BEHIND THE BRAND – SUSAN CAPLANMarch 9, 2015
If you’re into vintage jewellery then chances are you’ll already know about Susan Caplan; but while you might associate her name with one-off designer heirloom pieces, her new collection – sourced exclusively for us – is something altogether different.
Whilst rummaging through dusty boxes in the back of old warehouses around Europe, Susan made a rare discovery – an untouched assortment of 1980s dead stock jewellery. From snake earrings to Victorian revival Albert chains and daisy rings, she’d hit upon a treasure trove, and took it straight to the vintage buyers here at UO.
With the launch of the new range fast approaching, we paid a visit to Susan’s North London apartment to find out more (and take a peek at her vast collection of treasures).
UO: Tell us about the Urban Renewal X Susan Caplan collection…
SUSAN: I discovered the pieces during my travels, exploring old warehouses around Europe and some up north. Where they had lots of old stock, so old that they had piles of dust on the top of the boxes, I would literally climb up the ladders myself with dust flying everywhere. When I found them I thought “oh my god these are from the 80’s and they’re fantastic!” We end up buying the lot as it’s such a one-off find.
UO: What are your top treasure-seeking destinations?
America, Europe and Austria best places to discover gems. Discovering jewellery in the UK is very rare.
UO: Do fashion trends affect your buying habits?
S: I don’t buy season for season, I buy everything and anything – what I like and what fits in with our brand. Its got to be good quality, in great condition or unworn. Comparing old to new the weight, the quality and workmanship is much better. They did a lot of work by hand with engraving and pressing.
UO: What’s your most common request from private clients?
S: Mostly my clients are after earrings to match a necklace or bracelet. We do manage to find them and our clients are delighted, because if they do have a 50’s necklace, to find the matching earrings is difficult. I often do find necklaces with matching earrings and will always buy them, because love that. Also a bracelet and matching broach I’ll always buy too.
UO: Do you have a favourite piece?
S: It’s so hard to decide what my favourite piece is, but this Versace body piece I found was magnificent. I actually found it in the UK, which was incredible. It was the most elaborate, over the top body piece that looped around your waist with big crosses on it. I also found an Escada piece that I love; I’ve only come across two of them in fifteen years. One was sold and the other I lent to my other daughter about 12 years ago. It’s stunning – black and red heart charms with a triple row of very thick gold.
UO: Which pieces do you wear yourself?
S: I rarely keep anything for myself. I have worn this silver bracelet since I was 21 and I love it more than diamonds and anything.
I only ever wear long, long earrings and I rarely wear gold, I always wear silver. If I have an occasion that calls for a red dress then I’ll wear gold, but everything has got to be a statement piece with me.
UO: Do you ever buy new jewellery?
S: I never ever, ever buy anything contemporary. Vintage to me is anything from 20 years ago or anything from a previous era. It can be a classic look; iconic and symbolic of that time. Tassels are such a typical 70’s look and were part of an Egyptian revival that coincided with the Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition that showed in the 70s in London and New York.
UO: Do you personally collect anything other than jewellery?
S: I collect anything and everything that is old. I very rarely buy new things and all the pieces here in my apartment are from the 70’s. Antiques have always fascinated me; my house when I was younger was filled with them. They weren’t necessarily expensive pieces but lovely old Georgian and Edwardian tables, which I have a few of in the other room.
UO: Do you favour a particular era?
S: I have a very, very eclectic taste and I love everything from the 17th or 18th century through to Art Deco, Art Nouveau and right up to the 70’s if we’re taking about furniture. But with Jewellery I love the 80’s. The oldest jewellery pieces we have ever had have been Victorian. The demand is there for everything, so if it’s beautiful I’ll buy it.