Image: Jasper "Yogi" Gough
November 09 2009
Lucia van der Post
Salons, you may have noticed, are becoming quite the thing. Whether it is Viktor Wynd with The Last Tuesday Society for the literary-minded, Vintage Academe with its meetings for the couture-obsessed or Rous Iland with its chatty advice for the modern fashionista, holding a salon is the fashionable way to sell these days. Marie Antoinette would feel quite at home. They’re a clever notion because they bring together like-minded people, bind them together in an intimate setting and make them feel privileged to be allowed to spend their money in such a special way.
A recent arrival on the salon scene is Jessica McCormack, who holds court in a particularly charming corner of London’s Clerkenwell, which means, I’m afraid, that there’s nothing for it but to travel there if you want to take part, though you can gather something of the flavour by checking into her website. Entering Jessica McCormack’s world is nothing like broaching an ordinary shop. To start with, it looks like a slightly eccentric apartment, being semi-furnished with a vast strange sofa, lots of books and pictures, a swing that hangs from a ceiling and curios of every kind. But venture in, greet the dark-eyed Jessica, and it soon becomes clear that every single thing in the room – except, of course, for Jessica – is for sale.
Jessica gathers around her things that she loves and she hopes that those who come will love them, too. Most of her growing number of fans hear of her by word of mouth and come to her for her jewellery. All her jewellery tells a story. There’s a series based on the seven deadly sins, and others based on cities, such as the London Eye earrings (pictured, £25,000), earrings based on an upside-down Eiffel Tower (£7,500), a ring featuring a model of Trellick Tower (£15,500), and a diamond necklace echoing New York’s skyscrapers (£25,000). But the ones I like best are the pieces where she takes the small keys from antique pocket watches and marries them up with diamonds (£350-£3,000). “This way,” she says, “young girls can wear diamonds – they don’t have to get dressed up to wear them.”
She loves taking old, incongruous pieces that catch her eye – cogs from wheels, old compasses – and turning them into jewellery. She has a cult following. Carine Roitfeld, editor of French Vogue, sports one of her winged diamond earrings (note – just one). Cheryl Cole, Rebecca Hall and Eva Mendes are all fans. But don’t just go for the jewellery – she sells old books, taxidermy, some amazing 1930s cabinets; a gorgeous painting by New Zealander Tom Elliott was on sale when I was there. The swing costs just £10. It’s all fun. But make an appointment first. And if you can’t make it to Clerkenwell, it’s worth knowing that Dover Street Market often has some of her wares.