For a fledgling designer from Britain, the hotly tipped Lili Colley has had a game-changing couple of years. Winning the Swarovski Jewelry Award at the 2013 International Talent Support (ITS) competition was already a career-boosting coup, but then Lili topped that via a fateful meeting with one of the world’s leading designers, Indian-born Manish Arora.
ITS must be punching the air with delight at having so spectacularly fulfilled its goal to connect young creative visionaries with design-industry big-hitters: Lili Colley’s stellar vision so impressed Manish Arora that he commissioned her to make hats and jewelry for his Spring/Summer 2015 show in Paris this September (where he also opened his first flagship store).
Being asked to collaborate with the esteemed Arora, whose vibrant looks grace glossies such as Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, and are favored by such style luminaries as Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Rossy de Palma, was an extraordinary compliment: “I’ve always loved his work, but to find out that he had been inspired by my jewelry was amazing. It feels like a dream to have created designs for Paris Fashion Week.” Among Lili’s self-described “far-out” creations made for the catwalk were futuristic Esther Williams-style caps adorned with bright laminate starbursts; an “eye” hat; three Supernova Swarovski-adorned headpieces in blue, gray and gold; nine neck pieces; and four rings.
Her magical work is inspired by light play, and she applies colored spectrums of layered Perspex, crystals, mirrors and polished brass to create head-turning effects. Her attraction to strong colors, geometric shapes and nature was evident from the start: “The first piece I made at London College of Fashion was ‘Pheromone’, a curved copper neck-brace inspired by beetles and butterflies. It had Latex spikes and looked like a pouncing alien!”
She has always been a magpie. “As a child, I carried a velvet bag containing two Swarovski crystals! I’m drawn to the iridescent Aurora Borealis stones—they remind me of the sun glittering on the sea, which inspires my work.”
Her creations have layers and stories that go beyond the surface, her designs collected from the past to be worn into the future. One thing is not in doubt: this new talent has a long and very shiny future ahead of her.
Photography by Yannis Vlamos.