In Depth

Sabine Getty: Memphis Belle

The chic and colourful world of London-based jeweller Sabine Getty

Italian designer and architect Ettore Sottsass founded the design collective known as the Memphis Group in December 1980. His Tahiti desk lamp, unveiled shortly after, prefigured many of the group’s playful creations: composed of bright blocky shapes and fitted with a pivoting head, Sottsass’ light resembles a toy-like tropical bird.

To Lebanese-Egyptian jewellery designer Sabine Getty, the lamp is a beloved souvenir from her childhood: her mother, the interior designer Karine Ratl, furnished family homes in Geneva, Beirut, Paris and finally the South of France in lively Memphis pieces. “I think it’s because I grew up surrounded by so much colour and fun furniture that I’m so attracted to creating fun, colourful things,” says Getty.

The jeweller has since added to the family’s sizeable Memphis collection. Her eclectically appointed home, which overlooks a central London park and is scented with candles by Parisian heritage perfumer Rigaud, is full of the group’s brightly coloured, slightly zany designs. Rare pieces from the early ’80s such as Nathalie Du Pasquier’s hand-woven Arizona rug and a lacquered wood Palace chair by British designer George Sowden are the crown jewels. A born ‘mix-and-matcher’ just like her mother, Getty (née Ghanem) contrasts these vintage pieces with contemporary nds: paintings by Italian artist Alessandro Pessoli, decoupage objets by John Derian, and Murano glassware by Domitilla Harding, the Rome-born aristocrat mother of Getty’s husband, Joseph.

Ossi Piispanen 2018

Ossi Piispanen 2018

Ossi Piispanen 2018

The Memphis Group left a lasting impression on Getty: her fourth fine jewellery collection, which debuted in early 2016, was inspired by the collective, comprising bracelets, rings, necklaces and earrings finished in polished 18k gold and set with crayon-coloured pink, yellow and green topaz. Getty’s tribute is masterfully unfussy yet visually impactful; her Wiggly choker and matching cuff are, as the name suggests, elegant and wave-like – wearable doodles set with sparkling blue topaz. “It’s the same spirit of colour,” says the designer, who, in March 2017, added a more affordable Baby Memphis range to her repertoire. “Memphis furniture is done in a very high-end way; very good materials, very well put together. It’s not cheap, but it’s fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. That’s the same as my approach to jewellery: it’s very well made, but in terms of design it’s fun.”

Getty, who trained in opera and musical theatre, launched her brand in September 2012, after graduating from the New York campus of the Gemological Institute of America, set in Manhattan’s Diamond District. One of her earliest supporters was influential Los Angeles concept store Maxfield, which stocks designers including Haider Ackermann, Sacai and Virgil Abloh’s O White. “I do it for people to wear, but I don’t think commercially when I design,” says Getty. “I am not the stuff you put in the safe – it’s much more casual and you can wear it everyday – but it’s strong in design.”

Maxfield Los Angeles has since been joined by a carefully chosen handful of bricks-and-mortar stockists, including New York’s Fivestory, Montaigne Market in Paris, and Browns on London’s South Molton Street. “I don’t have many stockists; I keep it very small,” says Getty. This chic jet- setter is a Capote swan for the Instagram age, as proven by her approach to business: “I think people don’t have the patience to go into a store and try things on. I am also a customer, so I understand. Luxury has become time – there’s nothing faster than Instagram and websites.”

In contradiction to Getty’s appreciation of ‘fast shopping’ is her penchant for Parisian haute couture, especially the Surrealist fashions of Maison Schiaparelli, relaunched in 2012 and currently guided by design director Bertrand Guyon. “That’s a different sort of process,” she counters. “It’s almost like when you have your portrait done and you have to wait for six months. Place Vendôme is a dream! Schiaparelli is very that: entering a dream world.”

The jeweller married Joseph, the finnancier son of Getty Pictures founder Mark and great-grandson of oil baron J Paul Getty – once named the richest living American – in July 2015. At the couple’s wedding in Rome, at the sixth-century Santi Apostoli basilica, Getty walked the aisle in a one-off Schiaparelli haute couture white satin gown and matching dramatic hooded cloak, both embroidered with a golden sun motif by Maison Lesage. The nuptials kicked off with a Capote-style masquerade ball: a costume party with an 18th-century Les Liaisons Dangereuses theme, held at the lavish Palazzo Taverna.

Earlier this year, Getty launched Big, a fine jewellery collection named after the 1988 Tom Hanks movie and inspired by the wooden geometric toys favoured by her daughter Gene Honor, born in February 2017. “I’m clearly in a very childish phase!” says Getty. “I’d just had my kid [at the time], so I was really in a very happy bubble. I think that’s very much the core of who I am. I live like an old lady – I am so tired all the time and I don’t do anything. But inside there is something very childish; not so grown-up.” Mono-earrings in 18k gold come in the shape of pointy triangles set with yellow topaz; gold bracelets are topped with squares that resemble drawing templates in deep blue topaz. The collection is technically demanding to nish: tight pavé- setting is the work of an Armenian artisan working in Lebanon.

“I really don’t want to get stuck doing one thing over and over again,” says Getty of her burgeoning business. “It’s a bit like actors taking on roles; they don’t want to repeat what they’ve just done. It’s the same with jewellery: the idea of doing new things that are very di erent, because that’s how you challenge yourself. That is how you discover who you are.”

Photographer: Ossi Piispanen

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