A great interview with Tessa in this months Notting Hill and Holland Park Magazine:
“I am a belIever in horoscopes,” whispers Tessa Grazzini. Her ethereal voice matches her look; thin bracelets and gemstones twinkle and dangle around her wrists and her
long straight hair falls against pretty delicate features. I nod in agreement. Flipping through newspapers and matching up my life to the prediction that
I should get ready to “earn applause when the moon trines Jupiter”, or that I am “standing at the threshold of a new cycle of growth and opportunity where anything can happen” is an entertaining part of my
morning. However, Tessa looks slightly further than daily horoscope columns, she bases her jewellery line assya on the constellations and cosmos. “I am amazed by the colours and forms of our solar system,” continues Tessa. “There is a celestial feel to gemstones; close up you can imagine seeing the surfaces of planets.” Her previous collections In the Stars and Moonlight definitely have a magical and other-worldly quality to them; taking one look at Tessa’s bejewelled hand it is as though the pink tourmalines are small sparkling stars orbiting her fingers.
However, the initial inspiration for her jewellery label is firmly routed on earth. born to Italian parents, Tessa was raised in belgium before moving to the United States; but at the age of 16 her family moved to South america where she stayed for the next 12
years of her life. “my time there has had a lot of influence on my work,” she explains. “The colours, the culture, and the texture of the fabrics are fundamental within my design ethos.” The cultural references do not stop there – after moving to london to work for estée lauder, Tessa took a trip to rajasthan with a girlfriend and came back with handfuls of beautiful gemstones from which she fashioned a small show for friends that was an immediate sell-out. “The success inspired me to take it further and so I took some classes at Central St martins in jewellery making,” says Tessa. “This gave me the confidence to quit my job, and start work on my fifth collection, which was immediately taken by london Fashion Week.”
The success of assya has grown from strength to strength; an array of delicate gold vermeil and silk- weaved bracelets, startling aqua chrysophrase droplet earrings, and finely-sculpted rings evocative of Stephen Webster, are sold in Fortnum & mason and have a large international following from austria and Switzerland, america, Germany, belgium, Italy and now China after the recent launch of the website there. This interest has allowed her to establish her own boutique on ledbury road complete with downstairs studio, perfect for constructing new collections. “I was immediately taken by the potential of the space to allow me to showcase my products as well keep an efficient workshop,” explains Tessa. “I chose Notting hill because it is a ‘destination’ place. I feel very inspired here. I love the area, and the creative atmosphere it holds definitely complements what I want my brand to be and achieve.” Whilst set up here, Tessa called in backup to support the demand of the label in the form of her sister Ninfa who takes over the business side of things. “We work well together,” says Tessa. “When I, occasionally, go a bit wild on ideas she calms me down.” I ask if bickers or sisterly competition take over the workplace, particularly since Tessa was recently shortlisted as jewellery designer of the year at the UK Watch and Jewellery awards 2014, but she assures me the atmosphere remains calm. “I think it actually helps our personal relationship because we have to work as a team and talk things over,” she adds.
In the past, frequent trips to asia, India, vietnam and Cambodia were on the agenda but looking after two young children with her fund-manager husband of seven years means it can be difficult to keep up her well- travelled imagination as much as she would like. “although, I must say that burma maintains a consistent source of inspiration within the collections,” says Tessa. “They have beautiful gemstones and so many varieties of local antique jewels.” However far afield she travels, Tessa always manages to take in the sights, sounds, colours and patterns from large architectural statements, small intricate cornices or even the people she meets. “even here in Notting Hill, the diversity of the ways in which women dress and in the way they wear things always excites me,” explains Tessa. I begin to wonder which local resident inspired the Cassiopeia necklace, which tells the story of the beautiful but arrogantly vain Queen of aethiopia.
But with all this activity Tessa still leaves enough time to design new collections; the more edgy and rebellious designs of her arrow Collection will be launching in a/W 2014 and for S/S 2015, the Celestial Collection will hit the shelves, which is inspired by the spectacular colours of the solar system. For the latter, the stones will be uniquely cut in a triangle shape, with a distinctive pallette of rutilated gold and aquamarine, which Tessa hopes will create the celestial feeling of iridescence. This unwavering acquiescence to the heavens constantly has me in awe as I look at the sparkling displays of bejewelled solar systems lining the assya boutique. “We are in an era now where everything seems so fast moving and commercial,” says Tessa. “[assya] holds a subtle perspective of what’s really out there and reminds us that we are part of a larger picture.”