Washington, D.C., has a very famous one, as do Buenos Aires and Saint Petersburg, Russia. Even Buffalo, New York, has its own. We’re talking about obelisks, and come March 17, London’s Dover Street Market will be home to its own imposing pillar, thanks to British jewelry designer Hannah Martin.
This story first appeared in the February 2, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Built from DuPont Corian, more typically used for kitchen countertops, the 11.8-foot-tall statue is split across the middle, showcasing Martin’s pièce de résistance: a pyramid-shaped ruby, sapphire and 18-karat rose gold ring (retail price: $8,780). The project was created in celebration of her new spring collection, called “The Man Who Knows Everything,” inspired by 18th-century occult figure the Count of St. Germain. “There’s a narrative behind the line,” explains Martin, who, before launching her line in 2006, designed jewelry for Cartier. “I built up this whole image of a magical, hallucinogenic world, so I wanted to tell the story in a more visual way. The Count supposedly lived forever, so I was looking at alchemy — that’s where the triangle comes in — and this timeless, floating-across-centuries kind of thing.”
The elaborate installation is a collaboration between Martin and German engineer Moritz Waldemeyer, who worked with Hussein Chalayan on his mechanical dresses for spring 2007. For another glimpse of Waldemeyer’s virtuoso skills, tune into the Black Eyed Peas’ halftime performance at the Super Bowl this Sunday: He customized Will.i.am’s jacket with an LED video display, although he remains tight-lipped about the details. For Martin’s project, Waldemeyer was given complete carte blanche; he was the one who came up with the obelisk shape after seeing Martin’s mood board and inspirations. “I ran with the idea of something that could be very ancient or futuristic and modern,” explains Waldemeyer, who then added the most dynamic component: 27 red laser beams that encase the whole structure, like a scene out of “Mission Impossible,” with each one playing a different sound — from classical music to muffled conversations — as one’s hand passes through the beams.
“It’s this idea of security, because we’re talking about jewelry,” he says. “You always get these scenarios in movies where people do crazy gymnastics to not trigger the alarm system. Here, we’re also playing with that [notion] by using these lasers like [strings on] a harp.”
Although the exhibit will be on display inside Dover Street Market only for two weeks, Martin, who also designs jewelry with Babyshambles rocker Peter Doherty for their Albion Trinketry collection, has partnered up with Holition, a London-based firm that provides software for Augmented Reality solutions — in other words, a virtual mirror — so clients can “try on” the same pyramid ring from the comfort of their homes. “We’re sending out these paper bands that you put around your finger like a ring,” Martin says. “And when you go to our Web site and sit in front of the Webcam, the computer will recognize the logo on the band. Again, it’s playing with this future-past idea.”
Martin’s “The Man Who Knows Everything” collection is ultimately a four-part series, all of which revolve around various occult themes. This summer, a series of bangles, pendants and rings based on circles and the cosmos will debut, while the remaining two parts will follow for fall and winter. “We’ve got different presentation ideas for each,” says Martin. “And we’d like to move them around, maybe do something in New York and the Middle East.”
As for Waldemeyer, he reveals that another collaboration with Martin may be in the pipeline. “Instead of it being about the presentation of jewelry,” he says, “we might make some jewelry together — miniature LED art.”