvia for being brilliant.
1. Where are you from/what’s your background?
I was born in Paris but I spent my childhood in Africa (Mauritania, Gabon). This part of my life is an everyday inspiration, especially when I think about colors. I am the fruit of my travels. When I came back to France, I made my law studies and then stylism at Cours Berçot. I also studied sculpture during one year at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris. I love every kind of art.
2. How/why did you become a jewelry and handbag designer?
The starting point is the drawing. I like to paint, I wanted to experience a new artistic adventure by playing with the crystals in 2008. By designing a clutch, I have the feeling I can paint with their light and colors. I create handmade clutches with thousands of Austrian crystals, as I would create a piece of art, I want them to be meaningful and spiritual. Then in 2012 I started my jewels collection, influence by my experience in the famous Parisian auction house Drouot. I fell in love with vintage jewelry designers very early: Claude Lalanne, Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Tony Duquette… There’s something mystic around their jewels. I am very attracted by what surrounded gemstones, they have a kind of good vibration, a communicative strength. I wanted to actualize those pieces for feminine, smart, and active women.
3. How would you define the style of the pieces you design?
I would define my creation as a mix of edgy style, couture and artistic in the same time. I want my pieces to be elegant and timeless. There are made for strong personalities, for glamorous and clever women with a big sense of humor.
4. What is your personal favorite piece of jewelry?
I like to wear two cuffs, one on each wrist. I have the feeling I’m a kind of urban wonder woman. They are like talisman to me. With them I feel lucky!!!
5. Your favorite handbag?
For sentimental reasons, I would answer the first one I designed. It was the “Peace & Love” in silver and blue. That’s funny, because Isabeli Fontana sent me her agent to get it for her some years ago and it’s still one of my best sellers. But in fact, I love them all. Clutches are perennially fashionable pieces.
6. If you weren’t designing accessories, what would you be doing?
I think I would still be around fashion or art. I would be painter or photographer… Or I would work with other fashion companies as a consultant, I would make collaborations to create special accessory lines for example. Well, in fact, I think I like so much what I’m doing that I wouldn’t change anything!
7. Who do you look up to/who has had the biggest influence on you?
My mother. She has been a model to me. Feminine, sweet, strong and funny…
8. Who’s style do you most admire?
I love Jackie O style for her strength, and her chic. She was a free thinker.
9. What is your dream piece of jewelry?
A sensual jewel, covering the entire body, like a skinny and sexy armor all made of gold and stones.
10. Where do you see you and your brand in five years’ time?
I wish I will multiply collaborations, I really love to work with other designers and artists. For instance, this year, I worked with Guerlain for Shalimar “Flacon d’Exception” intended for collectors, and that has been a beautiful experience.
Hopefully I will still work with the same passion!