Emmanuele Tsakiris has elevated “more is more” to an art form with jewelry that is a vision of modern baroque—we’re talking extravagantly decadent, knockout glamour. The Australian came to his craft from a career in IT almost by accident, but eventually his passion for handcrafting jewelry took over his life. He set up the House of Emmanule in 2003, since when Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Madonna, among a host of celebrities, have been spotted wearing his pieces. His latest collection, Babylonia, exudes tribal mystery and seductive decadence, but above all, it’s dazzlingly intricate, ornate and wildly beautiful.
Where does your creativity come from?
House of Emmanuele became my creative outlet in between doctors’ appointments and being a full-time carer. But then I pressed “Pause” on a career in IT that I thought was going to be my life. I always had a passion for fashion, but I never envisaged it becoming my all. In caring for my mother I discovered that my grandfather, who I never had the privilege to meet, had been a fine jeweler in Greece, so I suppose I inherited his creative gene.
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
Inspiration comes in all shapes and forms, but I love the grandeur of haute couture shows, the costume design in theatre performances, history—especially Grecian and Egyptian, movies, music videos, and the like. Once you open your eyes you find inspiration all around you. Life itself becomes your muse. I always create one amazing body piece—I’m drawn to Body Armor, so I’d crystallize a giant cuff with attaching rings, or a shoulder piece that becomes a necklace, or leg jewels that drape from knee to ankle, and from this one grand piece my collection is born. I envisage a character, an event, an era, or an historic moment for my character to play in. It’s almost like I cannot design something simple first—I have to create something grand and then work backwards. My visions are always larger than life.
It’s a big jump from a degree in IT and working in PR to jewelry design, right?
Once my inner creative fire had been ignited, that was it. It was like seeing everything in color for the first time.
You’ve turned “less is more” on its head in an arresting and beautiful way, like modern baroque. Where does this aesthetic come from?
I love using large, overstated crystallized pieces. I’m not afraid of mixing colors or fusing opposing elements. In the beginning, my style was more tribal, glamazonian—quite raw, with antique brass and semi-precious stones. As I evolved, so did my designs, becoming more refined—still inspired by tribal influences, but recreated with a touch of symmetry and Old Hollywood glamour.
It’s a very strong look for a woman to carry off successfully—perfect for the red carpet, but maybe not so easy for “civilians” to do?
I love seeing my pieces on all types of woman from all walks of life. Everyone has a story. I love watching them try on jewels in the mirror—it’s like they start playing a movie in their heads of where they can wear this piece, what they’ll wear with it, who they’ll be with when they wear it. It’s a creative, romantic process. I’m a big believer that anything goes—if it feels good, it’s right.
How were you discovered? Who gave you the first break that led to setting up House of Emmanuele in 2003?
It was something I made in 2005 that was aptly called the “Beyoncé” necklace—a golden Swarovski mesh necklace with over fifty charms draped all over it in no particular order. A friend bought one before she left for Los Angeles to become a journalist, and happened to be wearing it when she was interviewing Beyoncé. Beyoncé saw it and said: “That necklace is coming with me after this interview,” and two weeks later she wore it to her album launch in London!
Do you have a design team around you? Are you hands-on in the design process, or do you get sucked into running the business more than you’d like?
For as long as I can remember I’ve done everything from design to manufacturing to selling all on my own. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve allowed the business to start expanding. I’m a massive control freak, so being hands-on and doing everything has always been the norm. The design process will always be mine, like a selfish boy with his toys, but I’m more than happy to hand over the business side to free up my creativity.
How did you come across Swarovski?
My mother was a collector of Swarovski figurines, so my love for Swarovski started quite young. Swarovski’s vast array of colors and shapes allows my creativity to run wild. And it’s on trend, so we use the innovations as a springboard twice a year and create collections around the new colors and themes.
Do you try to ignore fashion influences and stay ahead of the fashion curve?
At first I felt intimidated, as I literally had no formal training, but then I found that this deficit was actually my weapon. I wasn’t confined by rules, methods and the idea of symmetry. Having no formal training became a blessing. It gave me a sense of freedom in the way I constructed pieces, and this became my signature style. I even created a whole collection made of safety pins crystallized with Swarovski stones, which was worn by Fergie.
What’s on the radar for the House of Emmanuele?
I’m starting to collaborate with ready-to-wear designers, and I’m toying with different ways of applying jeweled Swarovski components to garments, which is new for me, so hopefully that will open up a whole new wonderland of Swarovski adventures. My dream jobs would be to do something large-scale like a Madonna or Lady Gaga world tour, and work with their amazing costume teams. I’d also love to work on a Broadway production or a Victoria’s Secret show and create some serious Swarovski magic.