Violet Darkling is the creation of jeweller Louisa Richwhite, her striking designs combine nature, humour and darkness to produce some fantastic silver jewellery. Featured in Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, The Metro and everything in-between her work has captured the imagination of many people, including the likes of musician Rihanna and actress Sienna Miller.
Can you tell me more about your alter ego, Violet Darkling?
Violet is ‘a girl of the night’. I imagine her as being cute but naughty with a Victorian-esque style. She’s fascinated by all things to do with the dark and the night….Fierce little nocturnal animals, nice dreams and nightmares. She is like a creature of the night herself. And it is during these hours when her imagination runs riot, seeing and believing things are real. All these experiences inspire her.
I love having a personality I can hide behind.
You have lived in many parts of the world, what has inspired you most about each country?
New Zealand revolves so much around the outdoors, nature and the animals. That's where I got my love for animals and the night. In New Zealand my family lives on an island and some of the most interesting things take place at night. I love going for walks and horse riding under the moonlight. It truly is an experience, simultaneously scary and spiritual.
Whilst studying fashion design at the American University in London, I took time off to go back to New Zealand to work for Karen Walker and Mala Brajkovic. Both of these were hugely influential and insightful experiences, and I learnt very quickly that the fashion industry is super tough…However, if you are inspired by what you do and you bring your own quirky personality to your work, then you can actually have a lot of fun. Both Karen and Mala are fantastic at doing this.
Living in Switzerland and being surrounded by all the luxury watch and jewellery houses also inspired me. It gave me that finishing touch needed to design and create a product of quality.
I have now been in London for 9 years, which is the centre of creativity, stimulus and business for me and my ‘Violet Darkling’.
During the week I work with the Darkling team in our London office, while at the weekends I escape to the country to design in a little studio set in my family’s 14th Century barn overlooking fields and woods of the surrounding countryside. The walls of the studio are covered with photos, fabrics, gemstones, and old taxidermy. Its very inspiring hearing and seeing the owls, foxes and other woodland creatures
What’s been your favourite piece or collection so far?
It would probably be the Spider Bow earrings, because they are unique, delicate and feminine but with a dark twist.
The spider on its own would have been too creepy and unoriginal, but the bow adds a girly element and acts as the spiders thread. I love that they are asymmetric, as it makes an outfit look quite quirky. I find a matching set of earring is predictable and can be too much.
How do you start your design process?
I always start the design process by going through images and curious objects I collect, creating mood boards and editing until I have a cohesive theme and look that I love. The brand is all about the night, so even though each collection will be different there is a consistency in the notion of mysterious animals. I create some of my best work on holiday in New Zealand. The art, fashion and architecture there really motivate me, so much so that I am still working when I intended to relax! Being out of the city, on an isolated island where there is nothing but the sounds of nocturnal creatures, the dark black night and stars…this is where I can become ‘Violet’.
We love rings at F7, and your Dark Cluster and Tarsier rings are amazing, but where did you find the skull?
I was researching images of nocturnal animals and came across the tarsier skull. I never intended to focus on skulls, as I felt they were way over done…but I couldn’t resist myself. The skull with its oversized eye sockets was too irresistible!
Have you ever come across someone wearing your jewellery who you didn’t know? If so, how did it feel?
Yes, I have come across a few people wearing the jewellery. It was quite surprising but funny for some reason. I felt kind of embarrassed, but then proud ….. Weird feeling!
What has been your highlight of the year so far?
It would probably be the shoot I did with Vogue Russia in my house. It was such an exciting day, with loads of creative, interesting people. And everyone was SO nice. I don’t really like getting my photo taken, but it was a fun day anyway!
Who has been your biggest or most exciting client?
Sienna Miller and Rihanna are the most exciting clients. Rihanna particularly went crazy for the Fossa ring; it hasn’t left her finger now for months. It’s so flattering to have such talented and respected people interested in the jewellery.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My older sister Rebecca, who is an architect/creative director.
Whenever I am designing or dreaming up concepts and my mind goes blank, I always go to her for inspiration and advice. She is so creative and always full of such crazy, theatrical ideas. Even though her style is different to mine, we always have the best brainstorming sessions. It’s great to have someone who totally ‘gets’ the brand, my style and me.