Designer Interview: Clementine James of Little Glass Clementine

Clementine James is the brilliant, young designer behind Little Glass Clementine. We discovered her wearing one of her necklaces in the London Tube and had to get her on Boticca.

We also sat down with Clementine to find out more about her background, how she got into making jewelry, her inspirations and what lies next for this up-and-coming talent.

Hi Clemmie! You know we’re going to have to start by asking the infamous Boticca question: What is your unique story?

I have been making jewelry since I was 16. I have always collected interesting little trinkets, shells, beads and feathers.

My first little trial run was making these long ‘one-off’ earrings. I used to sell them on Brighton Beach and at music festivals sitting cross-legged on the floor with them all laid out on colorful little rugs. Making and selling jewelry began as a way of interweaving my lifestyle with my work.

I grew up deep in the countryside When I was 14, I was allowed to travel to London to go shopping, and that is when my friends and I discovered Portobello Road. After days of listening to reggae and sifting through piles of vintage clothing and tables full of strange artifacts, I used to come home and dream of being one of ‘those girls’ who made her own stuff and sold it in Portobello Market.

Dreams turned to reality and while I was doing my degree in Anthropology and Religion, I used to always make sure I never had lectures on Fridays so I could get up at 6 am and trek across London and under the bridge next to the man who sold records and lamps from the 1960s… “Little Glass Clementine” was born!

So what happened next?

After my degree, I went on to be involved with many different things. I restored gypsy caravans, ran music and art festivals around the country, and worked in Bangladesh and Tuvalu with severely affected youth impacted by climate change. In September 2010, I created a high-end collection and launched my ethically produced debut with Estethica at London Fashion Week.

What do you think of the ethical fashion industry?

As the fashion industry stands, much of the work produced is unsustainable and often compromises human and environmental rights! However, to change something, I believe one cannot simply critique an establishment, but attempt to effectively show an alternative. Everything I make my jewelry from is either vintage, antique, recycled, reclaimed or found.  Ethical fashion no longer means the product has to be made of Hemp!

While not compromising on beautiful design and craft, I hope to show that fashion need not be a commodity we feel guilty about, as our lifestyles adapt to our changing environment, but one we feel proud of.

Who do you envision wearing your pieces?

Someone who is prepared to talk about the piece! My pieces draw a lot of attention! They make strangers stop and talk to you. My work is meant to ignite and inspire the mind with stories.

I love that objects provide our imagination with questions begging to be answered. I believe that my necklaces are filled with many narratives locked in the many different components. All will be told in different ways by different people. Who made it? Who carved it? Why has it ended up in this charity shop or antique fair? Did that person pass away? Who made that piece of lace? Was she sitting with friends chatting while making it? How long has this pebble been on the beach? Did it use to be at the bottom of the sea?

When I was 6, I remember we had to write a story about a £1 coin. Since then I have always been fascinated by the travel and the encounters that things have; and how for one person something will be priceless and for another it is just another brass button.

As an emerging designer, what are the biggest hurdles you face?

Two things. Firstly, not compromising my vision of ethically produced, unusual and unique necklaces. Secondly, becoming a full-time designer. I have always done many things: worked in theaters, on environmental projects, restoring gypsy caravans, and putting on festivals. But a year ago, I concentrated fully on Little Glass Clementine and that dedication has proven to be paying off.

I officially launched at London Fashion Week September 2010 and my collection was very well received. It was a risk because even at high fashion, there are few people doing entirely bespoke work. However, not going down the route of the production line, but personally sourcing all elements of my work and making every piece and holding fast to my ethical beliefs, has made my work respected and noticed. It means that my collections are not huge, but so be it – it’s far more exciting this way!

Tell us a little bit more about your design process. How do you go from concept to reality?

I never draw my work, but I do make compositions of all the stones and trinkets I want to put into the piece. I lay them all out on black velvet material and play around with composition.

I always make a necklace with “someone in mind”. But I do not always have to know the person. It could be a woman in a painting, a man in a circus performance, a lady in a café, or a friend. I try and make the necklace “conjure” up the essence of their character. I travel a lot around fairs, galleries, markets and festivals and I am inspired by the people I meet. More often than not, there is a theatrical theme that adorns the parties and people I love.

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created? If so, why?

I love “The Black Pearl” necklace. It is so sexy and I adore the skull.

I also love the “Turquoise Captured Gold” necklace, it is such a theatrical piece and I think that gold and turquoise look amazing together.

Is there another designer on Boticca that you are fond of?

Leila Kashanipour’s work is brilliant. I adore statement rings and I especially love the Ram Ring!

So what’s next for you?

I have been nominated by Selfridges as one of their Designers for “Bright Young Things’ and have been asked to curate one of their infamous windows on Oxford street along side other young British designers. I am so excited to do this! This will be along side my second London Fashion Week in February.

Leave a comment