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May 29 2013

Viva Las Vegas

It's been a while since I took a trip around the blog. I'm currently on a flight to Vegas, 'stop me if you think you've heard this one before'. Thank you The Smiths. It does feel a bit like that though. It seems our year is split between Boxing Day, the run up to Basel, the corrections, the run up to Vegas, rehab, the Couture collection for the autumn events, the run up to Christmas and then Boxing Day.

This trip is quit poignant for me. 1. Because I've eaten everything they've served me and had nothing to drink. It used to be the other way round. And 2. This year I'm bringing the Rock Vault to Vegas. This for those of you who don't know, is not a form of chastity belt, this is a virtual vault containing the creme de la creme of the British Jewellery industry, of the emerging kind.

Created as a platform to showcase jewellery during London Fashion Week, the Rock Vault has now been exposed to the world outside of Somerset House. First with a month long exhibition to celebrate the opening of the new jewellery salon in Fortnum and Mason, London's most historic department store and now to debut in the original sin city. Las Vegas, Nevada.

That's right I'm taking them on a trip to the strip.

I swore I would never manage a band again. It was the most thankless task I have ever had the misfortune to have undertaken. Eight musicians, one with an ASBO, who couldn't tie a shoelace without an adult present. One was arrested, you got it, the one with ASBO outside the Cuckoo Club for picking a fight with a car's headlights at 2am. Who did the police call. Me. 8216My manager is Stephen Webster, you know' he was yelling as they dragged him to the cooler.

The Rock Vault are nothing like a band but in some ways it feels a little like taking the band on tour and this time round I love it. I am so proud of the talent we nurture in British art schools. For many years I have given talks and generally enthused about the industry I love to the generations about to enter that same industry. Showing in Vegas, at the Wynn in the Stephen Webster ballroom, is going to be a great introduction for the magnificent seven who will be exhibiting there for the first time.

We have a full bar, a lounge, an opening party. In other words Vegas and the Couture show are welcoming these young Turks with open arms. One of many attributes I can first hand credit the Americans with is their generosity of spirit. Since I first started talking about Rock Vault the retailers and show organisers have been right there behind me.

Thursday 30th May 2013 is going to be a milestone for British jewellery.

If I were a gambling man, I'd lay half a bar on this one being a success.


Stephen Webster

 
February 26 2013

Coming in to land at LAX

This is my second visit to Los Angeles so far this year. Coincidently I managed to catch the Golden Globes on my last trip which was a complete pain as all it means if you're not in 'the industry' all of the hotels are booked and there is always an industry party at all the places you want to eat or drink. This time I have planned it to perfection, the Oscars were yesterday and apart from a few stragglers I should have the place to myself.

Don't get me wrong I love all the glitz and glamour I just prefer watching it from my own sofa, a place that is hardly ever prebooked by 'the or any other industry'. I've always found horizontally to be the best position from which to watch the red carpet parade. Like London buses it starts off with nothing for ages then eventually a thin stream of the keen appear those who need to be introduced by earwire to the man from E This is then followed by a torrent of beautiful people who come so fast and furious that the lines between Mila Kunis, Amy Adams and Kristen Stewart start to blur to the point when it becomes hard to determine where the Armani Prive ended and the Zac Posen began. Maybe it's just one continuous roll of fabric featuring a different designer's decoration every size zero or so.

Despite all the easy to dismiss vacuousness it's still one of the most glamorous events of the year. Being in a glamour industry myself I have to admit that half the reason for my staying up is to keep an eye on the jewels. This year the introduction of the ingenious 8216manicam' meant that we got a bird's eye view of the rings and bracelets as well as necklaces and earrings.

As usual there were the usual suspects Harry Winston, Chopard, Cartier then out of the blue came Jacki Weaver. Not size zero or in her teens but the established and very talented Australian actress, nominated for best supporting actress in the film 8216Silver Linings Playbook'. Not only did she name check us twice but she also made sure the presenter who was already wired to the celebrity couple coming up behind her was aware that the quoted 2 million of diamonds she was wearing by Stephen Webster were also Forevermark and therefore, blood, conflict andultimately guilt free. The guilt is of course subjective but the rest is true.

Jacki we thank you for remembering your lines so well and of course we also thank Kelly Osbourne who has maintained the Osbourne family tradition of sporting Webster jewels whenever the red carpet gets rolled out.

I wonder if my room at the Chateau Marmont has been vacated yet

 
January 15 2013

First of 2013

We wrapped up the end of business in 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan with a fairly modest affair by our standards drawing to a close the world tour of the Couture Voyage' collection. By world tour I mean what we refer to as the rest of the world or ROW which basically covers every country outside North America. This season, Couture Voyage' took us to a total of 14 destinations around the world and I still have several events lined up stateside in the spring.

After a period of recharging, like everyone else, we are back and ready to embrace whatever 2013 has in store for us.

Despite the fact that many of our markets last year were really challenging, there were also some real highlights. Our Beverly Hills store, under the expert management of Matt, has gone from strength to strength that'll probably put a curse on it now. The combination of events in the No Regrets lounge on the second floor and the jewels on the ground floor seems to be working.

We tried something completely new when we opened the store two years ago not only by introducing something bordering on the radical to Rodeo Drive, but something I think we can safely say was totally fresh to the jewellery store concept. The high point of the year had to be a dinner for 30 accompanied by a solo performance by the extraordinarily talented trumpet player Alison Balsom, prior to her debut at the Hollywood Bowl the following night. Contrast this to the City of Fire' exhibition featuring some of the leading contemporary and street artists, curated by Arrested Motion. We are definitely giving the folks of LA many reasons to pay us a visit. We plan on opening a second concept store in the near future.

From West Coast to East we have another success story on our hands. The one and only Bergdorf Goodman who recently celebrated 110 years of purveying quality merchandise to the hoi polloi of NYC and beyond. After 13 years in the store we have managed to almost double our business by making a few adjustments and hiring James, our first dedicated sales person.

Globally our Middle Eastern and Far Eastern businesses have taken very positive turns and finally 'thank god for the Russians' which has become the SW company motto.

For the third year on the trot our best selling piece of jewellery is the now famous crab. Not in a million years could any merchandiser, designer or sales person have predicted that one. The crab was followed closely by another creature that wears its armour on its sleeve, the extraordinary Armourdillo ring.

We all love that such creative pieces really define the SW style.

2013 feels good to us. As usual we will be full of surprises, none perhaps quite as surprising as finding SW amongst the names on the Queens New Years Honours list. Thanks to Assia and some of the kind people who are part of our working lives, some covert activity was carried out informing the powers that be why we should be amongst those to be recognised. We are all very proud.

Happy New Year.

 
December 18 2012

Couture Voyage Tour

Like An American Story', the new Couture Voyage' fine jewellery collection is series of limited edition or one of a kind pieces inspired by the destinations all these millions of air miles take myself and my team to. The two collections geographically separated by the Atlantic.

The idea originated from a question directed at me during a press conference before an event we held in the far flung and exotic city of Baku, Azerbaijan. Not to be confused with the even further flung Kazakhstan, which is nowhere near. The journalist asked if a collection would be inspired by my first trip to her city. A question of this nature is of course always loaded what is the etiquette at a moment like that Thinking on my feet I said quite possibly I figured that left the door nicely ajar.

I can now look at the lovely and very glamourous folks of the home of the 2012 Eurovision song contest, Baku in the eye and direct them to the unique Midnight Over The Caspian Sea' suite. The necklace and ring feature a beautifully carved moon face in frosted quartz. To achieve this I called on one of the amazing stone carvers of Idar Oberstien in Germany. We have collaborated on one of a kind pieces featuring specially carved gems for almost thirty years. In fact, I believe one of the first pieces I commissioned was a moonface, carved in a Canadian stone called Labradorite.

The Caspian Sea suite doesn't sit alone, there are a further four suites inspired by destinations of relevance to us at Stephen Webster.

Hong Kong, with its symbolism and the colour red.

Russia, a country which has definitely infiltrated the brand in more ways than one.

NYC all art deco and diamonds.

Africa a continent where so many of the amazing gems we use originate Tanzania, Namibia and Botswana. We tried to use them all in our African suite.

The voyage started in Geneva at our newly opened boutique, boarded for Moscow and St Petersburg and then steamed into the port of Grimsby to celebrate the tenth anniversary of SW being sold in the seaside town. I then motored down to London for a brief pit stop at the suitably luxurious Connaught Hotel before the first Middle Eastern destination of Beirut. Currently I am passing over the Grand Canyon bound for Los Angeles where tonight I pick up the American Story for the last time in 2012.

Tomorrow it's my favourite west coast city, San Francisco and then finally the story comes to an end in Miami where the art world will be partying their oils off during Art Basel. Basel itself is a city so grim that even the name makes me shudder, however for a week it sits on South Beach, making it considerably more palatable.

My voyage ends in Azerbaijan and I intend to leave the country without The Midnight over the Caspian Sea' suite.

Coming into land.

 
December 13 2012

An American Story

After bumping into my old friend Chrissy Hinde the most anglified woman ever to have emerged from Akron, Ohio at Terminal 5 and then flying to New York together, I ended up that night going to see my client and friend of Chrissy's Morrissey perform at Radio City. Short of having Marmite on toast in Times Square, my trip to promote our new collection 8216An American Story' couldn't have kicked off to a more English beat. Rest assured from then on it was 100 percent mom's apple pie.

The next stop was Dallas, Texas. My Neiman Marcus event had to compete with the annual college football derby between Texas and Oklahoma. Draped in either red or orange, the big, boisterous crowds descended on the Thursday to commence boozing. Never one to write something off until the fat lady has sung I remained optimistic until I found a gaggle of such ladies singing in my hotel lobby. That really summed up that particular trip to the lone star state. Right place wrong time I guess.

New Orleans always promised to be the highlight of this trip. Our friends in the city couldn't be more authentic Cajun folk. Kerry, born and raised in Louisiana has the most famous Cajun/Creole restaurant in New Orleans. Mulates' plays live Zydeco or Cajun/Creole music every night and Kerry creates gumbo true to his late mother's recipe. His wife Tiffa, the most widely travelled American we have ever met, has settled down a little now, dedicating her life to the people of New Orleans including Kerry.

As a private preview to a huge fund raising and SW event in Saks the following evening, Kerry and Tiffa held a party for us in their incredible loft/home. Kerry had been over apologetic about the fact that many of his artist friends wanted to come to the event, meet me, have a good time but wouldn't be able to afford the jewellery. I appreciated his concern but assured him that only some of the people I enjoy the company of even like our jewellery. There was a band made up of local jazz and blues musicians. An old lady shuffled through the room to where the band were, she sat stooped and watched. An intro started and that was her cue she stood up and became both Ella and Billy. By that I don't mean dead she bared soul. The jewellery was second fiddle that night.

The next evening, an altogether less intimate affair, was spent mingling with 1500 people at the only place in town for us, the refurbished post Katrina, Saks 5th Avenue.

The following day it was an early doors flight to NYC in time for the very glittery Bergdorf Goodman 110th anniversary gala. Either the room was too small or the crowd too large but a squeeze it was. It made me think how many NY fashionistas can you squeeze into a confined space' the answer is of course a lot more than the ladies I left singing in the lobby of the Aloft Hotel Dallas a few days earlier.

 
October 16 2012

Coming in to land at an airport near you

A fierce wind and more leaves on the grass than on the trees in Berkeley Square signals the start of our run up to Christmas. As usual we have a packed calendar of events planned.

This year's collection is inspired by iconic destinations and travel. Nothing could be more authentic than this as inspiration for our couture collections with names such as Hong Kong Garden', Midnight over the Caspian Sea', Russian Forest', New York' and Africa'. All of these are places where SW has a strong connection, whether through business or pleasure. One thing is for sure, as a nomadic bunch we could have made this the largest collection in the world if we included every place we find ourselves in. This morning for example finds me and Tina in NYC, Kate in Kazakhstan, while some of the team in London had a conference call regarding our upcoming event in Beirut and my brother and the head of production, Dave continues his African campaign on the hunt for rubies in their rough form for our Crystal Haze stones.

The couture collections are just that, quality and definitely not quantity. It's our chance to demonstrate that the DNA that lies behind our showbiz facade is a combination of craftsmanship, design and a love of great gemstones. My brother David and I have both made jewellery for over 25 years and we can't imagine a piece of jewellery that we couldn't figure out how to make, no matter how complex.

Once the curtain falls on the Las Vegas show each year, we give ourselves a moment to conjure up our initial concept for our holiday collection which usually starts from something I've been ruminating over for some time. Armed only with an abstract thought and the best gemstones we have been foraging for all year and storing for this very moment, Claire the head designer and I go away somewhere and start the design process. Drawing inspiration from everything we can on the subject.

This time round we called on contributions from a wider team than just design. The Russian Forest for example had a lot of background input from Anastasia Webster having been bought up in St Petersburg which is a city full of inspiration in itself. Once some initial designs are down on paper, Claire and I call a powwow to get the sales teams fired up about what's coming up. Sometimes this ends in tears but we have been at it a long time and try not to let emotion get the better of us. Some tweaks and weeks later we have a couture collection ready for the autumn launch.

Because the SW brand was really established in the US long before we ever realised any success at home in England, we decided to create for the first time a collection to our second home. The American Story.

This consists of small collections, each inspired by key iconic all American cities which many of the Webster's that includes cousins, relatives by marriage and naughty step children visit on a regular basis. We chose a unifying theme of Art Deco. A style popular during the boom times of many of the major US cities.

I am about to disembark from a NYC Dallas/Fort Worth flight to join Keenan and Tab from the US team. Tonight we launch Couture Voyage/ SW an American Story.

Next stop New Orleans, back to NYC for a Bergdorf Goodman event then east to China, Azerbaijan, the Russian speaking world and of course Grimsby just because it's nice this time of year.

 
September 28 2012

Shaken not stirred. Skyfall not Martini.

Over the 35 years of Bond films there have been without question some highs and lows. Everyone has a favourite and a least favourite Bond. Villains hamming it up like pantomime dames and plot lines with more holes than an Edam cheese. Nonetheless, we all aniticptate with much excitement the latest glam romp, a tale of espionage hiding under a sheer gossamer.

Way ahead of the game we know who will be playing Mr Bond but that first scene introducing the latest Bond girl has to be the single consistent high point. With that in mind, you can only imagine how we felt when Swarovski asked us to collaborate with them and design all of the jewellery for the then yet to be identified femme stop it James fatale.

On the first meeting in the area dedicated to the making of all Bond films at Pinewood Studios, we met the costumier Jany Temime, producer Barbara Broccoli and the creative team behind the movie. Only given at that stage a verbal description of the entry scene, a casino in Macau and the dress which would be sheer black with a Swarovski crystal tattoo pattern.

We knew that this Bond girl was going to be ours.

Many meetings later and after a cannily gradual completion of the completepicture we first saw the stills of the character Severine, played by the super sexy French actress Berenice Marlohe.

In total, we designed and made seven pieces of jewellery for different outfits and even a piece for the outfitless inevitable shower scene.

Naming the pieces was almost as much fun as creating them. Heat Seeker Love Knot Queen Cobra and Black Bamboo. All glamourously dark, a look we pull off like no other jeweller.

Skyfall is in cinemas in the UK from 26th October 2012.

 
September 28 2012

Stephen Webster: from concept to creation

 
September 27 2012

August Bank Holiday

Like most people I take some time off in August to escape the rain and re charge the batteries before what used to be called the crazy season but, as it's all crazy now, let's just call it the run up to Christmas.

London is on the verge of Olympics part two and how amazing was part one I hate to admit it but the only event I managed to attend was a blagged VIP seat at the women's beach volleyball semi's andfinal, the only disappointment being that it was an all US final. In the end like98 of all the other males there, I ended up rooting for the perkiest pair, who of course won.

The Olympic effect on London was extraordinary. We were offered help on every corner and being a naturally suspicious nation, all this positivity took some getting used to. Taught to never talk to, let alone accept help from strangers, those ear to ear beams were at first met by the threat of random acts of violence. By the time of Team GB's tenth gold we were warming to the love. What will we do without the thousands of fuchsia clad US style greeters When they do finally go back to Kansas or wherever they came from there will be thousands of Londoners suffering with abandonment issues and confused over when an Olympic lane can be used for ever more.

While the games were on I realised one of my long term self promises and took a taxidermy course. Oneonone tuition from my friend and taxidermist, David Leggett. By my request I started with a seagull Dave only later told me a seagull was going in straight at the deep end. However, we decided that being good with my hands, we could probably wing it. The wings being the foremost reason a seagull is trickier than say a sparrow with them often having a span of over a metre. On top of this the probable cause of death of my gull was badly splintered wing bones which would later in the process need splinting. Surprisingly for me I found that by the end of the first day I was a bit depressed. Removing everything from a creature in a surgical manner way is more taxing than I anticipated. The final straw before home time being the removal of the brain by pushing it out of the eye socket with cotton wool buds and a pair of tweezers. My wife noticed I was distracted during dinner a Spanish style chorizo, chicken and bean stew.

The next two days were much more upbeat. Washing the empty carcass, sculpting the new insides, replacing the eyes, splinting the wings and legs, invisible stitching, blow drying and creating the bird's final poise. Brought back from the dead 'Stephen Seagull' as his plaque will read, will now live on forever in perfect condition, mounted on a wall in our house facing out the window toward the sea. A small mammal next. I believe our toy poodle Gnasher suspects this.

In the design studio Claire and I have been frantically putting the finishing touches to the couture collection for the upcoming season of personal appearances I am scheduled to make. As usual this will take me from the far flung such as Almaty, Moscow and Baku, to New Orleans, Miami and San Francisco, to the virtually walk able Edinburgh, Geneva and for old times sake Grimsby. In celebration of my air miles the collection is inspired by my favourite voyages. I genuinely could write a book called The Jewellery Traveller'. I'm sure National Geographic would be interested.

Last week Assia and I made a quick trip to our LA store for what turned out to be the most special event we have held there yet. Earlier in the year I heard a performance by the Classical young Brit musician of the year Alison Balsom.

Moved by this young beautiful trumpet playing musician, I wanted to find out more. It turned out she was to headline the LA Philharmonic for one night only at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. To cut an even longer story short we ended up throwing a dinner for her in the No Regrets lounge above our store. Laid for dinner the space looks incredible.

Twenty eight of ourluckiest clients were literally left speechless by the acoustic set Alison recited for us ending in a tango on the trumpet and the piano and followed by a delicious dinner. The following night, as we were there, we threw one of our more democratic, now legendary DJ parties. Both events were kindly sponsored by our colour change gem stone of choice Zultanite. I hope some of my upcoming voyages will be as memorable as that one.

Following a short, long weekend in Monaco I am once again at 38,000ft headed to Hong Kong for an event surrounding two masterpieces we have made incorporating rather a lot of Forevermark diamonds, one of which picked up the diamond gong at the Couture Awards in Vegas earlier this summer. I have been lead to believe it will once again be quite the do.

 
July 18 2012

17th July - Istanbul

Suffering like most Brits with trench foot, rising damp and a chronic vitamin D deficiency due to the wettest hosepipe ban since records began. I along with my wife and two daughters have forgone the briefly considered week camping in the West Country joking and are on board a very early BA flight bound for Istanbul. At a mirage inducing 104F, a few days there should see off most of the mildew.

A couple of years back as a surprise Assia detoured a routine flight home from Ibiza. Without giving the game away at all, I found myself gagged and bound for Istanbul. A city I had planned on visiting for some years and certainly didn't let me down. The whole trip had been plotted with military precision along with her, covert people on the inside, our friends, young Turks and master Jeweller Sevan and his partner Emry. No better locals could we have hoped for to accompany and introduce us to one of the most exciting, historic and exotic cities. Four days not being half enough we're back.

Ali, the writer, film director and sometime guide who on our recommendation shared his unbelievable knowledge of his city with Bono and the U2 boys during their Istanbul stop of the last world tour stepped up to guide us on our trip.

Apart from the essential touristy element of the trip, a special treat for me was to visit the workshop of Sevan. For those who don't know, some years ago now, this Istanbul street kid with a gift did something that no one else was doing. Instead of joining the number probably millions of traditional goldsmiths or even larger number of highly skilled copiers, Sevan interpreted his cities rich heritage of religious iconography, unique architecture and conflict and turned it all into the most stunning and creative Jewellery. The first time I saw it, I remember feeling as inspired as the first time I saw a piece of turn of the last century Lalique. It's very difficult to do justice to a piece of Sevan's Jewellery with a few words in a blog so I won't. But I will say we're coming into land. I can't wait to meet Ali, and show my girls this amazing place and go see what Sevan has up his very large sleeves.

Sevan, Emre, Gurhan, Arman and I. The magnificent turkish delight 1.

 
June 21 2012

Full English with Stephen Webster

When Dylan Jones the editor of GQ took me to lunch 8 months ago asking me to participate in the first Men's London Fashion Week I signed up without hesitation. 13 years since the launch of our first collection for men: Rayman at the time more of a damp squib than a ray, our men's business has gone from zero to hero. Now it's as much as 15 of our total revenue. Back then, men weren't ready to make considered decisions about self accessorisation. This was not yet part of a man's world.

Trousers, shirts and shoes were one thing but bracelets, pendants and rings were something entirely different. The seachange was at first slow and frustrating but once the testosterone tanker had reached a place of no return, the same guys didn't just shop they became repeat offenders. Like a loyal dog they just want to be your friend and one way is to keep buying stuff.

Our men's LFW slot was to be the first of the three day event. I wanted this to be something which under no circumstance could be confused with our more usual woman's focused events.

I chose the downstairs bar at HIX Soho because one would be hard pushed to find a more masculine venue short of one sporting a pole. The food was a protein and carb loaded offering including Mark Hix's signature black pudding known as 'heaven amp earth', rounded off with a gin infused tea concocted by Beefeater. A true breakfast of champions. Enough to put the fear of god into the lettuce pushers of the woman's fashion world.

Catwalks and jewellery have never been great bedfellows but a highlight to the jewellery offering was required. The downstairs at HIX has a long low zink covered bar, providing the perfect platform for the SW first The Barwalk.

I read somewhere that men don't want to buy things modeled by impossibly young androgynous boys who in a low light could easily pass as girls. They prefer to buy into a look sported by an altogether older model that has seen and done enough to have earned his stripes and consequently the respect of fellow men. With that in mind, all three of my barwalkers had been around the block. Two of them, Martin and Gary Kemp strutted my stuff to the appropriately titled 'Gold' the new romantic anthem written of course by Gary. The third member of my mature posse Nicky Clarke, not only minced the bar with some familiarity but did the other two's hair and makeup.

Multi tasking male models, another first for SW and London Collections: Men.

 
June 1 2012

2012 Vegas Pilgrimage

Some people are drawn like sheep to the purifying waters of Lourdes others to the detoxifying treatment spas of Thailand. I prefer my cleansing to be carried out under the artificial light of a smoke filled casino in the Nevada desert, surrounded by the many other sinners. After all no matter what you've been up to throughout the year it can't be half as bad as those rubbing shoulders with Lazarus at the blackjack tables. I prefer to think not.

It's that time again, the Las Vegas Jewellery show. Not sure if, like me, they are going all the way to Sin city or not but on my flight I have Kate Hudson to the left of me and Eva Longoria to the right. To those more dirty minded of you, I know what you're thinking and to answer your question, no I didn't request the sandwich. I had the pea soup and roast beef, however BA do serve sandwiches before landing.

This year we must have been collectively bad at SW. I refuse to keep taking it for the whole team. No longer on the main floor of the show, we have either graduated or descended to a whole ballroom. It's quite amazing that this all started 13 years ago exactly. I know that because my daughter is 13 this week and when she was born instead of being there, bedside at the maternity ward at Queen Mary's Paddington we had no money then I was with my brother in Vegas. My god she's a good woman.

It's a long story but cutting to the chase it was the first time we exhibited in the US as SW. We were in a 10x10 ft booth in the underground car park of the Sands Exhibition centre. Most British jewellery companies fall by the wayside in the US. It's a tough place but we are not concerned about the many casualties right now, we are focused on our new SW ballroom. Until I arrive I can't equate that to actual sq footage but it's definitely big enough for balls. Strictly dancing balls that is. To mark the occasion my brother is joining us. For the first time in many years the Webster's are doing Vegas together again. The Mouse Pack are back.

In our ballroom we even have our own butler. I hope he looks like Bruce Forsyth, maybe not as funny though, I think after a week our sides would split.

After the success of Basel we are hoping for an awesome Vegas. The collections have so far been better received than for the past couple of years and we're lead to understand it's because they are slightly easier. Being one of the more progressive elements in the jewellery industry, one can feel a certain amount of pressure to keep pushing. There can be a lag time before you realise that for an element of your client base you may have pushed too hard. Fortunately only a couple were on the top of high buildings at the time so no real harm done. We're back. Coming into land. I feel like lighting up.

 
May 31 2012

May 2012

Logan International Airport Boston

For the first time in a long time I flew another airline. Obviously another refers to an airline which is not BA. This doesn't happen often in fact my commitment to flying the flag is second only to the CEO of BA who may actually have less air miles than my five million.

Anyway today it's KLM. Who before takeoff uniquely offer a glass of water/champagne or a can of Heineken. It's a Dutch thing I guess. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a smoke and a pancake mid Atlantic.

For twelve years I have travelled to Boston on the same weekend every year. Thanks to super sales woman Sharon Roop, Neiman Marcus Boston became a long time ago one of our top doors for selling jewellery. Over those years I have become welcomed into an element of the Bostonian community. As a consequence, for the past seven years we SW have supported the Boston Boys and Girls club charity which offers support, a safe place and mentoring to under privileged kids. The house party fund raiser is held at the same time each year in a different amazing home. This year was the turn of the owner of the Boson Red Sox and coincidentally Liverpool FC.

While I am happy to support the same worthwhile charity, I refuse to show any support to either of Mr Henry's red armies. The do was fine, lots of money raised and I caught up with many clients some of whom have become close friends over the dozen years I have regularly invaded their fine city. They are after all, used to it English invasions. With what appears to be little caution, they welcome me with open arms and as a bonus this year the weather was glorious, giving a moments relief from the torrential down pourings, nip in the air and consequential hosepipe bans of the British spring.

Trip over, KLM are kindly bringing me back to Heathrow where I land, clear customs, change terminals from T4 to the pristine T5 my home from home, where my wife will be waiting for me. Don't worry I haven't taken the home from home thing a little too far, she will join me I should say for the next leg of my trip an overnighter to Cannes and the bright lights and shimmering, skin finishes of the Croisette courtesy of Pernod Ricard.

As a man to have never knowingly shied away from the odd pre dinner sherry, I am sometimes asked to consult for some of the Pernod Ricard brands, most recently Chivas. I have shared my comprehensive knowledge of luxury and general drinking stories with them, in return for a better understanding and appreciation for whisky which has been blended and spent 18 or more years in an oak barrel in Scotland.

Joking apart, Colin the master blender and myself have been giving talks as a double act over the past year in London, NYC and Paris. The theme is one of craftsmanship, something that both Colin and I feel very passionate about. At Stephen Webster with all the noise generated about our celebrity links and perceived rock and roll lifestyle, it's easy to overlook the fact that my brother David and I are both bench trained goldsmith, craftsmen who believe that jewellery can only be truly beautiful if it's beautifully made.

Back to Cannes this is merely a Chivas treat. My wife and I have never been to the film festival, to go with such lovely hosts should be a memorable introduction let's hope we can remember it.

 
May 21 2012

Enter The Dragon

From the familiarity of my Elvis throne in full view of the bank of TV's in the BA lounge at Heathrow's T5, with the prospect of an 11 hour Hong Kong flight ahead of me, I figured there was no excuse, I really should put finger to touch pad and knock out a blog. I'm not misguided enough to believe that the world has been waiting with bated breath in anticipation of my next outpouring but you know what it's like, once you've started you feel obliged to carry on.

My team who are already in HK and my wife who is travelling with me have put in a lot of effort into the upcoming week of events we have planned. Our retail partner Lane Crawford have dedicated a large area of the fine Jewellery department to SW, allowing us to showcase the new collections recently launched in Basel alongside 'Enter the Dragon' a unique collection we have created exclusively for this event.

Why 'Enter the Dragon' you may ask A couple of reasons really, the most obvious being that it's the year of the dragon which is a very lucky year to be born in if you're Chinese. If you're not then that's just unlucky I guess. The other reason is that in the 70's, like so many other small weak early teens used to having sand kicked in their faces, I found inspiration to kick back after watching the gratuitously violent Kung Fu movies of the late Bruce Lee. The most famous being 'Enter the Dragon'.

This collection has unashamedly referenced more Chinese imagery than the Fat Fuk restaurant on Gerrard Street in Soho during the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Landing mid afternoon we had no time to loose, the first event being a dinner that evening, hosted by our bank Coutts. I don't know about you but I don't expect a lot from my bank, not even interest. So when Coutts offered not only to host a dinner for us but also to bring a group of high net worth individuals who reside in Hong Kong, we didn't hesitate and collectively just said 'yes. The SW company motto is just say yes' which always reminds me of a John Cooper Clark gag referencing the government slogan ' just say no' to drugs which coincidently had been devised during a particularly prolific period of horse doping scandals. As a result the campaign became known as 'just say neigh'.

The dinner was delicious and the jewels looked fabulous thanks to the SW sales and visual teams.

The next day which actually was only an afternoon due to far eastern jet lag I did some press, while the rest prepared for an evening event in association with Quintessentially magazine. This time the venue was an art gallery 10 Chancery Lane. The plan was to only focus on pieces that could be presented as art work. In order to achieve this we printed some of the beautiful sketches we generate but rarely get seen, onto large canvases. The final instillation, consisting of 10 prints and no more than 25 pieces of our most creative jewellery, helped to communicate our thinking.

By the third day the participants and guests of a cultural exchange event known as Liberatum were starting to arrive in the city. Co hosted by the pianist Rosie Chan, the speakers from diverse cultural disciplines included musicians such as William Orbit and Pharrell Williams, film directors Paul Schroeder and John Bricis and many more. Oh and of course me. Never one to miss an opportunity to get me in front of a crowd, Assia told the organisers how much Stephen enjoys to hear the sound of his own voice hence securing me the much coveted Saturday prime time evening slot. I hope I made up for my lack of producing a block buster or a no 1 hit by introducing some humour.

Coinciding with this ego stroking weekender was the official SW launch event at Lane Crawford. Anxious that our core look may not be immediately accepted by the locals was less of a concern after the first sale of the event an exuberant bracelet from the brand new 'Forget me Knot' collection, featuring a bow of black opal crystal haze. Should be plain sailing from there on in, even if that is on the slow boat to China.

 
February 21 2012

ROCK VAULT LFW FEB 2012

Friday 17th February 2012 marked the unveiling of the much anticipated Rock Vault. A purpose built structure on the terrace at Somerset House, the centre of London Fashion Week, creating a new destination housing exclusively designer jewellers.

The concept of creating a proper platform where the many talented emerging jewellers in the UK could be best represented, originated during a conversation after a dinner hosted by Coutts bank. Caroline Rush , the head of the British Fashion Council and I were discussing the fact that more and more fashion stores including concept and department stores are stocking contemporary fine jewellery, yet the jewellery showcased at LFW was fragmented and to be honest not at all representative of the quality of talent in the industry.

Being my usual vocal self, Caroline agreed that this needed to be addressed and challenged me to be the curator of a group of jewellers who would show at LFW. Liking the idea but feeling unable to take on another role I replied that I would love to but maybe in a couple of year's time. However, Caroline can be very persuasive and I left the dinner that night as the newly appointed curator of a dedicated jewellery area at Somerset House.

The next step was to find a home within Somerset House which, for those who don't know, stretches from the Strand over to the Thames Embankment next to Waterloo Bridge. The two options on offer were an underground labyrinthlike space or a room in the main building itself. We all know the action is centered around the courtyard and the temporary structures housing the catwalk shows so Rock Vault needed to be a smaller but similar concept. There was one possibility, to erect a custom built iconic and unavoidable structure on the terrace overlooking the River Thames.

The next step was to find funding. Easy I don't think. In fact my two year plan became a reality purely down to the difficulty in finding a major sponsor. Just as the reality of the times appeared to be closing the door on the Vault, relegating it to one of those good at the time, afterdinner non starters, the cavalry came in the shape of the International Palladium Board.

Palladium you ask just as Suzy Menkes did what's that got to do with LFW and jewellery I'll tell you what. The white, light and strong metal has reached the giddy heights of becoming precious and I'm not talking diva like behaviour, no it's because it now carries a hall mark. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Silver, Gold and Platinum. Palladium will be walking the red carpet, clipped to the ears, waved on the hands and wrists and gracing the necks of the rich and famous just like its more established cousin platinum.

Anxious to introduce their metal to the right crowd, The International Palladium Board IPB stepped up to the table and sponsored the Vault. All that was left to do was to invite potential exhibitors. The response was amazing, endorsing the fact that such a platform was long overdue. Spending the whole of Boxing Day and the following day ploughing through the proposals, I sent my short list to the BFC panel for approval. With a little negotiation unfortunately there is always a little negotiation we ended up with the first 10 jewellers who would form the Rock Vault. The aim was to demonstrate the extraordinary depth and variety of jewellery being created in the UK today.

Friday 17th February marked the opening of the venue along with the announcement of the winners of a Palladium design competition, participated in by students from a cross section of design disciplines at Central St Martin's College of Art.

I believe this unique platform is so important as the next stage for the jewellery industry. Due to the nature of the business it's hard for emerging jewellers to be noticed when surrounded by fashion. Fashion demands attention while jewellery is small and can easily be overlooked. Jewellery needs its own special place in the heart of fashion after all it's a key ingredient in a fashionable look and finally the Rock Vault offers such a place.

 
February 3 2012

The Baku Diaries

The Azerbaijan leg of the Stephen Webster 'Murder She Wrote' world tour was our biggest spectacle yet.


We have secured the talents of Mr Ferry and his band on many occasions. Roxy Music have been a staple on the soundtrack of my life since I was about 15 years old. Bryan is really the perfect act for us and our clients. After much negotiation, rider management, visa and travel arrangements conducted by Mrs Webster and the bands manager, we found ourselves Baku bound.



The first thing you notice about Baku is that it appears to be brand new and everything is illuminated to a point that rivals Las Vegas. Our president likes things to be lit up' we were told by the driver.

I had already read about a couple of the ambitious architectural projects under construction in the city. Zaha Hadid has designed an organic soft wave of a building to house the new concert hall and library interesting stable mates.


The second thing we noticed was that we were in the middle of a blizzard, which we were assured by our hosts this was 'a freak'. Baku does have a winter but a very mild one, this became evident later in the day as the temperature really dropped, roads froze and these fair weather drivers attempted to negotiate the unfamiliar treacherous conditions. We got lucky our amazing host Mahmud had access to a land cruiser. We simply watched as the slow motion destruction derby took place all around us. It was an extraordinary site, cars literally broad siding each other or gliding crab like off the road taking unfortunates in their path with them. That night our hosts had planned a typical Azerbaijan welcome dinner, complete with at least 50 dishes including flavoured rice, sour cherries and fruits and an incredible selection of meats. And much to Mr. Ferry's delight a few jars of premium Caspian Sea caviar.



The following day we spent preparing for our big event. Although the Blizzard was easing there was a general concern whether guests would cancel. We arrived at the venue to catch the end of the band's sound check. The space, a vast and very impressive, night club called Hezz. It was becoming clear that Baku is a town where things are not done in half measure.



Before anything of course was hair and makeup. The style was to be pure Azerbaijani style Smokey Kohl eyes and high hair. There was a lot of giggling from my girls but I could tell they really liked the theatre of it. After all when in Baku The jewellery was being displayed in the bar area where people were to enter. It looked amazing, the showcases and environment adding to the spectacle that the 8216Murder She Wrote' couture rings create when shown together.



My cast of femme fatales were in costume and looking deadly. My victim, the unfortunate Mr Mamedov was acting convincingly dead on the Chesterfield sofa. And most importantly, my detective was on hand to help the guests identify the girl who had killed her boss with what appeared to be none other than a Christian Louboutin stiletto shoe in his heart. An altogether grim affair.



This was to be my twelfth Murder She Wrote event this season. The plot remains the same but each city has a slightly different twist in order to entertain the culturally diverse crowds. This crowd was probably the most glamorous so far. It was very apparent that the women of Baku like to dress for an occasion. Once the president's daughters turned up we knew we were the place to be seen that night along with 450 guests who had not been deterred by the Blizzard, our largest gathering by far.



After identifying Ms Raven as the murderess, Bryan and the band took to the stage. The reason we use his band is that whether you know their music or not, the show is exactly that, a show. The tunes Love is the drug', let's stick together', Tokyo Joe' etc are brilliant. Combined with the high energy and sexy dancers and backing singers the female sax and keyboard players and the iconic style of Bryan out front makes for something with a wide but cool appeal. Something very unique. Trust me I've tried to replicate it many times.



Once the band had finished our hosts whisked us all away to an amazing villa called Nobel Brothers' villa in honour of the Nobel peace prize founders. Entertainment continued with the Azerbaijani favourites of throat singing and belly dancing. The band joined in, unfortunately so did I. The cruel pictorial evidence of which is now on our wall of shame. It was a great night and was the end to an amazing 3 day trip. Our hosts at Royal Collection really made the trip, from the extraordinary warm welcome we all received from start to finish to the expertly organized event. Our sincere gratitude and thanks to all at Royal Collection for this.



Baku is preparing itself to host the Eurovision song contest in May this year. In the UK we have long treated this extravaganza as somewhat of a joke. Nothing could be further from the way the competition is viewed in the ex Soviet Union, eastern European and Scandinavian countries. The tradition being that the country from which the winner represents becomes the host the following year. Baku is building 4 major hotels and has ordered 3000 London style taxis along with everything else needed to accommodate the anticipated 25,000 visitors for the occasion. I have a confession to make. My wife and I will be among that number. I wouldn't miss this event of the year for anything.

 
November 8 2011

Let Stephen guide you on a personal journey through the world of Stephen Webster.

Explore the collections and hear the inspiration behind them, as told by the designer himself.

 
November 2 2011

The Garden of Good and Evil

Last night marked the launch of 'The Garden of Good and Evil'.

A month long exhibition of the collective works of jewellery designer, Tomasz Donocik at the Garrard flagship store on Albemarle Street London.

Ever since becoming the Creative Director of Garrard, I hoped at some point to be able to offer a platform for new and outstanding talent in the jewellery industry.

I come across many young jewellers and designers, either through giving talks at colleges, Goldsmiths Hall or judging competitions amd felt that there was never an easy time for the up and coming to gain exposure to potential luxury consumers. The exception being Goldsmiths Fair, now well and truly on the jewellery collectors calender.

On the whole, shelf space in the true luxury capital of London's West end is premium real estate. While making a song and dance aboutfine art, music and prestigious cultural events, jewellery brand'snever knowingly support young named talent within the industry. This leaves retail jewellers or galleries which is a problem. With the exception of the Electrum on South Molton Street, jewellery galleries in the west end don't really exist. As for good quality retail jewellers who actively promote emerging talent the pickin's are slim. Department stores being the best bet Selfridges, Liberty and Harrods all have areas for creative lesser known designers but outside of those the independent options which are few and far between and tend to fall into the neighbourhoods such as EC1 in Notting Hill.

Back to Garrard. Because Garrard was not a brand built from the work of a single source, such as Cartier, Boucheron, Bulgari etcbut more a destination offering an extraordinary selection of treasures, covering all the related trades and crafts surrounding the jewellery and silversmithing industries. This meant it always had the potential to excite its clients who included Royalty when they conspicuously consumed or rock Royalty once they had a platinum selling album, by showcasing or commissioning works by creative people from all over the UK. There was however always strict criteria to be met. This included the materials used, craftsmanship, original design and star quality.

Having benefited from this facility earlier in my career, I planned to revive the tradition as soon as the time was right and the candidates identified.

In 2006 while on the judging panel for the Goldsmiths award at the New Designers exhibition I came across Tomasz. He was graduating from the RCA and unlike many of his fellow graduates, Tomasz was showing work that was creative, nonderivative, beautifully made and instantly recognisable as luxurious jewellery and accessories. I say unlike the others because to cover so many basic codes these days from a person essentially still at art school is a very rare quality.

Ever since that time I have encouraged, engaged and in some ways mentored the natural talent that Tomasz has. The work shown at the opening last night, complete with the amazing environment Tomasz generated and installed himself with a little help from his long suffering girlfriend Kate was a real spectacle. The reaction from customers proved to us and those who were seeing his work for the first time that he has a great future ahead of him.

We feel fortunate to be in a position where through Garrard, we can once again be seen as a destination for excitement.

SW

The Garden of Good and Evil will run from October 25th through November 24th at the Garrard Flagship Store

 
October 28 2011

September 28th 2011. Mobile, Alabama - New Orleans, Louisiana (186 nautical miles. It rained so hard)

Mobile hasn't much to offer so we felt obliged to visit the one thing it did have USS Alabama. The ship and the sky were the same colour battle ship grey. Something biblical was on its way weather wise that was for sure.

The first thing on show at Battleship Park is a B52 bomber. The sign informed us that 'Calamity Jane' had seen a lot of action wreaking havoc over Vietnam in the 60's. For those like me who had never seen a B52 other than the Rock Lobster variety, let me tell you, they are bloody massive. It was quite amazing to be able to walk underneath and put our head up inside the bomb hatch and ponder for a minute about bomb hatches in general.

I have no intention of giving a blow by blow of the whole military hardware park, but to mention a couple of things:

1. There was a car with 'Just Married' written over it in the car park. I wondered if visiting a battle ship on your honeymoon was just cutting to the chase and going straight to the inevitable.

2. Inside the souvenir shop was an old war veteran Col. Glenn D. Frazier sat at a table piled books of which he had written about being a prisoner of war in Japan and the hell of war in general. We chatted and I bought a book, and as he was signing it he told me about an English guy who had also been a POW with him, his thick Alabama drawl gave way to almost pitch perfect Dick Van Dyke English. I thanked him and moved on worried that we may end up in a duet of Chim Chimney, Chim Chimney'.

The battle ship, the submarine and the planes many of which were still baring the scars of not war but hurricane Katrina are well worth the trip if you need to kill a couple of hours in Mobile Alabama on your honeymoon.

A soon as we hit the road the storm started. Monsoon quality with almost zero visibility. Thankful that we were in a modern car and not the Jag or T'Bird, both of which no matter how much has been spent on restoration would be letting in more water than the 70 year old rusty sub we had just toured.

Desperate not to be forced to eat in another truck stop we left at Moss Point looking for food. I guess not too many folks are foolish enough to drive across the swamp at Moss Point in search of fine dining. However the Mexican restaurant we came across bore all the signs of what we were looking for.

Crawfish quesadilla's 'drizzled' with at least a pound of white cheese weren't perfect but did change our focus by killing all conversation and blood flow for a couple of hours. Nothing that a dose of liquid plumber couldn't fix.

We were then on our final drive into New Orleans 1598 miles and 5 days from NY.

Our friend Trish Summerville a famous LA stylist who is from N.O. had put us in touch with a couple of her old family friends. They own Mulates Cajun restaurant and we've been invited round for cocktails. It would be rude not to really wouldn't it

That will be 'Hurricanes' all round please, also I've been told by Jeff that blackened alligator is to die for.

 
October 28 2011

Road Trip 2011: In Pictures (part 1)

 
October 3 2011

Tuesday 27th September 2011. Athens Georgia - Mobile Alabama. (Quite far)

We had been invited by Bertis, REM's original manager who now looks after everything REM, to come over to the office and take a look around. After an old school breakfast in the Mayflower diner, who have been 'putting the south in your mouth since 1948' their slogan not mine, we paid a visit to Bertis and the team at REM HQ.

It was extraordinary. Every square inch of wall space, shelf space and apart from a narrow walk way, the floor space had been utilised to tell the story of the band. From a young hairy beat combo playing the 40 watt in Athens, to the stadium filling three piece that played at the inauguration of President Clinton. A wall dedicated to Rolling Stone covers alone, an illustration from the REM Simpson's episode, more awards than shelves and a mountain of back stage passes piled next to Bertis's desk. He's been pondering getting an artist to do some kind of installation with them for sometime. It was like being in a fantastic rock n roll museum.

Just a few days prior to our visit the band had announced that they were to split after 31 years together. It always provokes an emotional reaction when such a massive band who have effected so many people call time, but looking at all the things they had achieved along the way we could only think that the guys and the team in the office must have had three brilliant decades together.

Back on the road heading south, making for Montgomery Alabama. God knows why but I felt the need to get there in a hurry. Apparently in a little too much of a hurry for a Georgia state trooper. At 95mph I caught him in my rear view mirror. A futile attempt to slow to the 65 speed limit was, well futile. The show was complete with siren and disco lighting and I was getting a police escort to the cold shoulder all the while being given a crash course on how to behave in the presence of the law by Jeff He knows about things like this because so he says his brother inlaw is an ex cop.

There is ritual drama about anything involving the police in the US. All that coming up from behind and keeping your hands visible at all times etc all adds to the intimidation I guess. The officer asked me why I was in such a hurry and to be honest I didn't have an answer for him. I explained that I had only just taken over at the wheel, the car was very fast and before I knew it we were doing 95 he said 90, I wasn't going to dispute it, I then attempted to slow to a more leisurely pace conducive to the state but it was all a little too late.

Baffled he took my license to his car. Jeff said 'I bet he'll do nothing. A British license in Georgia equals a big pain in the arse. He came back and sure enough said that I was to slow down because due to my speed if he wrote me a ticket it would have to be at the jail. We thanked him and proceeded in an orderly fashion.

Montgomery, our next stop was memorable for three things. The downtown has a beautiful old confederate capital building and no restaurants, there are, however, bail bonds men on every corner. We got out before we needed to employ one and found luncheon ballast in a TA truck stop. I'm in danger of repeating myself but I have to say it, the smallest things moving around the buffet were the trucks. It was morbid but in a Victorian curiosity kind of way, entertaining.

The road started to cut a path through a new terrain. Swamp. We were approaching our overnight stop Mobile Alabama, home to battle ship USS Alabama and a lot of shrimp.

 
September 29 2011

Monday 26th September 2011. Asheville NC - Athens GA. (Not that far)

I had a brain wave. I thought it had been indigestion at first, 'Let's not go to Atlanta. I'd heard Athens, GA was a cooler town. To be honest I knew nothing about it other than Michael Stipe was either from there or grew up there and had told me once that it was a nice place. Throwing caution to the wind we headed there.

After leaving the great ungroomed of Asheville we headed out in the direction of South Carolina. Passed a town called Bat Cave, didn't stop but looked it up and yes it's a small town with a cave, home to a lot of bats. I love bats funny little things, I actually have a dried one at home.

Found a perfect driving road SC route 11. This followed a Cherokee trail, didn't see any Cherokee but the signs were there, smoke signals etc. It was pretty evident that SC has a lot of poverty, lots of trailer parks and closed business.

If Virginia and NC are in the tobacco business then SC seems to be in the fireworks business with signs advertising them everywhere. This is only interesting in that in most US states it's illegal to buy or sell fireworks. You can often buy a gun but not a banger after all you wouldn't want to frighten folk We passed through Greenville. A town which had found latter day prosperity after winning the lottery when BMW opened a manufacturing plant there about 20 years ago.

The reality was that Monday's drive was becoming a little dull. In fact I commented to Jeff that if nothing more happened then I was seriously thinking of cancelling the day due to lack of interest. Of course I was bluffing, everyone knows it's only the Queen or Pippa Middleton who can actually cancel days.

Then a funny thing happened. To be polite, even though I hadn't seen him for two years I thought I would mail Michael Stipe to say 'guess where I am Driving toward your home town. He now lives in NYC I received a message straight back saying that he had just landed in Athens. This meant most of the guess work was going to be taken out of our evening.

We had dinner in Michael's favourite restaurant: The National, a brilliant spot mixing the best of southern culture with a little Mediterranean. After that we walked over to 40 Watt, a music venue started in 1978 and a foster home to Athens bands REM and B52's amongst many others. It was closed I guess the Queen had made the call.

The remainder of the evening was spent cruising the many, many drinking establishments in downtown Athens with almost, but not quite, as many bars as there were of Baptist Church's we had passed on the drive in.

Quote of the day taken from a Vegas style sign outside a Baptist church 'There is only the cross'. Thankfully there is also cable otherwise David Yurman wouldn't have a business.

 
September 27 2011

Road Trip USA 2011

Over the last 5 years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to ring fence a week in September and take a road trip in the 1959 Thunderbird that I bought at the side of the road in Newport Beach, CA after my excitingly successful first year exhibiting as the Stephen Webster brand in the USA.

The car always had beautiful lines but the condition could only be described, at best, as faded. Many years later and fully restored, I drove with my friend Jeff from the East coast to the West coast. We limped onto the beach at Santa Monica after an incredible 10 day adventure.

One of the major breakdown spots on route was in Nashville. A mechanic called JD spent 5 hours replacing all the hydraulic cables and got us back on the road. In the back of his workshop was an old body shell, a 1961160MK 8 Jaguar saloon. That body played on Jeff's mind for over a year, those curves drove him crazy Unable to resist any longer car struck' he called up JD and secured it.

Four years and more dollars than Jeff wants to admit to the car is finallyrestored.

It's Saturday morning, September 25th 2011 and I'm on the Croton trail on a train out of NYC to meet Jeff and see the car for the first time. I've seen photos, it looks amazing but I've also been told the inside smells like a polo players Hermes saddle in a forest of burled walnut trees Jeff would have come into NY to get me, but unfortunately, the roads between his home and the city are flooded. Yesterday was one more monsoon, par for the course for this is the wettest month in NY ever. Once we clear the rivers of Upstate NY we have a self indulgent week to get to New Orleans in the slow lane.

More 8216Driving Miss Daisy' than 8216The Fast and the Furious', this will be an education for me. The part of the South we will drive through will show me a side of America that I'm least familiar with. Steamy, both metaphorically and literally. I can't wait to find out what's in store for the three of us.

With a collective age of 154 including the car we intend to travel at a pace that shouldn't attract too many speeding tickets and, hopefully, allow us maximum exposure The plan was to get to the South and out of the North as fast as possible while respecting the age of our wheel.

This would mean I95 most of the way to Virginia. Not pretty but efficient.

First we head back toward NYC, take the George Washington bridge across the Hudson into New Jersey, then due South. My journey began at Grand Central station. Jeff was waiting for me at Croton station, 'You can't miss me' he assured me. He wasn't kidding the car was just so beautiful. Two tone purple and dark blue. Chrome everywhere. And an interior worthy of a Riva:Walnut picnic tables far more practical than cup holders, I'm seriously considering one for my Ural sidecar.

After much detail spotting such as the elaborate twin chrome handles to open the boot twin petrol tanks and the toggle switch labelled 'speed hold', we rolled out.

On the freeway to NYC cruising at 75MPH, Jeff reached for the large chrome handle and pulled the oversized sun roof closed. The wind caught under the roof, ripping it from his grasp. I turned round to see it spinning like a huge sheet metal frisbee and slam into the front of the small Honda behind. Everything screeched and smoke, rubber and panic is all I can remember.

Miraculously, the audible smash never came. We pulled over and a hundred meters back was the recipient of our debris, an old Honda, still wrapped on one side by our sunroof. I reached the driver first, a very buff African American who I was expecting to chin me, not for any other reason than had the impact been a few inches higher we would have decapitated the poor fellow.

Fortunately, Dwayne Long was shaken but not stirred. With some colour back in our cheeks we extracted the sun roof now contoured to the classic lines of an 95 Honda Civic drivers side headlight and fender assembly.

Like Michael Flatly verses Jesus,Jeff and I performed the river dance on the hard shoulder in a vain attempt to flatten the roof to a point where we could slide it over the luggage and Opec quantity of spare oil we had on board. The 100K worth of restoration now broken, JD had a lot to answer for.

It was once again looking like rain as we sat back in the now permanent convertible to ponder our next move.

Option 1. We could drive three hours the wrong way and pick up the 59160Tbird.

Or Option 2. We go back to Jeff's and swap the Jaguar for his brand new Fast and Furious, 5.7 litre Dodge Challenger. The Dodge won.

The journey had been turned on its head. We headed South not in the slow lane but in a piece of pure Detroit Muscle.

Those confederates had better watch out we weren't in the mood for taking prisoners.

NY Philadelphia Baltimore Washington DC Richmond Virginia.

Thank you for Smoking. I haven't seen a cigarette girl in a restaurant for ages.

 
July 12 2011

Festival Camping Safari Style

Packed my summer outfit which consists of one pair of shorts and a pair of canvas shoes with a sort of rubber and string sole. We're off to Ibiza this weekend to celebrate Pete Tong's wife, Carolina's 40th birthday. I want to say this will be a relaxing break but we land at midnight and head straight for Pacha to catch Pete's Friday night set, It's all gone Pete Tong'. Which for those who don't know has entered the British rhyming slag vocabulary, it means' it's all gone wrong'. Those not familiar with London cockney rhyming slang then this column is far too short for me to explain. Google it.

Last weekend turned out to be one of those magical musical moments. Oh god that sounds so naff

I forced my two daughters to camp with me at the Hop Farm festival. Just 4 years old, the festival was started by Vince Power, a veteran, who amongst other festivals ran Glastonbury for years. The spirit of Hop Farm is to get back to the music. The overblown, over sponsored, corporate lump that is Glastonbury has become about as far from the music as the people in the back row of yet another Coldplay headline act there. Boring.

Tempted by the lineup we skipped Glasto and opted for the Hop. We arrived in a borrowed Land Rover defender complete with African spec camper trailer, drove over a couple of tents and VW camper vans full of part time hippies and joined in the spirit of the VIP camp site.

Between Human league, Morrisey, The Eagles, Iggy, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Tinie Temph and Labyrinth etc we saw them all and had brilliant outdoor family time. However nothing, not even the excellent Moroccan chicken, came close to the Sunday night headliner which was Prince. This was his first ever festival and only UK gig this year and he blew our socks off. From the 'Let's Go Crazy' opener to 'Purple rain'. Camper than all us campers put together' the pint sized Hendrix/Brown hybrid delivered a spellbinding high energy set of crowd pleasing hits. And so many hits, they just kept coming. After an hour and a half he disappeared. All the lights went out but the crowd were going nowhere, he came back saying 'Did you think we were finished We have enough hits to last until next year's festival'.

It may have been the best magical musical experience I have ever had. I recommend you look out for next year's Hop.

 
June 27 2011

The Launch of 'Murder She Wrote' North of the Border

As it always will, it started with a murder. This time round the scene of the crime was that pillar of Scottish establishments Hamilton amp Inches of George St, Edinburgh. The victim was none other than the playboy of the high and the lowlands Mr Hugh McHeffer. He was already dead when we got there, a Stephen Webster designed Sgian Dubh that knife men in kilts wear down their sock protruding from his throat. Early indications were that this was a Scottish crime. This was a good thing as the bevy of beauties from whom we would eventually identify the murderer were all local.

The crowd of over 100 guests really entered into the spirit of the evening especially after our new character 'The Hack' announced that SW were offering a reward of a SW diamond bracelet from our new Murder She Wrote collection for the person who could correctly identify the killer.

After the crowd had enjoyed several sherries and murderous themed hors d'oeuvres, I performed my Poirot routine, revealing the many red herrings and finally the murderess. This time round it was Miss Raven, the chauffeur AKA the fairly innocent Debbie of Hamilton amp Inches.

The new collection went down well with lots of the clients securing their next pieces. It was actually amazing how many clients we have acquired over the twelve years that we have had a presence in the magnificent HampI. After the crowd had dispersed it was back to Steve and Alison's with the complete cast for some good old fashioned Scottish cuisine which rather disappointingly didn't include the classic fried Mars bar or haggis but it was warm enough to enjoy a couple of wee drams in Steve's bothy.

 
June 22 2011

From Russia, via Los Angeles and Las Vegas, to the White Cliffs

If variety is the spice of life then life over the last few weeks has been at jalapeo levels. Moscow St Petersburg London LA Las Vegas LA London. Finally coming to land in my garden in Kent by helicopter, I will expand on that later.

Following very brief visits to Moscow and St Petersburg it was back to London for a flying visit then over to LA for a meeting. Our shop on Rodeo Dr was in the middle of installing the next show a collaboration between celebrity stylist David Thomas and Brit musician/artist Will Blanchard. The pieces are very large boxes in which there are celebrities names depicted in neon,mannequins dressed in the actual outfits that David dressed that celebrity in and the occasion where they were worn. The glass front has a sweet spot indicated along with the words In Emergency Break Glass. This will also be the name of the installation.


From LA it was over the desert to Vegas to help set up our very large booth as part of the Couture jewellery show held in the very fancy Wynn Hotel and Casino. After a couple of days it was apparent that the mood was buoyant amongst the retailers and after several lean years this was a welcome change. Earlier in the year a group called Zultanite had approached me to work with a newly mined stone coincidently called Zutanite. The stone has a natural colour change depending on the light source, in the daylight it's a leafy green and indoors a pinky/brown. Always up for something new I agreed to design and make a collection incorporating this phenomenal newcomer.

With a name like a superhero I felt that the unveiling of our Zultanite could not take place in a counter at a trade show, no this has to be a fuss like most things we do. We hired the hottest Las Vegas nightclub Haze could have been named for us, brought the excellent rock trio The Band of Skulls over from England and threw the best party in Vegas that night. That's the way to launch a million dollar suite of jewellery featuring Zultanite.

After a week in Vegas most folk would vegetate for a bit. We're not most people so we flew back to LA for the party to launch the new instillation in our LA store. These events have become so cool we're having trouble keeping the numbers in check, almost everyone invited actually comes. So 350 people passed through most stayed till the end and enjoyed the booze, art, jewellery and excellent music from Brit, DJ David Hume.

The next day, flew back to London, landed at 4pm, changed at the airport and made it to Goldsmiths Hall to give a talk at 6pm as part of London Jewellery Week. So far so good the adrenalin had kicked in a long time ago. The following day, wearing my posh Garrard hat we launched to the press the 200k each bottles that we had designed and made for the Royal Salute Tribute to Honour whisky of which only 21 exist. Obviously with such a small quantity of product the folk at Chivas Regal wanted to make a big deal about it. Day started with lunch at the Ritz with 50 international press which included a tale about the Scottish Honours these being the equivalent of the crown jewels. The delivery was such that one could sense a little north south divide still lingering in there. After lunch, unveiled the amazing bejewelled bottles of scotch, gave a little speech about craftsmanship and carried out 3 hours of interviews.

With my tour of duty now over, I headed to Battersea heliport boarded the chopper with my eldest daughter Amy and headed toward the blue skies of Kent. The pilot thought he would be fine to land in the garden but a strong wind lead to plan B he just landed on the strip of National Trust Land between mine and the White Cliffs. The commotion certainly had the net curtains of St Margaret's twitching. Whatever are the Webster's up to now The question on everyone's lips. If only they knew the half of it

TTFN


 
June 20 2011

Parties, Launches and a Chewbacca Hat?!

There was quite the celeb crowd at the first night of Crazy Horse cabaret last night and those girls can put on a show. The very clever lighting raised the bar for pole dancing amp stripping for a while.

Up at 6am to get to Heathrow where it's on to Moscow. The C gates have just opened at T5 so of course nothing works but it smells nice and new.

The first time I landed in Moscow 16 years ago I was met off the plane by a man with a gun and a fragrant woman holding a bunch of flowers. They don't bother with the flowers any longer, just two thick set men. Something was different about Moscow on the approach, it was the blue sky I realised that after 16 years I've never been here when it's warm and boy it's warm. I then discovered I didn't know the Russian word for hot, only cold. This of course is usually more useful.

We're staying at the Hyatt which was the first real luxury hotel when it opened 9 years or so ago. Also, incidentally, the location of the first Stephen Webster boutique in Russia 8 years ago.

Tonight marks the official launch of the Stephen Webster concession in TSUM department store, the Moscow equivalent of Selfridges. We'll be hosting a party to which hoards of the glamorous Moscow elite will attend. I say that as they always do.

Apparently they've created a tattoo parlour as part of the party, inspired by the seven deadly sins party we held in the Old Vic Tunnels in London last year. One of the side shows was a real tattoo artist at work sponsored by Absinthe. That particular event got very messy so let's see if we can keep this one a little more wholesome

The boutique opening was everything we wanted it to be, lots of glamorous women, photographers and vodka called Veda, which means 'To Know' in antique Russian. After several shots with clients to be polite, I was starting 'To know' in modern English. The night was rounded out in a private room in the new Moscow Nobu with 10 of our best clients and friends including Russia's most famous fashion designer, Chapurin who dresses my wife. Russians are very extravagant people and no matter what is done it's never done by half. Even with the eye watering prices concocted by Nobu, the dishes and the Sake spelt Cake in Cyrillic just kept on coming. On another note no matter what the drink it has to be shot. No sipping allowed here

Today is a train travelling day. I love the train and there is a brand new high speed link between Moscow and St Petersburg, my wife's home town. It's all very DR Zhivago, even to the point that we are going to spend the whole journey in the Bistro carriage. There's a note saying 'no games or falling asleep at the tables' which is a shame as I was thinking of a round of golf and forty winks.

Despite Russia's meteoric rise from the dark ages to the dynamic country it is today some things are still embedded in the past. Within 10 minutes of the start of the 4 hour trip we were told 'all soup is finished' and the sandwich was of a particular combination that was hard to put my finger on.

In St Petersburg we are to be VIP guests at Aurora fashion week and at some point there will be work shown by students from art schools across the country entitled 7 Deadly Sins all inspired by the SW collection of the same name launched last year. There is a substantial cash prize.

May 27th is the birthday of the City of St Petersburg. It celebrates the laying of the first stone in 1703, realising the dream of Peter the Great to create a city so beautiful that it would compete with all the great cities of Europe. Walking around today in the glorious sunshine I have to say, he really did build the Venice/Paris of the north on what was basically a swamp.

Today there are lots of folk in 18th century costume and the police have nice white shirts. Tonight Sting is performing free at Hermitage square as a gift to the city. I don't want to spoil the party but that could set back AngloRussian relations by decades.

Last night's event was one of those where I get told I have to attend with a very little brief, just whisked along, stood in front of a branded board, photographed next to some dodgy looking men and some beautiful girls, ushered to a stage with a microphone in front of the press and asked what I think about Aurora fashion week. I tell you, it's only because I find myself in such potentially compromised positions so often, that like a politician put on the spot, the words just spew from my mouth. If I had anyone by my side people would swear it's ventriloquism.

After that it was the front row of a fashion show which was fine until one model hit the runway in what can only be described as a Chewbacca hat. Admittedly this was an Autumn/Winter collection by a Russian designer but really8230. I mentioned this to my wife who sat next to me and she managed to turn what should have been a giggle into a side splitting tear jerking spectacle. This is obviously unacceptable behaviour in the front row of any fashion show and the cameras on the opposite didn't miss the gift. At the first opportunity we tried to make our exit only to be stopped and told it was time to inspect the finalists in the Stephen Webster inspired 7 Deadly Sins competition and award the winning student the 50K Ruble prize about a 1,000.

Finally made it out the door and on to my next commitment as guest DJ at a cool small night club Dom Byta. It was free and my gift to St Pete on its birthday.

 
June 14 2011

The Tale of a Volcano, a Kansas cop and a 9mm Glock and A Day of Judgements for the Jewellery Designer

I can't believe we are facing the prospect of another Icelandic, volcanic dust cloud. The upcoming week sees me flying to Moscow St Petersburg London LA and finally Las Vegas, where I stay put for a bit to exhibit at the largest US jewellery show. The last cloud of dust, of course, had a lot of us stranded in one place or another. My family were considerably displaced Wife in Russia, eldest daughter in Venice, youngest in Vienna and myself in Kansas City. Gnasher the poodle and Rosie the tortoise thankfully weren't affected.

Every trip I make to Kansas City I am accompanied by an off duty State trooper. Who of course has a small armory at his disposal. They don't muck about with truncheons in Kansas City. A couple of years back while making conversation with said state trooper about his police issue Glock, he offered to take me to the Police range for a lesson. As usual I never found time, however, last year due to volcanic activity 4000 miles away I found myself kicking my heels in Kansas City and plenty of time to take the Cop up on his offer and had a great day shooting at paper bodies with targets on the hearts and heads.

I have a shot gun in the UK which I have mastered to such a level that my shooting companions have cruelly labeled me 'The Conservationist'. Well that's as, but that day in Kansas City with a 9mm Glock in my hand and my own cloud of dust, I was Dirty Harry.

Before I attempt to start travelling this week I still have a couple of days in the office addressing the jewellery casualties that always happen prior to the Vegas show. At this late date I just hope there is nothing terminal.

First work thing I had to do was to judge the Platinum Innovation Awards. I've been on the jury for 9 years and this year I declined due to family commitments. Not letting me get away that easily they brought all the entrants work to me. I found the winners pretty sharpish no time to muck about.

Next I signed on the dotted line to borrow enough money to bail out Greece, which is apparently about the same sum as a 3 bed flat in W2. After this I met with Guy, the architect, who incidentally couldn't find parking on Mount St for his Boris bicycle so therefore brought it into my shop who was equipped with a pencil and fag packet with which he redesigned the inside of the newly acquired flat.

Then it was back to the studio for the new men's collection review and then straight into the Couture women's design meeting for the autumn.

Then its off to meet Ian Callum, the head designer for Jaguar, of which I am an ambassador. Finally off to Crazy Horse, a burlesque show from Paris. Still haven't packed for Moscow. Hope the dancers aren't too distracting8230

 
May 18 2011

Aladdin Sane

It's been five months since the Stephen Webster store in Beverly Hills opened. I have written before about the second floor curated space, the No Regrets bar and lounge and last month we opened our first art exhibita retrospective of the work by pop artist, Alan Aldridge.

Alan himself came to the opening party along with 150 people keen to view a collection of works so intrinsically linked to the music albums and the style of the 60's and 70's.

This show we started planning long before the store opened.

While having a trim by famous crimper Nicky Clarke, he was telling me about how his friend Chris Duffy son of legendary London photographer Duffy was cataloguing for the first time his father's archive. Amongst the many pictures that really capture the celebrities and characters most identified with London in the 60's amp 70's were many photos of David Bowie including the albums Aladdin Sane, Lodger and Scary Monsters. I immediately left the barber's chair with a curling tong still in my hair and made a beeline for the Duffy studio.

The story is that Duffy for reasons only known to himself set fire to his entire archive of negatives. Once the fire had been doused there was one hell of a mess. Over many years Chris has been piecing together material that could still be used to print from.

All the Bowie work was amazing. The covers have of course been seen but the rest of the images generated around the shoots were what made the collections so special. Most of the work had never been seen.

I wanted the first showing to be in the then unfinished No Regrets gallery. That was one year ago.

Chris flew to LA to hang the show himself. Seeing it for the first time was something very special for me having been a huge Bowie fan since 1971.

To complete the picture we asked May Routh who dressed Bowie for 20 years to create our stylist of the month window. She chose to recreate the look she originally designed for the film The Man Who Fell to Earth'. We even had Bowie's original hairdresser Martin Samuel make a wig.

Celebrated chef Mark Hix flew over from London to add his distinctly British flavour to the food for the opening party. The DJ was playing vinyl only with a respectable Bowie/Roxy content. The originally estimated 120150 guests swelled to 350.

The exhibit continues through the end of May.

 
May 10 2011

Brandenburg not Battenberg

After one last and very final interview with the lovely Vanessa Phelps on my chosen subject, tiaras, just prior to the Royal wedding I am now a world authority on the snazzy headgear, we managed to escape the pomp, road blocks and silly hats, choosing instead to join the arty set for a gallery weekend in Berlin.

The highlight and reason for going was to see the opening of a new installation by our friends collaborative artists Sue Webster amp Tim Noble. They said that the piece had been inspired by time they spent with me while I was making their wedding rings. The rings in turn had been inspired by their book called 'The Joy of Sex'. A lot of drawings of them having sex. Are you with me so far

Of course I was flattered and intrigued. The unveiling was the next day. Despite a massive hangover or perhaps due to it, I managed to turn on the TV at 7 am for some wedding coverage. Six hours later, I was dragged for my own sanity away for lunch followed by a tour of recommended galleries, preselected by our friend Cheyenne who is head of contemporary art for Sotheby's.

After several shows, we ended up at a quintessentially Berlinesque venue. For the uninitiated that's a vast, exEast German industrial space of which there seem to be plenty. As expected, the crowd were arty chic. This was where Sue and Tim's opening was to take place. The installation was on show on an upper floor. I asked Tim to come up with us but he told me he was too nervous to view it with me, once again referring to the inspiration. By then I was bracing myself for a portrait perhaps in a compromised position.

The journey to the piece was in itself, an experience. A pitch black narrow tunnel with many sharp bends. The blackness and the disorientation made the experience incredibly claustrophobic. Finally, turning the seventh corner, there it was 'Turning the7th corner' an iconic Webster/Noble shadow sculpture.

The shadows were of their heads in profile cast onto a white wall from light directed through two magnificent glowing golden sculptures, compiled from hundreds of cast dead rodents, woodland, and farm animal parts. I was starting to clock the inspirational link. Collected over many years, cast in silver and plated in 18ct gold, the dried out carcasses, sculls, heads, feet and rope resulted in the most intriguing 32kg's of precious metal memento mori I have seen for as long as I can remember. Of course, I found it all very inspirational.

 
May 3 2011

BRIT WEEK IN BEVERLY HILLS

We are headed to LA. The Royal Wedding is done and the bunting has been divided out like pieces of the Berlin wall were 20 odd years ago. "I was there and that's my bit of jack to prove it."

We are going to LA to continue the celebrations of all things British, only this time in Uncle Sam's back yard. It's Brit week in Beverly Hills. Yes, as if the Royal Wedding were not camp enough, we are transporting the stiff upper lip to Hollywood.

The Stephen Webster boutique/art gallery and bar on Rodeo Drive is hosting two Great Brits. The gallery is showing for the first time in the US some specific work of the photographer Duffy, who along with Terry O'Neill and David Bailey, was one of the photographers who captured the spirit and the characters of London in the 60's amp 70's. Twiggy, the Krays, Michael Caine and the E type Jaguar are amongst the people and things immortalised by the trio at the time.

The link with myself, because there has to be one, are the pictures taken by Duffy of David Bowie one of my musical heroes and subsequent influences on my work. Some of the images on show are original unseen pictures capturing the build up to and final images of the brilliant Bowie album Aladdin Sane. Other works tell similar scenarios around the Lodger and Scary Monsters albums. Personally, I can't wait. The show will run for 6 weeks.

As if that weren't enough, we have gone to great expense in the form of many martinis to collar one of the UK's most celebrated and influential chefs, Mark Hix, known to many as the genius behind the menus of some of London's best restaurants The Ivy, Scotts, Caprice and J Sheeky's. Over three consecutive nights, Mark will be cooking British classics in the No Regrets lounge above the store. Unfortunately, we can only seat 24 people per night, but if this one goes down well we have every intention of making him a regular.

That's about it from my side. My Blackberry is being taken away from me. Bye for now.

SW

 
April 13 2011

Hang the DJ

The perfect antidote to a week in Basel has been almost 2 weeks on Boipeba Island in the Bahia region of Brazil. It was trading Swiss obsessive efficiency for something different altogether. You know there is going to be a more relaxed attitude to customer service when the two shirtless young dudes, who meet you from the speed boat that delivers you through the mangroves via 'Hell river' real name, transfer your luggage from boat to a wheelbarrow and follow you on the 1KM hike to your villa.

But believe me, it was worth it. Miles of deserted beaches, caipirinhas with every meal, coconut water for those on the AA program, healthy food, and a lot of thongs. Now, the thongs are a double edged sword. Never can an item of clothing look so sexy and equally so wrong. I'll sing you my 'wrong thong song' a bit later.

Overall, a holiday on an island anywhere near Brazil is a treat. With one exception the music. "Gosh, horror," I can hear you gasp, but these people have got rhythm like no others on earth" Well, that is true. All it takes is a frog to croak or a vulture to squark and before you know it, young and old, the hips start gyrating. But it's not the rhythm in question here. I mean, I speak as a man who only knows two dances: big fish, little fish, cardboard box8230 and Riverdance. No, this is about the lack of vision on the playlist front. I love Bob Marley. As a punk growing up in London in the 70s you had to love BM. It was written into the constitution by none other than The Clash. But hey, that was 35 years ago and the beat is supposed to move on, even if just a little. We all know you shot the sheriff but somehow managed to miss the deputy too Bob was probably so stoned, he had trouble working out which deputy was the real one. But not every day sorry every half hour As if the repetition of that was not bad enough, the airwaves in between were filled with a sort of stadium/carnival/we're so happy/spinal tap sound so bad that I'm having trouble communicating the naffness. Oh God, I sound so spoilt but I speak the truth. If you don't believe me ask my wife and daughter. Nothing can spoil an idyllic sun downer in a bar on a beach of white sand like the opening lines of Trench Town Rock for the umpteenth time since sunrise.

Back to the thong song, I will make this brief boom boom. There is a confidence that has to be admired in a woman or a man who are way old enough to know better but can still parade along a Brazilian beach wearing nothing but dental floss. I say dental floss but one's sense of proportion becomes so disorientated that the item of clothing in question could easily be the size of a hammock, still flirting and mincing in a way that would have made Sophia Lauren blush in 1968. I take my hat off to the couple who through a series of unfortunate events ended up on a boat with us. But next time, please, bring a couple of sarongs for when we are eating.

Back home now listening to some original King Tubby Studio 1 recordings of early King Bob.

SW

 
March 30 2011

Life after Basel

Before I give my assessment of the 2011 Basel show, I have to mention my amazing team. That show is brutal, 8 days long a duration dictated by the watch side of the industry but theSW sales, PR, creative, and operations crews once again worked well and truly above the call of duty.

People have come to expect a certain experience from their SW appointment, whether that be to place orders, conduct interviews, browse the new collections, or just hang out at the Absolut vodka bar. A unique experience they definitely get. Time after time retailers complimented me on the particular sales person who services their account. Kate and her team have to be the best in the business. As for our PR duo, I can't imagine another jewellery brand who work through anywhere close to the 100 press appointments they manage to attend throughout the show. I wish I could offer them a week's holiday straight after the show, but unfortunately next week marks the start of the massive follow up and confirmation drive. Oh well thank God its only once a year

The latest women's fine jewellery collection is called Murder She Wrotea tongue in cheek take on the very English Murder and a cup of tea in the countryside. A glamorous armoury of poison rings, stilettoes, and gem set bangs' created using rose, white and blackened gold. Black and white diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubellites and crystal haze stones M.S.W is definitely for the passionate.

Pop Superstud is the new women's silver collection. This is a high impact collection with an explosion of coloured gems. This layers nicely onto the now core Superstud collection. Over four yearsold since launching, Superstud has established the SW brand as a driving force in the now essential Sterling Silver business.

Musically inspired, Alchemy in the UK is the latest collection for men. Playing on a Sex Pistol's lyric from 1976, this collection takes the punk spirit of the times and translates it into jewellery for men and of course women, as women always buy our men's jewellery only then we call it boyfriend. Using rose gold, black silver, white silver, black diamonds, sapphires and leather, this is a celebration with attitude.

Overall, the Basel show was a great success. There are always challenges, this year for us and everyone in the industry with the price of gold, diamonds, silver, biscuits, tea and virtually everything else sky rocketing8230 Achieving price points that are acceptable to the end consumer has become challenging to say the least. One of the major factors in our favour has been the diversity of our product on offer, combined with the creativity that is our hallmark.

With clients from all over the world each giving their pennies worth, a week in Basel can often result in dizziness and confusion. There is no denying that a lot of this is due to the unavoidable heavy consumption of Vodka based drinks but more importantly down to the head full of opinions and requirements that need to be processed and subsequently addressed before the product hits the shelves. Claire and I are used to this now and I like to think that eventually we can make nearly everyone happy whether they like it or not.

I am off to Brazil for a holiday next week. Nothing like a stretch on the Copa Cabana to clear the last remnants of Basel's staple diet of sausage and bread from the system.

SW

 
March 22 2011

Stephen's Column for Russian Rolling Stone

Stephen has been writing a column for Russian Rolling Stone magazine for several years welcome to another part of Webster's world

My last column was inspired by explosions and the upcoming B.A.D tour. That reminds me I must resize Mick's old signet ring featuring the band's original logo like all other mortals his fingers have got a bit thicker with age.

This week it's hard to escape another power that of the sea and the devastation caused by the Tsunami on Japan. Every year or even few months we wake up to graphic images of the trail of death and devastation caused by another natural disaster. The difference between this and most others, even the very recent earthquake in New Zealand, has been watching the evidence of all the trappings and developments of a sophisticated materialistic society being swept away at a pace from which there was no escape. Even the Japanese, creators of the bullet train and some of the fastest cars and motorbikes hold nothing in the arsenal to out drive the speed freak of a tsunami.

Only last week while I was spontaneously MC'ing a small acoustic gig featuring Carl Barat, Danny Goffey, Ed Harcourt, Dominic Greensmith and the beautiful and talented Langley sisters, I had a conversation with Heidi, my film director friend who had just been commissioned to make a film she had written about fanatical Japanese rock fans. The filming is to/was to take place at the Fuji music festival in July. Obviously right now, just 4 days after the world changed for Japan, no one knows if the festival will still go ahead.

Having spent some time in Japan I know exactly how fanatical and obsessive the Japanese can be about being the perfect fans. There is never a detail missed or a relevant date forgotten, such is the attention to detail. This philosophy is applied to all walks of life in Japan. Nothing is entered into until all possible outcomes have been considered, which makes the current terrible and unpredictable catastrophe all the more ironic.

SW

 
March 4 2011

Paris Fashion Week

Finally on the train to Paris for Fashion Week. Kate and her team set up yesterday, Assia and I join them for the first day.

The focus in Paris is to launch our new woman's and men's silver collections. The fine launches wait until end of March in Basel.

The two weeks before the first show of the year are always nerve racking with pieces being finished every day. A tray will come up to me, there is always an excitement along with the 'what were we thinking with that colour combination Or, was that one the result of the morning after that night before'

Despite the experiments the collections start to take shape and year after year we bring something new and often provocative to the jewellery counters of the world.

2011 sees us launch Pop Superstud.' A collection for women that features an explosion of colour in three tones.

Warm gems such as red garnet, Citrine in dark madeira through pale yellows and smoky qtz. Set in silver with 18ct yellow gold vermier, Cooler colours of London and swiss blue topaz. Tanzanite qtz and rainbow qtz set in black rhodium covered silver. And finally monochrome gems of hemetite, black jade and white agate set into bright polished silver.

The look is very detailed and luxurious with long necklaces, statement cuffs, flexible bracelets, extraordinary earrings and the usual wide selection of SW show stopping rings.

Other collections are, the second stage of Dent De la Mer The very fashion forward collection featuring the stylised shark jaw all so relevent once again with the announcement of the 2012 Damien Hirst exhibition at Tate Modern for the Olympics.

The final woman's collection is the continuously evolving Boy friend collection. Being the first jewellers to officially launch the category it seems that with clothing brands such as Zadig and Voltaire, and the couples going from strength to strength, we are confident that concept stores and progressive jewellery retailers will identify areas, specifically fashion and jewellery brands, who cater to the androgynous market.

Our 2011 Men's collection offers something really new. 10 years after we launched our first named men's collection Rayman' we have witnessed unprecedented growth.

"Alchemy in the UK" Takes the tried and tested Union Jack and gives it back interpreted with Silver and rose gold studs, heavily textured masculine backgrounds and plenty of attitude.

I have my first leather and chain pieces on order.

That's it Gare du Nord is looming.

Au revoir.

 
February 24 2011

In January 2011 I travelled to Peru on the trail of the world's first Fairtrade gold to experience firsthand the difference that Fairtrade certification will make to small scale and artisanal mining communities, as well as to trace the origin of this precious metal.

 
February 23 2011

SW BEVERLY HILLS INSTALLATION

I'm proud to reveal our latest stylist of the month window at the Stephen Webster Beverly Hills store.

When we took over the space last year to launch the first SW US boutique there was a window in a very prominent position but it was too large and too high to be used properly to display jewellery. I had an idea. Rather than write it off as next to useless, we could buy a couple of mannequins and hand the window every month to one of the thousands of stylists who form half the population of LA LA land the other half being the actors that they dress. This would not only give us great windows each month but also connect us directly with the celebrity world that we all need to help communicate our designs.

The only brief we give is it's all yours our one request being if you use jewellery then its SW.

This month the window installation has been created by Becks Welch with Hair by Pamela Neal, and clothing by Zac Posen.

 
February 22 2011

CARRY ON UP THE URALS

Three years ago we visited Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, the range between Russia and Siberia, most infamous for being the place where the Romanov family were exiled to at the start of the revolution. As we allknow, in the end they were finally lined up againsta wall and shot in good old Bolshevik style. We were there not as morbid tourists, but to celebrate the opening of the Stephen Webster boutique. It was during this trip that I started thinking about making my next project the restoration of an iconic Ural motorcycle with side car.

Eighteen months later Assia, my ever resourceful wife, had located and shipped from Yekaterinburg to England a vintage 1957 model, postStalin but without a doubt a product of the Soviet Union. When it arrived, the box was so large and substantial that my friend Ted, who took delivery of the combo in his furniture warehouse, moved the box to his garden andcovered the roof in tarpaulin making a new home for his 3 goats.

The bike wasn't a wreck but 51 years service on the permafrost roads of the Ural Mountains had taken its toll. The amazing thing was that this perished looking three wheeled agricultural vehicle actually started with one kick. Thirty seconds worth of coughing and grumbling and the engine shuddered and died. Trawling the internet I came across Road Star Cycles in Dover, Kent.

At first, John and Steve the Road Stars were cautious about taking on what was obviously going to be quite a project. Forever the salesman, I conveyed to them the vision I had for turning this lump of old iron into a chariot to taxi my glamorous clients between my shop and the watering holes of Mayfair. I could tell by the blank looks I received that these two veteran bikers knew they were listening to the rantings of a madman. Then I signed the first cheque to show I was serious.

One year later the project is finished. Every Saturday I would visit the Road Star workshop and film the previous week's progress. John and Steve became totally immersed in the Ural project, finding parts all over the ExSoviet Union, even coming across the original instruction on how the bike was built. When all avenues were exhausted and a vital part required, they would engineer the new part themselves.

Today the lovingly restored black double saddled eagle is complete. The only thing left to do is for me to learn how to handle this piece of war time hardware before taking my first fair victim for a perambulation in the Chesterfieldlike side car.

Special thanks to John amp Steve at Road Star Cycles www.roadstarcycles.co.uk

 
February 22 2011
 
February 9 2011

The hopeless case of the llama and the missing balls

We spent last night back in the Majoro hotel outside Nazca. After an excellent dinner of Peruvian bass, Argentinean wine and for some reason a lot of British toilet humour you can take the boys out of Gravesend but8230 you know how it goes we attempted once again to play pool on the table that resembled the terrain we had been driving on, only marginally greener.

There was no black ball, no white ball and cue's which made the local peach coloured banana's appear straight. Despite the horrible odds my brother and I challenged the table but of course never stood a chance. Then it was over to the ping pong table where we fared better until an inquisitive lama came from nowhere and took a fancy to the ball which gave us a clue as to the whereabouts of the missing black and white pool balls. We attempted to retrieve the ball but someone said 'careful they spit'. Not sure if we were ready for an eyeful of llama gob, we abandoned the match.

Sunday we had the luxury of a lie in. The first since the Sunday before we left. As a consequence David and I who shared a room for the second time this trip and for the first time in over 35 years prior to that, woke at 11.45am. Perfect. With Peru entering the height of summer and now that we were not up a mountain we realised just how hot and beautiful it was.

We set out on the five hour journey back towards Lima with an overnight stop at the beach house of Gonzalo and his wife Alicia.

The beach community we were staying at for the night was so beautiful we had a fleeting moment of guilt after everything we had seen over past 3 days. Thankfully it was only fleeting. This was paradise in every sense surfing waves, white sand and ceviche.

The offer of champagne on the beach on Sunday morning was perhaps pushing our need for a little pampering as part of our emotional rehab but we did promise to help empower our hosts enabling them to work towards a better life.

Headed back to Lima and the hotel where we had started.

Now inspired and ready for flight back to London and the cold.

 
February 9 2011

This village is killing us

Chala is the Wild West. Sin City on the Pacific south coast of Peru that services the thousands of predominantly men who mine or work for the mines in this whole vast region. Needless to say by night when the gangs of men rock up by the truck load drinking Pesco till their banjo'd, business is brisk in the endless parades of whore houses which are Chala. Chala by the way in Quechua the indigenous language here means the bit you don't eat of a corn husk once the corn has gone. I believe there are many people like that in Chala.

The hotel Tourista was a dump. Not only was there no soap, there was no water and to top it off the receptionist was pissed off at us for being a day late. David had company under his bed spread. Not in the form of one of the local working girls, who apparently come in all shapes, sizes and preferences right down to the obligatory midget who going by the compact size of most miners was probably the busiest girl in town. No Dave's new friend was a cockroach, who after being rudely awoken from its slumber in the bed continued to feast on the discarded picnic that Dave later discovered under the bed.

Yesterday's journey to the Aurelasa mine was without doubt a rough crossing but nothing could have prepared us for the 4 hours we were about to undertake in order to reach the remote villages at 7000ft and home to the next mine working towards certification from fairtrade.

Once we reached about 5000ft the road became so narrow that it must have been 6 inches less than the width of the Hyundai. This combined with the ridiculous drops either side the falls of rubble and the constant stream of seemingly runaway trucks belting down laden with rocks petrified us all other than Frico the driver, who just took simple manoeuvres such as reversing back down and around hairpin bends in his stride. His only concern thank God was that we were to make sure the journey back was made before it got dark as then it can become really dangerous.

At 7000ft the first holes in the ground with tripods of wood above them and a winch signalled the presence of single family artisanal miners. A few more switchbacks and we were at the peak which consisted of vast meadows of barren, windy dirt. Even though we could have approached from anywhere across a width of several miles, the designated track lead us to a security gate policed by a smiling woman and a sign welcoming us to the San Luis mine.

How anyone could build anything up there is a question as big as how did the druids transport those rocks to the spot that became Stone Henge. Shops one selling Honda motorbikes, a school streets of the usual brick, wood and straw houses and of course a football pitch, but the best of all a market stall selling CD's and DVD's. I bought Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon'.

One of the unique things about the San Luis mine is that women are also among the miners which is normally considered unlucky. Frico who they all love due to his ground work on behalf of Solidaridad went into a small wooden house, came out 5 mins later and said Maria a woman miner would be happy to talk to us.

Maria had four beautiful children, a tiny black sheep and some chickens in her homecorner shop. Oh yes and she was pregnant.

She had been a miner for 20 years and her husband was a miner. I asked if there was competition between them about the amount of gold they find, she looked at me as though I was stupid and replied 'Of course there is, what do you think'. She also said that behind every man is a great woman, but in her case she was in front we had no doubt. By now Maria, cautious at first was laughing and would not stop talking. About her life, her kids lives and the issues of life at 7000ft in a mining community of which there are many. The main concern is the contamination of the village due to the use of mercury in processing the ore. Next on her list a good chance in life for her children.

After telling the two eldest girls that I had two daughters, the eldest who was 14 handed me some rocks from the mine for my youngest daughter. I said to her 'can you imagine the brownie points she will get at show and tell' Fortunately I had some gifts for them too packs of coloured pens and pads for the girls and a football for the boy of about five who later showed us why South America produces the best footballers in the world. The eldest girl on receiving the pens told me that her dream was to study fashion design and had also started to learn to make jewellery. That caught me broadside. Instantly you just find yourself thinking how ridiculously lucky we and our families are. The mountain between this girl who by now could not stop smiling and becoming a fashion designer was fcking monumental we knew, we had just driven up it. We said 'how great that your mum mines gold and you can make rings', she corrected us by saying that she also makes bracelets and pendants. I told her I gave the first ring I made to my mum, so who would she give hers to After a second she said her mum also but not until mother's day.

Later the whole family minus a pregnant Maria were running circles around us with the football, the little boy would take these powerful shots at us and at his sisters then cross his arms as if to say 'beat that if u can'. We couldn't.

I spoke about yesterdays mine a lot but a couple of notes worth making about the San Luis mine is that in order to become certified, one of the requirements from Fairtrade is to remove the use of mercury as we said before. In this instance the village is so contaminated that the only safe way is to move the whole place to a new location about 1km away. This shows how committed the people are to achieving their goal. Claudio who was the director of the mine wanted of course for us to go in. My companions declined with some lame excuse of it being too dark to film8230

As much as yesterdays experience was more than enough for me I agreed, plus I wanted to interview a male miner which we hadn't done yet and they were all in the mine. On the way in Claudio told me that the face was 2km's in8230 my heart sank. I have to say despite the walk I was doing pretty good until the now familiar thumps of far away dynamite started. We made it. Juancesar, a young miner seemed very happy about answering my questions. He had a small daughter and his main concern was that the community be made safe for her or he would move his wife and daughter away and commute to them when he could. He then asked why I was in his mine, I told him and he shook my hand and thanked me for coming.

On the long way out Claudio asked now that I had seen the way he was changing things would I want to invest in the mine I replied that by using the gold they produce rather than a more conventionally sourced product, combined with actually being there and seeing with my own eyes why things have to change and then communicating this to my clients and the press was my way of supporting him. I did stick my neck out though and add that once all the many changes were made, I am convinced that larger mining companies, smelters and investors in mineral commodities will be looking to invest in small scale sustainable projects in order show their commitment to responsible business practice.

I hope I am right for Claudio, Maria and Juancesar's sakes.

The way back down the mountain was easy peasy after seeing what the people of San Luis have to deal with every day of their lives.

We stopped once back on a road and from a collection of road side stalls we bought chilli stuffed olives from the nearby olive groves and some cold beer. In some warped way we thought we deserved it.

 
January 27 2011

How To Spend It

This week I'm writing a diary for How To Spend It online8230

Check it our for a day by day insight into the goings on at Stephen Webster and Garrard.

http://www.howtospendit.com//articles/3614diaryofasomebodystephenwebster

 
January 20 2011

From hot mines to gold mines

Nazca Relave, Pullo District

Very early start. Left our lovely hacienda totally oblivious to how gruelling and emotional the day ahead was to become. After an hour on the road we turned off right by a roadside brothel called the 'Hot Mine' which had paintings of blonde Slavic looking girls over the stucco walls. Most likely what was being mined inside had less of a blonde yield than it said on the tin.

The road now was a dirt track headed straight to the distant mountains following a dried up river bed. The only thing that identified the road from the rest of the boulder strewn terrain was the fact that any rocks larger than a Hyundai mini bus had been pushed to one side.

Heidi and I had already been story telling about how on a previous trip to Tanzania driving on unmade roads for 3 straight days had made our internal organs feel as though they had been blended. This drive was far worse. Sometimes the motions were so violent that the only thing to do was laugh as the only other option was a tantrum.

The route into the Aurelsa mine was going to take two and a half hours. The river bed had long become a dust bowl, a valley created millions of years ago by a glacial shift and now about as welcoming as Millwall are to the away fans.

Every now and again a truck would belt past on one of the parallel tracks generating a massive red cloud. These were transporting water to the mining villages where there was not a drop to be found in the parched valley. Just on our final approach to the outskirts of the first mining village there was a loud bang as the van bottomed out which in turn seemed to cause the temperature to rocket. Not here, not now. We stopped and much conversation was had in Spanish. David, Heidi and I were just waiting for the bad news. Amazingly after a few minutes and a lot of dialogue the gauge started to head back to the blue. We carried on. Now climbing up one of the mountains we got the first view of the sprawl of shabby dusty dwellings nestled in the dry valley. Dotted amongst the mix of brick, corrugated iron and straw single room houses obviously following the three little pigs school of architecture we could see the red brick wells where mercury is used to extract the gold from the rock. This traditional process is not only harmful for the workers but due to unregulated conditions the residue frequently finds its way into the earth and water table. To support an alternative kind of processing is one of the reasons we have been invited here by Solidaridad.

There is a safer way to extract the gold but like most cleaner alternatives the implementation involves a willingness from the people involved, education, organisation and support from external bodies often NGO's such as the one we were with who have all the expertise and funding necessary to change people's ingrained practises. It's a slow process. The Aurelsa mine has been working with Solidaridad and a responsible mining board in Columbia for 4 years in order to achieve certification which eventually leads to Fairtrade status for the mine. In turn jewellers such as Stephen Webster and Garrard who are prepared to pay a premium for gold mined and processed sustainably allows us to pass this on to the growing number of people who want to make choices about their consumption based on its impact on people and the environment.

We headed to the office of the Aurelsa mine to meet the chairman of the board Juan. He had arrived in this valley twenty five years ago as a 15 year old boy who had heard there was gold in these hills. As hard as it was for us to imagine living such a basic and remote life here today, 25 years ago there was nothing but the allure of rocks laced with gold. Over those years more and more prospectors had settled, starting families and a life. Juan and the others had built the school, the medical centre8230 everything.

Five years ago with a home, a family and a proper community of which he was an elder, Juan decided he wanted to change the traditional practises to make the community they founded safe. Listening to this smart articulate guy speak about his ambition while sitting in his office so far from anything, we couldn't help emotionally connecting with him and his story. This was someone with minimal education who through hard manual work had lifted himself and the now 87 man workforce up from absolute poverty to become shareholders in a small but responsible mining operation that is one of a handful worldwide who have made choices that will soon be sending strong messages to large global mining operations.

The mine is already processing 100 tonnes of rock per month up from just 30 a year ago. Not just through manpower this is about organisation, cooperation and the hiring of a mining engineer which is just about unheard of with such small scale mining. Every stage has been improved and monitored by Solidaridad to ensure transparency and sustainable business practice.

I asked what sort of home would Juan and his family live in. I was told that not only had he lifted himself from poverty but he had recently bought a small house in Lima where his children were at college and not expected to go to the mine which would have been the norm. They were studying business technology and IT.

I said to Juan that he must be a very proud he just smiled and lowered his head, after all he was just a miner.

The next part of the schedule we weren't prepared for a trip down the shaft. With hard hats on we were subject to the most hairraising, switch back trip going further up the mountain on another unmade track. The truck was so close to the edge we found new faith that our lives were in safe hands with our tiny driver who could only just reach the pedals but had mined there as long as Juan. We soon discovered that if you are a miner height is a definite disadvantage.

The mine shaft was full height if you are no taller than me that is and a 2 person width straight into the mountain. As we entered we heard a series of thumps. This was either the sound of the 50ft woman coming toward us or the timed dynamite explosions at the business end of things hundreds of metres into the black abyss. There were no lights. Handing out canaries and davy lamps it became obvious that Juan had every intention of revealing the full extent of his good business practice. We followed him in every now and again we would stop and stare down another bottomless pit where exploratory work was being carried out. Then the worst nightmare happened right in front of us a load of rock fell from somewhere. Collectively the nonminers hearts stopped. Juan started to shout and a light came running toward us. More shouting, this time Spanish name. A guy unaware that we were there was working in a parallel shaft above causing the rock to fall through one of the connecting shafts. Heidi turned back leaving me as cameraman. Finally we got to the face. Miners were hammering holes into the bed rock and inserting sticks of dynamite and joining lengths of white detonation cable. My sense of self preservation went into overdrive right then. It was time to get out.

The final part of our day was to be invited into someone's house. Jilly was a cook at the mine. She had been until a year ago, a kindergarten teacher in Lima. Her husband had left her and she had lost her job. She heard about the possibility of work at the Aurelsa mine so she packed one backpack with everything and hitched with her 7 year old son. When she arrived she used all of her savings to rent a one room corrugated house with a concrete floor which they slept on. One year later she has officially been placed on pay role but with no husband the two of them live on 150 a month after deductions for benefits. Her water alone costs her 20. She is 27 and a fighter but is not happy with her situation. She's been promised a pay rise and if it comes they'll stay, if not they will try elsewhere.

I gave her son one of the Footballs I bought with me along with sets of coloured pens and paper. Unfortunately the ball was an official Chelsea FC one and I suspect he supported Man U like the rest of them. Anyway he still shook my hand in gracias before running off in excitement.

 
January 14 2011

Ethical Fools Gold

Lima Nazca

Hotel Antiqua Miraflores. Lima.

Met the whole Solidaridad team at breakfast this morning.

Erik from Holland and Gonzalo, Fredrico and Javier from the Lima office. For reasons that later became clear later I was the only one who ordered coffee. I am open to the possibility that my new found fondness of Pret's Flat White may have clouded my judgment as to what constitutes a good cup but the thick liquorice brew I was served should have come with a health warning. Even after adding the complete jug of milk the colour remained jet black. The mouth puckering bitterness and instant palpitations lead me to conclude it had been spiked. I had been the victim of spiking once before in a bar in the US ask my friend Jeff what happened that night I have no recollection but to mess with a man's coffee in the morning is bang out of order. I am still convinced this was a product with its roots in either of the neighbouring countries of Bolivia or Columbia. My new Peruvian friends just laughed. I guess they had ordered tea for a reason.

Our long road trip to the mining area was to be made in a Hyundai mini bus which with 7 adults and luggage was leaning more towards the mini than the bus.

Before heading off, Gonzalo wanted to show us the artist quarter and the work of some Peruvian jewellers. Still very jumpy I wanted to hit the road. Gonzalo on the other hand was very persuasive. The gallery we visited was a cooperative started by 3 women in a large colonial style building in a wide boulevard leading to the Pacific Ocean. The place was just a blaze of colour, every kind of art and craft represented, not the same but not too dissimilar to work I had seen in Mexico City and Rio.

Dogs, armadillos, porcupines and people some sculptural some pictorial and some napkin rings. And loads of kid's toy games and clothes. Gonzalo assured us the three women were not related to him. The jewellery was very organic, mainly silver, some with an ethnic feel, some gold and some very contemporary with blackened and coloured finishes. Things I might expect to see in the Electrum gallery in South Molton Street.

Gonzalo is a 5th generation Liman which in its self almost unheard of due to the massive immigration into the city over the past 150 years. Mid 19th century Lima had a population of 100,000 today its 8 million one third of the entire population of Peru. 1 of the population have 99 of the wealth and there is little to no middle class. The area of the country that sits in the Amazon basin has more than 20 dialects or languages. The people are tribal and on the whole don't take kindly to folks who ain't from around there.

It made me think of Avatar pathetic I know a paradise constantly under threat from outsiders who want what they've got.

We learned that in the late 1950's and early 60's a military junta confiscated many of the large Spanish owned estates and land. The politics of the country even today is complicated with over 13 political parties. 11 on the right and 2 on the left. Even the ones on the left are on the right8230 so no different to New Labour really.

It was soon evident once on the road that every possible wall or flat surface is used to promote one presidential candidate or another. This is done in a large colourful way kind of monotonous, establishment graffiti.

After our intense geo political migratory history of Peru which by the way I diverted onto football I was told that unlike the British trend toward single egomaniac billionaire owners, the Peruvian teams are owned by large groups of fans and investors. Crystal are currently top dogs in the 14 team premier league.

The road out of Lima followed the coast on one side and the sprawling slums on the other. Gonzalo gave us the low down on these shanty towns which are often run like conventional towns with clinics, shops and services such as the removal of waste, town planning and therefore a proper sense of community. I have to say as a complete outsider these mountainside townships often with a sea view and an enviable climate have an order about them making them appear poles apart from similar areas of poverty I have seen in India, South Africa and Brazil.

Once out of the city the landscape changed every few miles, the two consistent elements being the Pacific to the right of us and the Andes to the left stuck in the middle we headed south. Soon apart from irrigated areas the terrain became desert. Miles and miles of moonscape like desert.

Then out of nowhere appeared a brand new development of condo's, fashion stores and night clubs completely targeted at the young and affluent. Shabby trucks and mopeds gave way to Range Rovers and BMW's. Gonzalo told us that this was the new destination for the hedonistic Liman's, its known as Asia.

We had lunch on Asia Boulevard. Ceviche, octopus, scallops not peasant but definitely Peruvian we were told.

From lunch to dusk we drove making only one more stop at Nazca a town in the desert famous for a phenomenon centuries old carved lines in the rock depicting a monkey, a spider and circles so vast that they can only be fully seen from the air. No one seems to know much about why they are there or there significance.

Nazca ended up being our stop for the night. After 12 hours driving and with a further 3and a half to go we stopped initially for dinner at an old Hacienda style hotel. It was faded but beautiful. Complete with a pool table with 2 balls missing, a half empty swimming pool and a couple of old noisy peacocks. We were so car sick, I for one would have settled for a couple of Pesco sours and some ethical fool's gold rather than carry on that night to the mine.

We checked in. Even Gonzalo couldn't persuade us back on the bus that night.

 
January 14 2011

The Slow Gold Rush

London Lima

Having finally hit the sack at 2.30am, the 5am call this morning was exactly what you might expect painful. A lot of people would have had an early night ahead of such a long trip, but that's most people and this is our trip not theirs. Also we would have missed a lot of fun at Hix last night, where apart from our party of 7 there were by coincidence another 20 or 30 other friends being wined and dined by Louis Vuitton. Almost all of them had a bit of advice on what to do, what not to wear, who to call or what to drink while in Peru. I had no idea that so many could know so much about a relatively off the beaten track country. Of course no one had actually been.

Still a little inebriated David my brother and I were in terminal 3 by 6am. It occurred to me there that I might be seeing dead people but then again it was early and peoples grey January pallor doesn't help.

Since the addition of Terminal 5, I rarely cross over to the lower numbers. You tend not to notice when they are full but this morning the place was quiet revealing the sheer threadbare tiredness of the place and the people in it. A new carpet would help, maybe not the people so much but then again a rug can do a lot for an old head.

There is no direct route to Lima from London. One of the options being via Madrid. A Spanish omelette later and we were there. The flight attendant told us to wait while most passengers disembarked through the front. We were to exit through the rear well really where a bus would be waiting to take us to South America. This confirmed why the price of business class on Iberia was half that of BA. Thankfully she had omitted the part about another terminal and another plane.

Landed in Lima. Hot sultry and everything I imagined. The man parading my name up and down the concourse could have been there all night had Dave not deciphered what was written on his plaque8230. SPEPHEN WEBFPER. So close.

Directed to the hot spot of town by our hotel it soon became apparent that we were in the hot, fast food spot. The many fried options shared the area with hundreds of shoe shops. I guess it's a good combo. High calorie food and the tools to walk it off.

Heidi who will be documenting our trip arrived at 11pm minus her luggage which is still enjoying Miami.

 
January 10 2011

Peru

Blimey, that past 4 day week felt like at least a 7 day week.

Why does the planning at the beginning of each year make one feel as though it will be the busiest ever We only make and sell jewellery but with a creative team like my lot, we always seem to have another idea to realise.

Its Sunday, we've had a bit of a day but you don't need to know about that. The week ahead is so exciting I have to share.

Two and a half years ago I was approached by a NGO from Holland with the promise of ethically mined gold. The first response from me was that we had been here before. It started well but after we had designed a small collection which was to be made from this ethically sourced gold for which we were paying a total premium it became very clear that the flow was more like a trickle. We were told that between deliveries we may have to wait up to 6 months. I don't care how ethical it is, if someone has ordered an engagement ring, putting off the big day while we wait for a guy and a knapsack to turn up for months on end just doesn't wash. Anyway fast forward two and a half years and the Dutch chap assured me that the idea was to source a product that reached the jeweller in a timely and consistent way. I signed up.

Over the past 2.5 years David my brother and I have adjusted our business to be able to accept the gold while carrying on business as usual. To cut a long story short as my friend Gary Kemp would say. We are there. On Tuesday, David and I fly to Lima to trace back to the source our supply of ethically mined gold.

The communities who mine the product have worked with Soladaridad mouthful I know for the past four years, in order to change their lives. The miners are paid properly and the women are paid for the first time. No child labour and no harmful chemicals. David and I are so excited about this trip I can't tell you. I will be writing a diary and a blog so keep em peeled for the first instalment.

SW

 
January 4 2011

Pocahontas, travel sickness and I

When I was little younger not shorter my dad said he was going to take me to the burial grounds of the Native American Princess Pocahontas. Even at the tender age of 9 or 10 I knew this sounded distant and exotic. Everyone knew Pocahontas was not just any old Native American Indian she was a Red Indian just like the horseback warriors with feathers, bows, arrows and hatchets we had seen on Bonanza and the Lone Ranger.

The fact that my parents at that time had never been abroad, not even to France which to be honest you could almost see from Gravesend, the town where I was born and grew up was a mere detail and didn't curb my enthusiasm for the adventure we were about to undertake.

We piled into the car, a 1969 ford escort I think it was. Flasks, sandwiches and some fruit cake packed in the boot. There was always fruit cake then. I think it was before I realised that there really was only one fruit cake and that people just passed it between each other.

We headed out. This was way before rear seat belts and I liked to sit in the gap between the two front seats, just where the hand brake was on cars in England at that time. It was the closest I could get to actually being in the front. Really I should have been sat in the back with my head out of the window I was such a bad traveller. There was no journey too short for me to be sick. Sadly I passed this on to my daughter Nika who would christen all of my cars almost as soon as they were delivered. Later she blamed it on that special smell you get from new cars, quickly replacing the leather and newness smell with her own special milky vomit odour. Well I can't really blame her as I started it.

Unlike Nika who would vomit over herself and the baby seat strapped in the back, my offering was straight up the middle of the car. Sometimes it could reach the dashboard. On one particular occasion while attempting the short journey from our suburb of Singlewell to the centre of Gravesend for the Saturday shopping, I managed a record breaking 3 pukes, one of which nearly caused an accident by actually hitting my dad with the projectile and covering the back of his head. After the 3rd attempt to get the shopping done they left me at home. I remember standing at the window watching them leave and crying in complete disbelief.

Back to the Pocahontas trip. We pulled out and I started feeling queasy. I don't want to dwell on it as I can't remember if I followed through or just moaned a lot. I do remember being surprised that I hadn't even had time to ask that obligatory kid question 'are we nearly there yet' when Dad parked by the river and lead us to the graveyard of St Georges church, Gravesend.

The trip may not have lived up to my expectations but the bronze statue of a very young looking American Princess in full regalia feathers, beads and buck skin was still something special. We had our picnic by the river at Bawley Bay a sandy oasis nestled amongst the vast mud flats of the Thames estuary andnamed after the historic Bawley fishermen who fished for small brown shrimps for a living from boats on the river. My great grandfather was one and as a consequence my Nan could peel a pint of shrimps at an olympic speed.

The fact that this person so famous and to many people a Disney creation was buried in a church in our hometown seemed kind of exciting. Later in my life I would often tell people about the grave and the bronze. It's a kind of local secret.

In 1617 on their way back up the Thames, Pocahontas then known as Rebecca Rolf her husband John Rolf and their baby Thomas were travelling from Rolf's family seat in another London suburb of Brentford bound once again for the Americas and Virginia, where Pocahontas was born the daughter of the chief of the Powhatan tribe and Mr Rolf had his tobacco plantation.

Sadly only 25 miles into the journey and not yet even out to sea, the 21 year old Princess was struck down with a mystery illness. It could have been travel sickness but unfortunately for the young woman it was more likely to be small pox or tuberculosis or one of the other killers prevalent in Europe but nonexistent in the new world. They brought her ashore at the estuary town of Gravesend for some kind of treatment but all attempts were futile and she died almost immediately.

During her trip to England, Pocahontas had been presented to King James and Queen Anne. Who, by all accounts showed her the respect that would have been the reserve of other heads of state or noblemen and women of the time. This would have been an extraordinary occurrence as the native peoples of the new world were on the whole considered savages and heathens who stood in the way of the Europe's expansion plans in the lands of opportunity.

Pocahontas was the exception having voluntarily converted to Christianity and was considered a PR coup useful for encouraging more settlers to come to the territory 'Come to America, where the land is yours for the taking and the locals are not only friendly but beautiful.'

My father took my eldest daughter to see the bronze of Pocahontas years ago. They took a picnic. I have promised to take my youngest soon, she is excited. We have made a pact to do our best not to be sick over each other on the way.

SW

 
December 21 2010

To drunk to f**k

Landing at Terminal 5 for the final time in 2010. Having started in Puerto Rico, this trip continued in Palm Beach and Miami and finally concluded in Beverly Hills with the opening of our first flagship store in the USA.It does feel good to be heading home even with my nomadic tendencies.

Tonight is the final Seven Deadly Sins party and hopefully the most dramatic finale to what has been a world tour of events that have seen 16 of our retail partners create pure theatre around the rings. Starting with Saks 5th Avenue in New York back in September and ending tonight in the amazing venue of The Old Vic's Tunnels, Waterloo.

The Rodeo Drive store opening last night was amazing. It was supposed to be a soft opening, thrown on a shoe string but the Brits in LA came out in their droves to support us. Kate Beckinsale glowed literally, how does she do it Could be the plutonium in the water David Walliams also glowed but that was probably because he was seeing his missus Laura the next day Rosanna Arquette and a whole host of others put the Stephen Webster No Regrets Lounge, art gallery, sometimes pop up restaurant and of course jewellery shop on the LA map.

For Assia, Claire and I it was straight to the airport to head back home and host the last 7DS event8230 ever Even the bad fella downstairs has to draw the line somewhere and for us it was those Old Vic's tunnels. And what a perfect place to end it all. A cast comparable in numbers to that of the charge of the light brigade' put on a show that only SW can.

It's amazing what absinthe can do to otherwise relatively normal people.

We were offering a genuine tattoo display by Dan my menswear designer who was a tattoo artist when I found him who spent the evening working on a leg piece on his brother8230 we kept it in the family for fear of being sued. Meanwhile two tattoo assistants were applying SW designed temporary tats. While there was all of the sins and no regrets in the mix, the most popular was of course the line made famous by The Dead Kennedy's Too Drunk to fK . Admittedly it was penned beautifully. In my defence they were all adults and if you get that put on your neck before an important meeting the next day you only have yourself to blame.

SW

 
December 15 2010

The Cardigan

A short story written at 35,000 ft

Through virtually the entire boarding process there was just myself and a tiny old lady in our row. Having come to terms with my economy status and the flow of passengers having slowed to a halt I placed all my reading materials, BB and glasses on the empty chair between us. Sort of marking the territory indicating that the seat may not be empty. I desperately needed to sleep on the flight having been up until 5am at a fund raiser in Palm Beach Gardens at the palatial home of my friends and clients the Healey's. This was followed by the usual way too early wakeup call from the driver taking me to Miami airport for the last leg of this final trip before Christmas.

Suddenly the plane listed to one side. People gasped. Levelling off as quickly as it had tipped, there she was. Eyes focused into a mid space somewhere up the aisle she waded forward, struggling to squeeze between the aisle seats. The 3ft gap in reality was nowhere near wide enough. You could feel the collected bated breath of 200 passengers. Everyone praying 'don't let it be me, please don't let it be me'. 350 pounds of morbid obesity heading our way. I crossed myself but it was to no avail. Those deep set little piggy eyes had spotted me. This was her perfect spot8230 a larger than normal gap between a small weak man and a skeletal Floridian woman, she could own the centre ground.

By prising the back of the seats forward she created her path, her way in. The only thing she missed was to beat her chest. Once in front of the centre seat she turned and like a massive cartoon hen she hovered above her nesting place. I just watched open mouthed as first of all her rear end was sat on both arm rests at once and even a little beyond. Slowly the weight of the upper body was enough to sink the lower part down onto the cushion leaving a substantial roll over each armrest. Acting like a cookie cutter, the part of her filling the seat cavity must have formed a perfect square all the dough being forced into each corner.

I wanted to tut very loudly but what was the point The damage was done, she was in.

After takeoff in an attempt to use the loo, I went to get up but was jerked back into my seat . My cardigan was open and at some point during the lowering process one part of it had got sucked into the vacuum that had been created. This was going to be a problem. First of all to make her stand up was obviously going to involve heavy lifting equipment. Probably something like a winch, pulley and sling contraption that the AA most likely keep in the back for such occasions. The second thing was that she was snoring. God give me strength I pulled and pulled but the cashmere was stretching and becoming misshapen. There was only one thing to do slip it off. First one arm and shoulder then the turn in a confined space then over the second shoulder, then out.

Managing this I got up climbed over the row in front the only way out and went to the loo. Repeating the climbing manoeuvre I returned to my seat. Now I realised it was chilly. At first I tried to cope with it but it was a futile effort. I needed to put my cardigan back on

Let's just say Harry Houdini would have been proud of the contortion I pulled off pulling that cardigan back on . It made me sweat but despite this it was now staying on, still with one wing trapped, my movements now restricted for the entire rest of the journey.

Oh well only 5 more hours to go. I just hope the beast doesn't get hungry when she wakes and wants to order food. She may have her own nose bag.

Like an unsuppressable turret's tick, I won't be able to stop myself from passing comment if she so much as opens her mouth when the feeding trolley goes by. Something to the tune of 'Do you really think you need that' Or 'Haven't you put us through enough already' or simply Oh for fuck sake woman'.

I think I need to go to the loo again before we land.

Oh Lord please help me hold it in.

The End

SW

 
December 15 2010

Nuns on the run

Today is 1st December. Officially we were planning to open the store in LA exactly one month ago and now the opening party is the 6th December. You know how it goes . While concrete and glass are still being laid I feel this is the kind of material for a reality TV show as I'm writing.

Nonetheless today is also a day when I feel so lucky that my job involves so much travel. I left London in the midst of a cold snap and snowstorm. Arriving in Puerto Rico last night I went straight to bed watched a couple of movies and fell asleep. As a consequence of this I woke early, had breakfast on the beach, swam, had lunch at the beach bar and boy am I ready for my event tonight.

This is the 10th anniversary of me coming to do shows here, all in December. How lucky am I

Marie Helen, a legend in the jewellery world was one of the first US retailers to pick up my work. We have grown together from a small collection to the serious business we have today.

Tonight she tells, me involves Voodoo. OMG. That's got to be better than Vodka surely A SW Voodoo doll. That's a thought for next season8230

The event in Puerto Rico was another genius interpretation of the 7 Deadly Sins theme. Marie Helen had created a sit down dinner for 70 guests with 7 ridiculously decadent tables. Each table represented a sin from Lust where some rather saucy photos of men and women were placed under each place mat to Gluttony which looked like the counter in Harrods food hall Sloth a luxurious plagiarism of Tracey Emin's unmade bed Envy a beautiful setting of mixed green glass, candles fabric, etc. Best part though, was that each table of 8 had its own set menu. While to my left they were being served lobster we at the Greed table were having lamb chops wrapped in some kind of edible gold leaf and to my right the Wrath table were having some red meat or another. Not forgetting the 7 beautiful Puerto Rican models8230 Christ, I have become a sort of poor man's Hugh Heffner.

Flying to Miami from Puerto Rico. Too bloody early once again.

That last Martini was totally unnecessary but then again they all seem necessary at the time.I'm travelling with Amy from the New York office, we checked in behind a group of nuns which instantly made me think about the 7 Deadly Sins rings I was carrying in my bag. I know that nuns do good work but so committed to a faith, beliefs and disciplines8230 most us find it impossible to grasp at this point I would like to add I don't regularly question people's religions. I talked to Amy about this who reminded me that I have exactly the same struggle understanding people who choose not to drink. This is brutal but of course true.

The next thing that crossed my mind was why were a group of nuns going to Miami Nuns on the run maybe

SW