An Interview With Catherine Marche Jewellery

Add a little bit of ” Ooh La La” to your jewellery collection, as my guest this week is London based but originally from France – Catherine Marche Jewellery. Her jewellery is desirable with a French chic twist that simply oozes style. Without further ado, let’s say hello to the lovely Catherine…

Bonjour ! I am Catherine Marche. I love creating precious little things. I have been described as an ebullient, fun, passionate and elegant person and also as “very French”. Whatever that means, I take it as a compliment! I have been an expat most of my life. Growing up in 14 different houses and 3 countries. I feel like an eternal globe trotter, I love discovering new places, meeting new people, helping my friends, listening and playing music, dancing and eating good food. 

I feel happiest when near turquoise waters, bright blue sky, palm trees and white sand. I also love “sports de glisse” i.e. ski, waterski, snowboard, ice skating, roller skating, surfing … 

What inspired the setting up of “Catherine Marche Designs”?

I fell into it by chance. During a trip to Alderney, one of my friends purchased a set of jewellery pliers as she was thinking of enrolling into a class. I got one too and enrolled into a class on my return to London. Thinking about it, jewellery has always been part of my life. I used to make tiny necklaces for my dolls and designed my 1st gold piece when was 9, as my mother wanted my input for my communion cross. Thereafter, I used to purchase or commission jewellery wherever I went on holiday as a memento. I still have earrings from Carnaby Street I purchased on a school trip aged 11.

I guess I will always be fascinated by the world of colours, shapes and the way they make you feel. Jewellery is a great medium to express your creativity freely. Furthermore, jewels tell stories and are tokens used to represent emotional milestones. I realise I love the way jewellery spreads joy and love around. 

I do adore your Keshi Pearls Luxurious Cuff and the Queen Of The Sea Cultured Freshwater Pearls Bracelet. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

The Keshi pearls are quite popular indeed. This season, my clients have also loved the mini gold stacking rings, which they mix with colourful gemstones cocktail rings, the dotty collection and statement sculptural rings.

Out of all your collection, do you have any favourites ?

My favourites keep changing. At the moment, I am very fondof the Calypso ring with a muted orange spessartite garnet and a set of 18ct gold stacking rings. I am also layering several talisman necklaces on chains of different lengths and wear long gold earrings with carnelian. Seems I need a pep of colour to go through winter. I admit I like mixing them with items from my personal collection: creations by other designers, gifts from family and friends, jewellery picked up during trips abroad…

As you are based in London, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yes indeed. I have a few online and brick and mortar stockists in France, USA, and Australia. 

Thankfully, international clients are able to indulge online from my website as I do ship to many places around the world.

When designing jewellery to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional pieces, or bits of all those?

It does depend on the piece. I have to say bits of all those infused with my design flair. When I have a commission, what matters most is the person who is going to wear it. His or her input will fuel the design. For me, it has to complete them and they must enjoy wearing it with pleasure. I am always anxious when a client opens their little box to discover what I created for them. It is so fulfilling. I must say it might be one of my favourite moment in the process, when my client discovers the creation and is overwhelmed with emotions. I also receive lovely letters and photos which fill my heart with joy and keep me going. I am very grateful.

I know that you are an eco- responsible jewellery designer, working with recycled 18k gold, 22k gold, sterling silver, natural gemstones and pearls. You also enjoy remodelling old jewellery.  What was the hardest piece of jewellery to make or the most unusual request you have had? 

One of the trickiest piece is jewellery encompassing several techniques. For example, I made a hinged bangle which also features diamonds and rubies and 24K gold Keum Boh. It is textured with photo etching and has lovely fish details. Many hours of labour were involved in its fabrication.

Most unusual… I had a client who came with a beautiful piece of wood charged with meaning, which I  turned into a jewel for his dulcinée. I quite enjoy the special relationship with my clients around creating something special and when the commissioning process takes me beyond the realms of my usual daily routine. 

If you could go anywhere in the world for inspiration to create a new collection, where would you go and why?

I think I‘d like to go to India. There is so much ancient art, palaces, colours and history there. I have met and worked with so many people from India in the past who told me wonderful tales about their country and regaled me with stunning photos of their world. I am definitely enthralled and willing to visit it myself. Added bonuses: The food is delicious, the weather is amazing and it is a treasure trove for gemstones too.

I guess it will have to be in a few years once the pandemic is over (or has calmed down) and travelling feels safe again.

As you are originally from France, now based in London  -have you noticed any differences in jewellery tastes between France and the UK? 

It seems to me that people in France wear more gold and that silver is sometimes considered like costume jewellery (less precious). Children also wear gold. It is common to gift babies a gold medal or a name tag bracelet and offer children gold jewellery as different milestones. It is also quite traditional for a mother in law to welcome her daughter in law with heirloom jewellery or to offer, for example, a pearl necklace when there is a new baby.

Most people will say that gold below 18ct is not even gold as we have been used to 18ct and legally anything under was not able to be labelled gold.

One thing I have also noticed is that women in France definitely indulge in more impulse self-purchase than in the UK.

When French women like something, they do not need any justification or their friends or husband’s opinion to buy it. French women enjoy looking stylish and wearing items they hunt down and will not see on anyone else. They love using their hard earned cash to indulge in precious little things for themselves and people they love and are going to enjoy life on their terms as much as possible.

Growing up, did you always want to be a jewellery designer or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

As most children, my aspirations have been changing thought the years. When I was little and  Claude Francois and Karen Cheryl were all the rage, I wanted to be a dancer and singer. Hopefully a Clodette. Later on, I wanted to be a school teacher in maths and drawing. (did both). In fact, I ended up studying computer science, maths and physics and worked many years as  an IT consultant for international companies. I was always inspired by arts and also studied arts and music in parallel. Some of my art is in private and public collections and I still enjoy playing a bit of saxophone.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Oh la la! I am not sure I have a definite normal… I can be a bit unconventional. I take fashion like a chameleon, I embrace change.

I love wearing vintage dresses, especially in summer when I can wear bright colourful fabrics in the sunshine. Thinking of a big flower power print dress? I have a few. 60s clothes? yep. Lamé dresses for the evening too. I grew up watching Bewitched and loved their fashion. In the winter, my main thing is being warm. I will layer silk, cachemire, wool, tweeds. I love combining them with long woollen trousers, Aline woollen skirts and boots. You will always see me with hat, scarf and gloves. And either woollen or fur coat. 

When I was pregnant, I definitely wanted to be able to close my coat on my bump. I tried a few coats but being tall, they did not fit me well (sleeves are usually too short). I ended up at a French fur factory designing and commissioning a special shearling coat made to my specifications. It has extra extra long sleeves and is super long too, almost touching the floor.  I still enjoy wearing it. So warm, comfy, soft and really just one made for me. Makes me feel ecstatic when I find and wear something special; Especially when it is one of a kind.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Since a girlfriend introduced me to thrift stores when I was a student, there has been no going back. I love American thrift stores. Especially the ones in Florida where retired old ladies will sell their amazing wares. Here, I like shopping in charity shops too. It is fabulous to be able to give another life to garments which will not end up in landfills and knowing that I do not contribute to fast fashion is a good feeling. For shoes, I love LK Bennett. For classic pieces, it can be tricky as I have to read every label to ensure there are no (or few) synthetics involved and the brands need to fit my tall stature. Some of the brands I favour are Hobbs, Max Mara, Calvin Klein, LK Bennett, Roland Mouret… Some brands make me dream like Oscar de la Renta. For special items, I like the website 1stdibds. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Ooh, my list. It is ever expanding. I hope my husband is not reading this. He would love for my wardrobe to be smaller.

A very long, soft and luxurious bootleg type cotton velvet pair of trousers. Being a 36 in seam leggy woman, it happens not to be an easy hunt as I have ruled polyester out.

I also like shopping second hand. Definitely the best to ensure we help to safeguard the environment and for not seeing similar clothes on other people.

French navy style wool sweater and trousers (+ very necessary navy handbag of course), vintage Pucci silk top, another Hermes square, something feathery, a Westwood bustier dress or top…

Although I admit to having more than 50 pairs of shoes (ahem), there are always new things to add on to my little collection; for example: Some raffia and leather summer sandals, preferably with some shells, a pair of zebra print pony leather flats, tan leather square-ish toe pumps with a 60s vibe…

Boots or Shoes? 

Oh ! Do I really have to choose? In a way, I should say both. My wardrobe has many more shoes than boots. However, with the unpredictable weather we have in London, I realise I am wearing boots more often than shoes. I am sometimes going around in boots with a pair of shoes (usually a rather delicate, heeled leather affair) in my rather large handbag, doing a swift exchange when coming out of the tube.

For Pinning Later

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Hoping to tempt you and connect with you, do get in touch, I love a little talk about fashion, jewellery and style.

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I also get trees planted using tree nation, here is a link to my little Forest. Maybe you’ll get inspired and start your own

Thank you ! Merci beaucoup !

Merci beaucoup to you Catherine for chatting about your jewellery and your love for fashion & shoes! I absolutely adore your fashion & shoe choices (as well as your jewellery, of course!)

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Catherine Marche.

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