Everyone wants a piece of Ilaria Icardi. Demand for the jeweller’s designs has been so high over the past few months that her atelier can’t keep up. “I was asked to slow down,” says the London-based designer, who first started working on her business two years ago before officially launching earlier this year. “It’s been amazing.”
Such an impressive initial response would be surprising for a young brand, but then Icardi is no fledgling designer. She has been part of the fashion industry for more than 20 years, having worked on ready-to-wear under Tom Ford and Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent before being recruited under Phoebe Philo at Celine. For the past seven years, she has worked as the design director at Victoria Beckham, helping to expand the brand’s ready-to-wear offering beyond dresses.
This fruitful career as a fashion designer was, in fact, a kind of rebellion on Icardi’s part. She grew up in Valenza, a small town south-west of Milan known as the “capital of jewellery”; her father, Umberto Icardi, was a goldsmith and made pieces for private clients and houses such as Cartier and Tiffany & Co. “My father tried to bring me into the family business but I always refused,” says Icardi. “I escaped and went to Milan to study fashion instead.”
Although Icardi deviated into fashion, she couldn’t escape the industry or the culture of her early childhood. “My father passed away in 2016, and since then, there was a seed that grew in my head, and I decided to turn this little passion into something more concrete.” Icardi enlisted her brother, Lorenzo Icardi – who followed his father into the jewellery business and works as a gemologist in Valenza – to oversee the production of her designs.
Together with her brother, Icardi is carrying on the family legacy, recreating select pieces from her father’s archive as well as layering in her own, modern designs. Her first collection, Series 01, includes a simple gold chain, an angular signet ring with lapis lazuli and a pendant of a strikingly intricate spaceman. Series 02, which launches this month, introduces more stones, including a blue enamel ring studded with diamonds, akin to the head of a meat tenderiser. “I like chunky jewellery,” says Icardi. “The part of my father’s design that attracted me was from the ’70s, which was quite bold – chunky rings and pendants, all quite unusual.”
Icardi wants her customers to mix her designs with heirlooms and other jewels they might already own. “I like the idea of collecting pieces that don’t really match, and wearing them in quite an eclectic way. You have the piece of your grandmother, maybe you modify it, and you wear it with something new.”
All the designs are handmade in Valenza, and made to order, which means there’s a lead time of around four to five weeks. But like a fine wine or a Savile Row suit – or taking two decades to come to terms with one’s true calling – the best things in life take time.